A World Of Difference
Unique Traditions For Christmas Eve
Snegurochka gives out gifts in Eastern Europe.
By Theresa Juva
Queens is where the entire world comes together, and each holiday season, families in diverse neighborhoods across the borough celebrate their own special Christmas traditions. Browse through, learn a few, and create a unique holiday tradition for your family with a little piece from every part of the globe.
Many of the American traditions of writing Christmas cards and smooching under mistletoe come from this quartet. While Americans refer to the fat man in the red suit as Santa Claus, in England he is known by the more formal, stiff title, “Father Christmas.” Caroling in the streets on Christmas Eve is an English tradition started when singers would belt out a tune in exchange for a few minutes of warmth in a home and a sip from the wassail bowl, a pot of steaming ale, apples, eggs and spices. Wassail comes from an old Saxon phrase that means to “be healthy.” Today, the English drink now includes a healthy dose of alcohol.
Denmark, Finland and Sweden
In these countries, many children believe a sprightly elf brings gifts rather than the big man Santa, who is still a familiar face. If you happen to be in Norway on Christmas Eve, you’ll hear bell tolls at 5 p.m. as the country rings in the holiday, while over in Denmark, Christmas trees are finally unveiled to the children who decorate it with paper cones filled with candy.
Father Christmas, shown here in a production of “A Christmas Carol,” is the British Santa Claus.
South America and Mexico
Many of the Christmas traditions practiced in these countries were adopted from the Europeans. In Argentina, children put out their shoes for candy instead of stockings as kids in Colombia, Chile and Brazil wait for their version of Santa who is known as “Old Man Christmas” and “Papai Noel.” These places are also famous for elaborate Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Christ, and in Mexico, towns often gather to act it out.
Although most of Asian continent does not have a strong connection to Christmas, the Philippines is noted for the longest Christmas celebrations in the world.
Inklings of the holiday can be spotted as early as September, but the season officially kicks off on Dec. 16 with a series of early-morning Masses appropriately called Misa de Gallo or Rooster’s Mass. These lead up to the biggest celebration on Christmas Eve after midnight Mass when families feast on a ball of cheese and a roasted ham.
Children anxiously await the arrival of Ded Moroz or “Grandfather Frost,” who travels by sleigh door-to-door with his attractive, blonde sidekick called Snegurochka or the “Snow Maiden.” No, it’s not Hugh Hefner and one of his model girlfriends—the “Snow Maiden” is said to be his granddaughter. Rather than shimmying down chimneys, “Grandfather Frost” enters children’s homes through the front door, and like Santa, loves to eat the treats kids leave for him.
Sources: www.wikipedia.com, www.worldbook.com