It’s that time of year, again. Charlie Brown, Lucy and the others are on TV (last night 5 different channels carried A Charlie Brown Christmas.) Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer colored lights and manger scenes are decorating row houses and suburban lawns. Even the M&M candies get to meet Santa. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of Christmas traditions that fill our western culture. But what about other cultures?
Here at THE DARK SIRE, we are interested in how others celebrate the holidays. We found that Christmas traditions are almost as varied as the number of countries and can range from the hilarious to the sublime.
In the Catalonian region of Spain, there is a Christmas character called Tio de Nadal or Caga tio, loosely translated as “the pooping log”. It is a small, hollow log propped up on two legs with a smiling face painted on one end. From the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (around December 8th) Catalan families give the log a few morsels to eat and a blanket to keep warm. Then on Christmas Day, people sing a special song and hit the log with sticks and low and behold, the log “poops” presents.
In Argentina, Christmas is not a winter celebration. After all, December is summertime in the south of the equator. The main meal, eaten on Christmas Eve, consists of a full barbecue with roasted turkey, roasted pork, veal and lots of different sandwiches. Then at midnight, people set off fireworks and open their presents, although many people wait until the 6th of January (Epiphany) to open their gifts.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Christmas Eve is an important musical evening with churches having as many as 5 or 6 choirs. They also celebrate with nativity plays which traditionally begin with the creation and the Garden of Eden story and ends with Herod’s killing of the innocents.
In Ethiopia things are quite a bit different since the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church celebrates Christmas on January 7th, a tradition that came from the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church. Many Ethiopians take part in a special Advent fast that lasts 43 days during which only on vegan meal is eaten each day.
Did you know that Santa lives in Finland? The Finnish believe that Santa Claus lives in the northern part of Finland, in the Arctic Circle, thus making Santa Claus their neighbor. Christmas, then, is a 3-day event that begins on Christmas eve, when Christmas trees are bought. However, decoration of the tree doesn’t start until Christmas day. And, with light waning in the early afternoon, visiting loved one’s in graveyards and hanging candlelit lanterns is a popular family outing. Even the animals have their own Christmas. People leave fruit, nuts, suet and all kinds of goodies for the wild birds to eat.
Australia is another summer country, so Christmas can be celebrated at the beach or on camping trips. With the weather so hot, Santa changes clothes to cool down and sometimes changes reindeer for kangaroos. And, instead of milk and cookies, people leave out carrots and cold (usually non-alcoholic). Christmas dinner consists of fresh fish, prawns, and lobsters with other traditional English foods, such as Christmas pudding. And don’t forget the delicious Christmas crackers!
On the Island of Malta, cribs are central to their Christmas celebration. Cribs were first introduced to Malta by noblemen from Italy in the 1600s. At first they were not popular and were more often burned than celebrated. But then, a crib was built that the culture adopted as “theirs” and the Maltese crib was born. People started making cribs with moving parts. There is now a “Friends of the Crib” society that put on a yearly exhibition of hundreds of cribs in all shapes and sizes.
Many Christmas traditions have evolved from the Colonial era and which dominant European country occupied that particular area of the world. This also meant that various Christmas traditions devolved from which brand of Christianity was dominant in the region. There was Roman Catholicism, Greek and Russian Orthodoxy, Coptic, etc. You can quite literally throw a dart at the world map and discover something unique about the way people celebrate the holidays beneath the tip.
Christmas around the world is a wonderful celebration of diversity. And we, here at the THE DARK SIRE, want to wish everyone, no matter how they celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas.
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