Christmas Around the WorldDecember 23, 2014
‘Tis the Season of caring and community around the globe!
Sometimes we can get caught up in all the Christmas cheer and forget that Christmas is more than our own traditions. It involves communities celebrating together, with their own special meanings and reasons behind each event.
Argentina: It begins with the tree.
It’s not Christmas without a tree. You don’t need a fir tree. Get a tree; any tree will do!
Now it’s time for Christmas Eve Dinner. Because we’re talking about Argentina, this meal probably won’t’ be inside, but in the garden. Some traditional Argentinian dishes include roasted turkey, stuffed tomatoes and Christmas desserts like Pan Dulce and Panetone.
And then? Fireworks at midnight! And a toast to the start of Christmas day! Globos, paper decorations with a light inside, are released into the sky.
Midnight services are held, though some families stay home and open presents under the tree.
Poland: Ahhh, the tangerines of Christmas.
The smell of tangerines in is widely understood as the beginning of Christmas time!
And tangerines mean Advent is right around the corner. It’s a time when people remember the real reason for Christmas. Like Lent, some people give up their favourite foods or drinks. A special church service, the roraty, are communion services at dawn. The roraty are dedicated to Mary for receiving the good news.
Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia (pronounced vee-GHEE-lee-uh). The main Christmas meal is eaten in the evening and is called “Kolacja wigilijna” (Christmas Eve supper).
On the table there are 12 dishes to give good luck for the next year. Everyone has to eat or at least try some of each dish to receive luck for every month. Herrings are very popular and usually served is several ways: in oil, in cream, and/or in jelly. The meal is traditionally meat-free in honor of the animals who took care of the baby Jesus. Straw is put on the floor, too, as a reminder that Jesus was born in a stable and placed in a manger. What sounds most delicious and refreshing is their kompot z suszu, a drink made by boiling dried fruits and fresh apples!
In many houses, a place at the table to left for a guest (any guest). Polish people say that no one should ever be alone or hungry, so if someone comes to the door, they are welcomed in to join in the holiday.
Zimbabwe: Can you hear it now?
Christmas in Zimbabwe starts with church. But after church is when the real Christmas party starts… literally! After church, everyone has a party in their homes, and people go from house to house to visit family and friends. The main room in the house is decorated with plants like ivy, but not much more is done throughout the house. Chicken with rice is the traditional Christmas meal in Zimbabwe, because chicken is so expensive there. Sometimes, these parties are all that take place on Christmas Day; they play around when it comes to parties!
Eating, exchanging presents and enjoying the season with friends and family are the basics of a Zimbabwean Christmas. To aid the festivities, people get their biggest speakers and put them outside to play their favorite music. Christmas music, pop tunes and old African favourites— anything goes!
So, presents? Children in Zimbabwe believe that Santa Claus brings them presents early on Christmas Day so they can show their friends at Church and at all the parties.
Pakistan: Christmas in the courtyard
Dec. 25 is a public holiday unusual to us, in memory of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
However, for the Christian communities in Pakistan, spiritual seminars take place to prepare for Christmas or Bara Din (Big Day). In the big Christian areas, the streets are lit and each house is decorated with a star on the roof. Christians will also exchange Christmas cakes. Carolers go from house to house, and in return the family offers something to the choir.
On Christmas Eve, churches are packed for the midnight services. Hymns, then fireworks is how it goes in Pakistan! People dance, exchange presents, and wear their best, colorful clothes. They stay in the church courtyard for hours dancing, eating, and being together.
In Pakistan Santa Claus is known as Christmas Baba (translated, Father Christmas).
Slovakia: Sweet feet and sweet trees
First thing’s first! Slovaks celebrate St. Nicholas’ day on Dec. 6. There are no chimneys or stockings necessary. Young children place shoes near the door so sv. Mikulas (Santa) can fill them with sweets and fruit.
Next is Advent, and there are preparations to be made! Cleaning, baking, shopping, and buying the Christmas tree, a lot like here. But not exactly! Slovak Christmas trees are decorated with lights, fruits and handmade wood ornaments. They even decorate it with baked goods made with honey, shaped like angels and other symbols. What a delicious tree!
But why would they decorate with food? Christmas trees are kept until Feast of the Three Kings (Epiphany) on Jan. 6. That’s when the children are allowed to finally eat the candies and other sweets from the tree! Oh, to be a kid again!
Speaking of food, the main Christmas meal is known as the velija and consists of 12 dishes (symbolizing the twelve disciples). Sometimes people will make more than 10 different types of cookies, too!
Christmas Eve is the most important day of the Christmas season. It is called Stedry den (the Generous Day). sv. Mikulas already did his job, so who else brings presents to the children? The Baby Jesus.
Of course, here in Marion County, we celebrate both the American traditions and the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. What other cultural celebrations are you familiar with?
What are you family’s traditions around the holiday season? What will you try to incorporate from other cultures this year?