Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Christmas Message To You

Wouldn't it be really nice if we could have peace in this world?  It's so tiresome being at war all the time.  Families are fighting, people fight with one another and countries are at war.  It's just tedious and tiring.  Wouldn't it be so much easier if everyone got along? 

Merry Christmas and Peace in the New Year for all. 

Wouldn't you rather have hugs than war?  I would. 

This is my last blog for this year.  See you January 4, 2015.  Have a safe and Happy New Year.

Sandra K. Marshall, Author
@Eirelander Publishing
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Sunday, December 7, 2014

How Christmas is Celebrated in Other Countries

With Christmas rapidly approaching I thought you might like to know how other countries celebrate this holiday.  I chose countries that have traditions very unlike our own, although, our country is made up of many cultures and many of them do not celebrate in the same way I do.  I respect their right to their beliefs. 

Christmas in America

Here in the United States Christians celebrate the birth of Christ by putting up Christmas decorations such as a tree with lights, a nativity scene, and decorations all over the house inside and out.  We put presents under the tree to give to children and others.

On Christmas Eve many children are in small nativity plays at church, which helps them to learn about the birth of Christ.  Members of the Catholic church go to midnight mass to celebrate Christ's birth. 

Christmas in Greece

In Greece one of the traditions on Christmas Eve, children, especially boys, often go out singing 'kalanda' (carols) in the streets. They play drums and triangles as they sing. Sometimes the will also carry model boats decorated with nuts which are painted gold. Carrying a boat is a very old custom in the Greek Islands.

If the children sing well, they might be given money, nuts, sweets and dried figs to eat.  Christmas trees are starting to become more popular, but they aren't a tradition.  Going to a Midnight Mass Service is very important to most Greeks.  

Christmas in Costa Rica

During Christmas in Costa Rica, people like to decorate their houses with beautiful tropical flowers. A model of the nativity scene, called the Pasito or Portal, is the center of the display. It's also decorated with flowers and sometimes fruit. Some of the scenes take a long time to make and all the family is involved. As well as the traditional figures, people add other models including houses and lots of different sorts of animals.

Christmas wreaths are made of cypress branches and are decorated with red coffee berries and ribbons. Most homes, shops and important buildings are decorated with Christmas lights.  On Christmas Eve everyone dresses up to go to Midnight Mass.

Christmas in Hungry

In Hungary, Christmas Eve is very important and is called 'Szent-este' which means Holy Evening. People spend the evening with their family and decorate the Christmas Tree. Sometimes only the adults decorate the tree (without the children there), so when children come in and see the tree, it's a great surprise and they are told that angels brought the tree for them!

The main Christmas meal, which is also eaten on Christmas eve, consists of fish and cabbage and a special kind of poppy bread/cake called 'Beigli'.  The Midnight Mass service is very popular in Hungary. Most people go to Church after their Christmas meal.

On Christmas Day people visit their families.

Christmas in India

Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is quite a small festival in India, due to the number of people who are Christians (about 2.3%) compared to people who belong to other religions. The population of India is over 1 Billion, and there are over 25 million Christians in India!

One of the largest Indian Christian Communities is in Mumbai. A lot of the Christians in Mumbai (previously known as Bombay) are Roman Catholics.  Midnight mass is a very important service for Christians in India, especially Catholics. The whole family will walk to the mass and this will be followed by a massive feast of different delicacies, (mostly curries) and the giving and receiving of presents. Churches in India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service.

Instead of having traditional Christmas Trees, a banana or mango tree is decorated (or whatever tree people can find to decorate!). Sometimes people use mango leaves to decorate their homes.

In Southern India, Christians often put small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to show their neighbors that Jesus is the light of the world.  In north-west India, the tribal Christians of the Bhil folk, go out night after night for a week at Christmas to sing their own carols the whole night through. They go to surrounding villages singing to people and telling the Christmas story.

Christmas in Jamaica

Christmas is a very special time in Jamaica and like a lot of other countries, radio stations play carols all through the Christmas period.  Lots of people paint their houses and hang new curtains and decorations for Christmas. Most families spend Christmas Day at home with friends and family members.

