Friday, December 24, 2010

Unique Christmas practices around the world

Hi folks. I am sharing with you a few unique Christmas practices of some countries around the world. It would be interesting to know what special Christmas traditions are observed and is found only in your country. So, please share.
The attached YouTube video shows the Christmas decors from the university where I graduated--the University of Santo Tomas.

Let me start by telling about my country--the Philippines. We have earned the reputation of having the longest Christmas season. Beginning the month of September, one can start hearing Christmas carols. The yuletide season ends in the third Sunday of January. However, there are some radio stations that play Christmas songs as early as June!
A former Spanish colony, it has been the tradition in the Philippines to attend the Midnight Mass. Beginning 16 December until Christmas Eve, people go to the Church to pray the nine-day novena, which is the most important Filipino Christmas tradition.
Bethlehem On Christmas Eve natives and visitors alike crowd the church's doorways and stand on the roof to watch for the dramatic annual procession. Galloping horsemen and police mounted on Arabian horses lead the parade. They are followed by solitary horseman carrying a cross and sitting astride a coal-black steed. Then come the churchmen and government officials. The procession solemnly enters the doors and places an ancient effigy of the Holy Child in the church. Deep winding stairs lead to a grotto where visitors find a silver star marking the site of the birth of Jesus. Christian homes in Bethlehem are marked by a cross painted over the door and each home displays a homemade manger scene. A star is set up on a pole in the village square.
China Christians in China celebrate by lighting their houses with beautiful paper lanterns and decorating their Christmas trees, which they call "Trees of Light," with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns. Chinese children hang muslin stockings and await a visit from Santa Claus, whom they call Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run) which means "Christmas Old Man."
Iran Formerly Persia, is the land where the Three Wise men are believed to have lived when Jesus was born. Today, Christians in Iran begin fasting from animal products on 1 December. This is called "Little Fast." The "Big Fast" occurs during Lent, the six weeks preceding Easter. After Church service of 25 December, they enjoy Christmas dinner which they call "Little Feast." A traditional dish is a chicken stew called harasa. Gifts are generally not exchanged but children get new clothes which they wear proudly on Christmas Day.
Iraq On Christmas Eve, Iraqi Christian families gather together and one of the children read about the birth of Jesus while other family members hold lighted candles. After the reading, a bonfire of thorn bushes is let and everyone sings. If the thorns burn to ashes, good luck will be granted for the coming year. When the fire dies, each person jumps over the ashes three times and makes a wish. On Christmas Day, another bonfire is lit in the churchyard. The bishop, carrying a figure of the Baby Jesus leads the service. Afterwards he blesses one person with a touch. That person touches the person next to him or her and the touch is passed around until all present have felt the "touch of peace."
Nicaragua Like many Latin American countries, Nicaragua retains many of the customs of old Spain. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, people stroll the streets where there are many things to buy: candles, Nativity pictures, toys and foods. Children carry fragrant bouquets to the alter of the Virgin and sing carols. On Christmas Eve, church bells beckon the people to Midnight Mass. On January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, it is the Three Wise Men who brings gifts for the children. Often the Holiday season concludes with a brilliant display of fireworks.
Russia Most Christian Russians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, and it is customary to fast until after the first church service on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. The most important ingredient is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of wheat berries or other grains which symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success, and untroubled rest. A ceremony involving the blessing of the home is frequently observed. A priest visits the home accompanied by boys carrying vessels of holy water, and a little water is sprinkled in each room. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity.
Merry Christmas to all!

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