It's officially Christmas Eve. I hope that all of my readers are at home with their families during this special time of year when we celebrate Jesus Christ's birthday. So we all know how we in the USA celebrate Christmas, but people in celebrate this holiday different all over the world. So, today I thought it would be nice to see what people in other regions do when the Christmas season rolls around.
It is: 1 days till Christmas
It is: 8 days till New Year's
It is: 12 days till My Birthday
It is: 25 days till Martin Luther King Jr. Day
In the Spotlight:
Before the Christmas season comes to an end, I wanted to bring to your attention some of my favorite Christmas songs that I've been listening to countless times this year. Take a look:
Pentatonx is an acapella music group, and let me just say that they sound awesome, especially singing this song, called "Mary, Did You Know?"
This next song, "Christmas the Whole Year Round", is sung by young singer/songwriter/actress Sabrina Carpenter. I first learned about her from the Girl Meets World TV series on Disney Channel. Check it out:
Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
Christmas is almost here and all of us in the United States are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ (at least, that's what we should be doing...hint, hint!), decorating trees, singing Christmas carols, waiting for Santa Claus, gift-giving, “giving Christmas away” (again, hint, hint!) by helping and giving to those who are unfortunate and singing about figgy pudding (actually, I don't know anyone who actually knows what figgy pudding is.). But those are things we do here in America. What do people do in other parts of the world when they celebrate Christmas? Well, let's take a journey around the world to see what other cultures do when the festive season comes around.
Because Canada sits directly above the United States, it makes sense that many traditions there are similar to ours. People sing Christmas carols, they decorate trees and their children wait eagerly for Santa Claus to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. However, Canada also is home to a tradition known as “mummering”. People participate in this tradition by dressing up in costumes and going up to someone's door in a disguised voice ask, “Are there any Mummers in the night?” The person inside the house must guess who the person (or people) who at the door is. If they guess successfully, the host accepts the mummerers into the house where they make merry and eat sweet treats. But if they fail, the host must join in the mummering fun!
While technically a part of the United States, Hawaii also technically is not (I mean, we're separated by almost 3,000 miles of Ocean). Hawaii often takes on a culture of its own. Before missionaries from the mainland introduced native Hawaiians to Christianity, native Hawaiian people had their own celebration around Christmastime called Makahiki, and it continued for an entire four month period! They would worship the earth, have feasts and games and would not have war with each other. Today, Christmas is celebrated in a more tropical fashion – poinsettias grow wild and free on the island while people get together and have picnics on the beach. They have Hawaiian versions of Christmas carols, such “The 12 Days of Christmas”, and even some of their own, like “Here Comes Santa in a Red Canoe”. By the way, if you're looking for Santa in Hawaii on Christmas Eve, don't look to the sky, but to the sea – Hawaiian children believe that Santa comes in a red canoe pulled by dolphins!
Now we head just south of the American border to Mexico, where people say “Feliz Navidad”, which is Merry Christmas in Spanish. Though some people celebrate Christmas on the 25th like we do, many celebrate from December 12th to January 6th! Between the first day of “Christmas” and the 24th, children partake in Posada, which is the Spanish word of “inn”. Children will go to nine such “inns”, where they are given a candle and a board with clay figurines of Mary riding a donkey and Joseph. They also stop by the houses of friends and neighbors to sing special song about Mary and Joseph being unable to find a suitable place to stay. After being told there is no room for them to stay at many of the houses they visit, they arrive at the house where they are welcomed in. There, they pray, give thanks and have parties with food, games and fireworks.
Instead of calling him Santa Claus, he is referred to as Papai Noel (meaning “Good Old Man”) in Brazil. Brazilian children leave socks on their windows so that “Papai Noel” may leave goodies inside them. During this time of year, Catholic Brazilians attend the Missa do Galo, or Midnight Mass Service, which finishes at 1:00 in the morning! People in Brazil also often attend on Christmas Day.
Did you know that people couldn't even celebrate Christmas in Scotland until the 1950's? It was banned 400 years before because it was deemed to support Romanism. It became an official Scottish holiday in 1958, but it is still generally treated as low-key today in this country. Even still, many a Scottishman (and woman) know how to keep Christmas in their own special way. One such tradition is performed on Christmas Eve is the burning of branches from rowan trees. They burn the branches to represent ill feelings toward friends and loved ones that have been tossed out for this special time of year. Some children in Scotland leave pillowcases out for Santa Claus to fill with goodies instead of stockings.
While Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas in these parts, is a big part of Christmas in Germany, some German children write letters, asking for presents, to “Das Christkind”, or “The Christ Child”. Though the names are similar, Jesus Christ and the German's Christ Child are not the same, as Christ Child is often described as a young girl, and Jesus was definitely male. The Christ Child is said to deliver presents on December 6th, which is also known as Saint Nicholas Day; it is on this day when St. Nicholas is said to visit the homes of children and leave presents behind for them. Father Christmas delivers presents on the 24th of December, just like he does in America.
Everyone knows that Jesus, the true reason for this season, was born in Bethlehem, but have you stopped and wondered how Christmas is celebrated here today? Bethlehem is a busy place to be during the Christmas season because many different denominations and religions – Armenians, Catholics, Ethiopians, Greek Orthodoxes and etc. – celebrate this holiday in different ways throughout the month of December. It makes sense that Bethlehem would have a longer Christmas celebration than most – the festivities begin on the December 25 and ends around the 18th for some denominations. During Christmastime, cities and decorated with lights and other adornment and parades are conducted through the streets; many of these concessions pass by the place where Jesus is believed to have been born.
When the word “Christmas” is said, snow, pine trees and winter weather come to mind. But Christmas in South Africa is anything but. Since South Africa is located in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmastime comes around in the summer, where the climate is warm and flowers and other flora is plentiful. As you'll find out if you go to South Africa during Christmastime, many of their Christmas traditions resemble those from the UK because of the historical affiliations between the two countries. In this region of the world, it is common to enjoy the summer weather by camping during the holidays. Instead of Santa Claus, many from South Africa refer to the jolly old man as 'Sinterklaas', like the Dutch do. A favorite Christmas meal consists of either duck, roast beef, turkey, mince pies or suckling pigs with a side of yellow rice, raisins and vegetables.
In Russia, the holidays (Christmas and the New Year) are usually considered to be the time between December 31st and January 10th. On Christmas Eve, Russians like to have a special meal where Sauerkraut is the primary dish. On the side, onion rings, shredded carrots, cumin and cranberries are often served. While Christmas is commonly celebrated in Russia (though on January 7th by most people in this region), it was not always this way. During the time of the Soviet Union, New Years celebrations were more common.
In a place like China, which makes so many of our Christmas products (in addition to just about everything else sold in America), you might be surprised how few people here are familiar with Christmas themes and traditions, especially Christian themes. In fact, Christmas is usually only celebrated in larger cities. One Chinese Christmas tradition that's becoming increasingly well-received is giving apples on Christmas Eve. This is because Christmas Eve is called “Ping An Ye” in the Chinese language, which means “silent night”. “Ping An Ye” sounds similar to the Chinese word for apple, “Ping Guo”.
Did you look forward to escaping school during Christmas break as a kid? Well, Japanese children don't get that privilege – Christmas is not a national holiday here! So businesses and schools are still in operation on the 25th of December. It isn't even usually celebrated to remember Christ's birth here, because most people in this region are not Christian. Instead, Japanese usually see Christmas as a time to spread happiness. A favorite Christmas dessert of the Japanese is a type of Christmas cake – usually a sponge cake that is covered in strawberries and whip cream. During Christmastime, it is common to see young couples strolling through Christmas-decorated cities and towns and exchanging gifts with each other, making it almost like more festive version of Valentine's Day.
Finally, we reach Australia, where Christmas comes during the summertime and just like those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, families cherish being together and home on this day. They also enjoy decorating trees and their yards and gardens with Christmas lights. Each State capital city holds a large Candles by Candlelight services where famous Australian singers are invited to help everyone sing Christmas carols. These services are widely broadcast so that even those who can't be at the services can still enjoy them. As can be expected, having Christmas in the summer doesn't make people want to drink hot chocolate or hot dinner meals. Instead, Aussies prefer to have either a cold Christmas dinner or barbecue a meal. Common favorites are prawns and lobsters, as well as many customary English dishes.
We have traveled around the world to see what people are doing for the most wonderful time of the year. With that said, how do YOU celebrate Christmas?
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