The Christmas day meal is usually prepared on Christmas Eve. The traditional Jamaican Christmas meal include fresh fruits, sorrel and rum punch and meat. The Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee and saltfish, breadfruit, fried plantains, boiled bananas, freshly squeezed fruit juice and tea. Dinner is usually served in the late afternoon and this may include chicken, curry goat, stewed oxtail, rice and peas.

Jamaican red wine and rum fruitcake is traditional and is eaten in most homes. The fruits in the cake are soaked in red wine and white rum for months before Christmas.

Christmas in Pakistan

In Pakistan, December 25th is a public holiday, but it is in memory of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Like in India, Christians make up a very small part of the population. But as Pakistan has a population over 162 million people, there are more than 5 millions Christians! Most Christians in Pakistan live the country and are quite poor.

At Christian festivals, like Christmas and Easter, a big procession takes place, in Lahore, from St. Anthony's Church to the Cathedral. It takes hours to reach the Cathedral for the services. These are then celebrated with lots of enthusiasm! Before and during Advent, spiritual seminars take place to help people to prepare for Christmas or 'Bara Din' (which in Urdu and Punjabi means the 'Big Day'). This expression is very popular, even among Muslims in Pakistan.

During the last week of Advent, in many Christian areas, carol singing is performed by various groups. They go from house to house singing carols and in return the family offers something to the choir. Mostly the money collected from such carols is used for charity works or is given to the church.

In the big Christian areas, each house is decorated and has a star on the roof. The streets are also decorated and lit. The crib and Christmas tree are also important decorations. Sometimes there are crib competitions! Christians also sometimes exchange Christmas cakes.

On Christmas eve, Churches are packed for the midnight or vigil-mass services. The choirs sing very special hymns. After the vigil-mass, in some places, there are fireworks which help celebrate the start of Bara Din. People dance, exchange presents and enjoy the special night.

On Bara Din or Christmas day, Christians go to Church again for the Bara Din celebrations. People wear their best, colourful clothes. They can stay in the Church courtyard for hours, enjoying various food from the different stalls. The evening is usually celebrated with immediate family or relatives where special food is enjoyed. Adults often visit their parents.

The traditional Christmas greeting in Punjabi is 'Bara Din Mubarrak Ho', which means, 'the blessing of Christmas on you'.

Christmas in South Korea

There are more Christians in South Korea (the Republic of Korea) than in other Asian countries such as China and Japan, so Christmas is celebrated more widely. (Christians make up about 25-30% of the population.) However, the other 70% of people in South Korea are Buddhist (about 25%) or don't have a religion.

Unlike Japan, Christmas is an official public holiday - so some people have the day of work and school (although for some people it's just another working day or day at school)! But they go back on the 26th (Boxing Day). There's a longer official winter break in the New Year.

Churches are decorated with lights and many have a bright red neon cross on top (all the year!) so that goes very well with the Christmas lights! Most churches will have a service on Christmas day. Going to Church for Christmas is becoming more popular, even among non Christians.

In North Korea Christmas is very different.  Officially, a person is allowed to be a Christian, but they can be imprisoned or killed for being one.  To celebrate Christmas it's done in secret. 

Christmas in Japan

Christmas is not widely celebrated in Japan as not many people there are Christians. However, several customs have come to Japan from the USA such as sending and receiving Christmas Cards and Presents.

In Japan, Christmas in known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange presents. In many ways it resembles Valentine's Day celebrations in the UK and the USA. Young couples like to go for walks to look at the Christmas lights and have a romantic meal in a restaurant - booking a table on Christmas Eve can be very difficult as it's so popular!

Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, so schools and businesses are normally open on December 25th.

I hope all of you found this as fascinating as I did.  There were many more countries I could have told you about, but I didn't want to overload everyone.  If there are countries you are interested in learning about their Christmas traditions go to this link:

Thank you for reading.  Have a great week, and I'll see you next Sunday.

Sandra K. Marshall, Author
@Eirelander Publishing