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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Around The World Part Three

Christmas in Slovakia
Christmas trees in Slovakia go up on Christmas Eve.
They go to church on Christmas Eve and return to a traditional dinner. The dinner consists of two main dishes. These are sauerkraut soup, and fish and potatoes salad.
After the main meals people eat a dish called Lok'e which is food made from pieces of baked risen dough with raisins and poppy seeds. They then also eat fruit such as apples, oranges, pineapples, bananas, and nuts and cakes.
After dinner they go to the Christmas tree where they find Christmas presents.
Christmas in Spain


In Spain it is a very festive time at Christmas. On Christmas Eve, as the stars come out, tiny oil lamps are lit in every house, and after Midnight Mass and Christmas Dinner, streets fill with dancers and onlookers. There is a special Christmas dance called the Jota and the words and music have been handed down for hundreds of years. They dance to the sound of guitars and castanets.
Children think of the Three Wise Man as the gift bearers. Tradition has it that they arrive on January 6th, the date the Wise Men gave gifts to Jesus.
Shoes are filled with straw or barley for the tired camels that must carry their riders through the busy night. By morning the camel food is gone and in place of the straw or barley are presents. Shoes also may be placed on balconies on the night of the 6th January in the hope that the Wise Men will fill them with gifts.
Most homes have a manger, like cathedrals and churches. These are complete with carved figures.
During the weeks before Christmas, families gather around their manger to sing, whilst children play tambourines and dance.
The Spanish especially honor the cow at Christmas because it is thought that when Mary gave birth to Jesus the cow in the stable breathed on the Baby Jesus to keep him warm.
Christmas is a deeply religious holiday in Spain. The country's patron saint is the Virgin Mary and the Christmas season officially begins December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is celebrated each year in front of the great Gothic cathedral in Seville with a ceremony called los Seises or the "dance of six." Oddly, the elaborate ritual dance is now performed by not six but ten elaborately costumed boys. It is a series of precise movements and gestures and is said to be quite moving and beautiful.
Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena or "the Good Night." It is a time for family members to gather together to rejoice and feast around the Nativity scenes that are present in nearly every home. A traditional Christmas treat is turron, a kind of almond candy.
December 28 is the feast of the Holy Innocents. Young boys of a town or village light bonfires and one of them acts as the mayor who orders townspeople to perform civic chores such as sweeping the streets. Refusal to comply results in fines which are used to pay for the celebration.
The children of Spain receive gifts on the feast of the Epiphany. The Magi are particularly revered in Spain. It is believed that they travel through the countryside reenacting their journey to Bethlehem every year at this time. Children leave their shoes on the windowsills and fill them with straw, carrots, and barley or the horses of the Wise Men. Their favorite is Balthazar who rides a donkey and is the one believed to leave the gifts.
The Spanish Christmas is Navidad, people go to church, exchange presents, and many play on swing sets set up especially for the occasion. Swinging at solstice time evokes an ancient desire to encourage the sun, urging it to "swing" ever higher in the sky.


Christmas in Sweden


Christmas begins in Sweden with the Saint Lucia ceremony. Before dawn on the morning of 13 December, the youngest daughter from each family puts on a white robe with a red sash. She wears a crown of evergreens with tall-lighted candles attached to it. She wakes her parents, and serves them with coffee and Lucia buns. The other children accompany her. The boys dressed as star boys in long white shirts and pointed hats.
The custom goes back to Lucia, a Christian virgin martyred for her beliefs at Syracuse in the fourth century. The Saint Lucia ceremony is fairly recent, but it represents the traditional thanksgiving for the return of the sun. Often she is followed by star boys, who wear pointed hats, and carry star wands.
Candle-lit processions to Church feature Scandinavian Christmases, where, in the home, it is mother who always lights the candles on Christmas Eve.
Christmas trees are usually found in Swedish homes two days before Christmas. Decoration may include candles, apples, Swedish flags, small gnomes wearing red tasseled caps, straw ornaments. The houses may filled with red tulips and smell like pepparkakor, which is a heart-star, or goat-shaped gingerbread biscuit.
Swedish Julafton, or Christmas Eve dinner may be a smorgasbord, or buffet with julskinka, or Christmas ham, pickled pigs feet,lutfisk, or dried codfish, and many different kinds of sweets. Risgryngrot a special rice porridge, has hidden in it an almond which as tradition has it the person who finds the almond in his or her bowl will marry in the coming year.
Christmas trees are usually brought into Swedish homes one or two days before Christmas. Decorations include: candles, apples, Swedish flags, small gnomes and tasseled caps, and straw ornaments. The house may be filled with red tulips and the smell of pepparkakor - a heart-star, or goat-shaped gingerbread biscuits.
After Christmas Eve dinner, a friend or family member dresses up as tomte or Christmas gnome. The tomte, unlike Santa Claus is supposed to live under the floorboards of the house or barn and ride a straw goat. The make-believe tomte, wearing a white beard and dressed in red robes, distributes gifts from his sack. Many are given with funny rhyme that hints at the contents.
Swedes eat lye-treated codfish and welcome the Christmas elves and the julbok which is the Christmas goat, who is responsible for the distributing of the presents.
In Sweden Jultomten, a little brownie helps Santa Claus give gifts to the children who have been good.
On Christmas morning, churches are lit up entirely by candles for the Christmas service.
From Mia
The Julbock (Christmas Goat) has nothing to do with the Tomte (Santa Claus)... He doesn't ride it. When Sweden was changing from goat to Santa they came together but that was more than 20 years ago. So it use to but no longer. And it was originally to honor the goats that Tor (an old God) used to pull his carriage. Today basically no one knows why we have them. Sadly and the Tomte doesn't live under a barn anymore. Now it is like in America, he lives at the North Pole. In the old days the tomte took care of the farm and lived there but then he had nothing to do with Christmas (then it was the goat). He was mean and hard to work with but he made sure there would be food on the table and looked after all the animals, IF the people on the farm took care of him and behaved well. No Christmas.
Balls of Glass are in our trees as well as Tinsels now but most of all: You've forgotten about the most Christmassy in Sweden Donald duck at TV at 15.00 on Christmas Eve. Has been shown on TV since 1960-somethink.
from School in Sweden
23/12 ( the day before Christmas Eva ) this day we prepare for the dinner on Christmas Eva. We bake and cook a lot! We also decorate the tree. We eat “knäck” which is a hard type of fudge with chopped almonds. We put the gift under the tree.
24/12 ( Christmas! ) the celebrations begin at 15 o´clock with watching Donald Duck. We drink “julmust” and eat “knäck” and “pepparkakor” In the evening we eat, among other things, meatballs, small sausages, “Janson´s Frestelse” ( potatoes, herring, cream ) Smoked eel different types of herring. After dinner it is time for the presents!


