Thursday, December 09, 2010
"Boas Festas" is what you would be hearing, instead of Merry Christmas. Brazil has history with Portuguese foundations but in today's world, it is a veritable melting pot of people from all over the world.
Traditional Christmas involves Le Presepio, or The Nativity scene and these little replicas are found in homes, stores and in the churches. The term presepio goes back to a Hebrew word for "straw bed" or what we would term the manger.
Los Pastores (The Shepherds) is again, a folk play but in Brazil they show female shepherdesses AND they include a plotting gypsy who is trying to kidnap baby Jesus. What a unique twist to the story!
Santa has infiltrated Brazilian culture but he is known as Papai Noel. People will tell you that he lives in Greenland but visits wearing silk clothes to withstand the heat of their climate. Woo hoo!
Yum, yum-- it's time to talk food: Brazilians pull out all the stops and share turkey, chicken, ham, beans, coloured rice and fresh veggies and fresh fruit that would make your eyes pop out. (Think, beautiful colours) The big feast is held on Christmas Eve.
Church attendance is changing. Historically there was a midnight mass for Catholics, but due to an awareness of crime (yes, even on Christmas), many families go to a service in the afternoon of December 24th.
Fresh flowers abound. These folks are not limiting themselves to pointsettias! And just when you think you can't stand anymore wonders to your senses... Brazil holds fantastic firework displays on Christmas Day.
Festivities last until January 6, known as Three Kings Day. The population gives the nod to the magi who searched out the holy family and brought the gifts of gold, frankencence and myrhh.
The day after this celebration is the time that all the Nativity Scenes are put away until next year.
Do you think you would enjoy a Christmas the way the Brazilians celebrate?
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Christmas in Russia includes special prayers of the season. Many people get involved with fasting for 39 days before Christmas and break the fast on Chrismas Eve as soon as the first star is seen in the night sky.
Their Christmas Eve falls on January 6th. They prepare a 12 course meal (one for each of the Apostles.) Borsch (beet soup) and stuffed cabbage will be on the menu. Expect to taste some honey for the sweet things in life and garlic for the challenges ahead.
The orthodox Russian Christmas lasts for six days. Some of the symbolism in their home would include a white tablecloth to remind them of the swaddling clothes of baby Jesus. A bit of hay can be spread around to show that He was born into poverty and humble beginnings. A white candle is used to say, "He is the light of the world." Each home would produce a round loaf of bread to reinforce that Christ is the Bread of Life.
One tradition is to draw a cross on the forehead of family members... in honey!
New Years Eve is often celebrated and a Festival of Winter is more popular than the old styled Christmas traditions. If you hear about Grandfather Frost, you are probably listening to a Russian telling about New Year's Eve.
It seems that this friendly character, with the help of his granddaughter, Snowmaiden, leave gifts on New Year's Eve. Russian children hope to find candy from Grandfather Frost.
The young people have to show that they have been good, so poems are read aloud and many songs are sung as proof of their good behaviour.
Because a Russian Christmas is after January first, their habits may seem backward to us.
A final Christmas tradition I will leave with you involves the old ladies, affectionately called The Babushkas. (grandmothers) The fable goes, that the Wise Men asked the way to the stable & would the old lady travel with them to show the way. It was too cold for The Babushka to go, so she lost the privilege of seeing the Christ child. Years later she regretted her decision, so she shared small gifts in her basket with the neighbourhood children.
Now the older women hide treasures for the young to find in their Christmas baskets too.
Aren't you glad Christmas isn't preceeded by 39 days of fasting??? Yikes!
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
In Mexico, many festivities are celebrated outdoors because the weather is warmer. Greetings are shared to remember El Nino Dios ( the Christ Child).
Starting December 16 and running nine evenings, candlelight processions or "wanderings" are held in communities. Las Pasadas are symbolic of the Holy Family trying to find lodging when there was no room in town. A different home is chosen each night to host the event. People knock on two 'wrong' doors and the third home allows them inside.
Plays called Pastorelas tell the story of the shepherds looking for the infant and following the angel message.
For 2 weeks carols or haciendo ramas are sung. These are lively and entertaining.
Stalls are set up in town. Traditionally these sell the food and articles needed to set up your nativity set. A stall is known as a puesto and the manger scene is called el Nacimiento. Each year a new figure can be bought and added to the nativity scene at your house!
If a family is Catholic, a mass on Christmas Eve (misa de gallo) is attended and then a meal at home is enjoyed. That same night, the gifts are opened, games are played and sparklers are lit to the delight of the little ones. If you have a pinata to hit with a stick, expect to find peanuts, oranges and tangerines inside. Hard candy is popular also.
Christmas Day is for relaxing and being with family. Leftovers are eaten.
January 6th is El Dia de Reyes where the day of the Kings or magi are celebrated. Children will put their shoes near the window for a treat to be hidden inside. Some family give new shoes on January 6. Hot chocolate is shared and a large bread wreath with dried fruit and sprinkled sugar is eaten. (This symbolizes Christ as the Bread of Life)
Watch out-- there is a hidden ceramic baby hidden in the loaf. The person who receives the slice of bread wreath containing the babe is the godparent of Baby Jesus and is expected to make up a christening gown (ropon) for the next celebration... on February 2.
Known as a time of purification, this tradition is named El Dia de la Candelaria. Translated as the Day of Light or the Day of the Candle. Jesus is known as the light coming into the world. The nativity set is put away on February 2nd.
I have a friend from Mexico. She never told me how many days and nights the Mexican festivities can entail. Imagine starting December 16 and partying nine nights in a row and finishing up on February 2nd?
Monday, December 06, 2010
In many regions of the world, today is a happy celebration for children. In Europe especially, the young have polished their shoes, made their room tidy and helped out their parents because they want to be "good".
You see, the good and well behaved kiddies expect to find chocolates, fruit or nuts in their shoes today. The "bad" and misbehaving children will find coal, twigs or a potato in their footwear. (Oh, the embarrassment!)
I have a lifelong buddy who has German parents. I got to learn her family's traditions and see Christmas in another light. I just sent her an email to wish her a happy St. Nicholas Day. Unfortunately, her daughter is away at university, so my buddy can't act as the saint. Nor will my friend find a chocolate in her shoe, as her parents live in another town.
The email was the best I could do from 4,000 kilometers away. Believe me, if anyone deserved a chocolate or a shoe full of delicious nuts... it would be my highschool buddy, Doris!
Do you know anyone who celebrates St. Nicholas Day?
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