Christmas in Switzerland


A tinkling of a silver bell heralds the arrival of Christkindli - a white clad angel, with a face veil held in place by a jeweled crown. The tree candles are lit as she enters each house and hands out presents from the basket held by her child helpers.
The week before Christmas, children dress up and visit homes with small gifts. Bell ringing has become a tradition, and each village competes with the next when calling people to midnight mass. After the service, families gather to share huge homemade doughnuts called ringli and hot chocolate.
In Switzerland, the Chlausjagen Festival or Feast of St. Nichohlas is celebrated at dusk on 6 December with a procession of "lifeltrager' wearing gigantic illuminated lanterns in the shape of a Bishop's mitre on their heads.
The Swiss wait for the Christ child called Christkindli, to arrive with gifts for all in his reindeer-drawn sleigh.
In Switzerland, during the holiday season the Star Singers or Sternsingers dressed as the Three Kings parade through the streets of cities and towns singing Christmas songs.
In Zurich, Santa visits in a special fairytale tram and gives the children a ride through the city, singing songs with them and sharing a basket full of sweets.


Christmas in Ukraine

Sviata Vechera OR "Holy Supper" is the central tradition of the beautiful Christmas Eve celebrations in Ukrainian homes. The dinner table sometimes has a few wisps of hay on the embroidered table cloth as a reminder of the manger in Bethlehem.
When the children see the first Star in the eastern evening sky, which symbolizes the trek of the Three Wise Men, the Sviata Vechera may begin. In farming communities the head of the household now brings in a sheaf of wheat called the didukh which represents the importance of the ancient and rich wheat crops of Ukraine, the staff of life through the centuries. Didukh means literally "grandfather spirit" so it symbolizes the family's ancestors. In city homes a few stalks of golden wheat in a vase are often used to decorate the table.
A prayer is said and the father says the traditional Christmas greeting, "Khristos rodyvsya!" which translated is Christ is born!, which is answered by the family with "Slavite Yoho!" which translated is Let Us Glorify Him!. In some families the Old Slavic form Khristos razhdayetsya is used.
At the end of the Sviata Vechera the family often sings Kolyadky which is a Ukrainian Christmas Carols. In many communities the old Ukrainian tradition of caroling is carried on by groups of young people and members of organizations and churches calling at homes and collecting donations.
The favorite Ukrainian carol is Boh predvichny meaning God Eternal which has a very beautiful melody and lyrics. Some Ukrainian carols are unusual because they mention Ukraine while others are ancient pagan songs of a thousand years ago which have been converted into Christian carols.
Christmas is a joyous day which opens for Ukrainian families with attendance at Church. Ukrainian Churches offer services starting before midnight on Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning. Christmas supper, without Lenten restrictions, does not have as many traditions connected with it as Sviata Vechera. The old tradition in Ukraine of giving gifts to children on St. Nicholas Day, December 19th, has generally been replaced by the Christmas date.
The traditional Christmas customs of Ukraine add color and significance to the winter festival of Christmas, and Ukrainian Christmas on January 7th is usually a peaceful and quiet event. This celebration reminds us of the baby in a Bethlehem manger whose birthday we celebrate. But whether Christmas is celebrated on December 25th or on January 7th the message is the same: "Peace on Earth! Good will towards men!
In the Ukraine, Father Frost visits all the children in a sleigh pulled by only three reindeer.
He brings along a little girl named Snowflake Girl. She wears a silver blue costume trimmed with white fur and a crown shaped like a snowflake.




Christmas in the Holy Land

Christmas in the Holy Land where Christ is believed to have been born is often full of travelers come to celebrate Christmas. Here in a grotto there is a 14-pointed Silver Star on the floor is where the birthplace is supposed to have been.
There are three Christmas Eves in the Holy Land. One on the 24th December celebrated by the Protestant and Catholic Churches. The second for the Greek Orthodox, Coptic (Egyptian) and Syrian churches. The third is the Armenian Church. At times, all three services are going on at the same time, but, in different parts of the church, as well as in different languages. For lunch they eat turkey, spiced with pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg and stuffed with rice, meat,, pine nuts and almonds.
Early in the evening, members of the Protestant church groups would go around singing carols. On Christmas morning children would open their presents before breakfast. After breakfast Protestant people would go to church, and visit friends to wish them a happy Christmas.
The Catholic Church priests would come a bless water from which all members of the family would take a sip.
The member of the Greek Orthodox Church Epiphany is very important. They have a special church service at which a cross was dipped into water to bless it. People would take the water home with them drink three sips before eating anything.
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