As the 2017 festive season gets closer, we’d like to wish all our students, family and friends a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Here is our Christmassy post to unwrap some of the Christmas traditions around the Globe in the main English, French and Spanish speaking countries... enjoy the journey!
Throughout the holidays, carollers go from house to house at twilight ringing handbells and singing Christmas songs. "The Holly and the Ivy" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" are English favourites. People give the carollers treats, such as little pies filled with nuts and dried fruits.
The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day. This day has nothing to do with fighting. Long ago, people filled church alms boxes with donations for the poor. Then on December 26, the boxes were distributed. Now people often use this day to give small gifts of money to the mail carrier, news vendor, and others who have helped them during the year.
In Australia, Christmas comes in towards the beginning of the summer holidays! Children have their summer holidays from mid December to early February, so some people might even be camping at Christmas. Australian kids make their “sandman” on the beach dressed up with a Santa hat and a scarf. Another unique fact is that Santa wears shorts and instead of reindeers, kangaroos help him deliver presents to Australian kids.
Public celebrations include Carols by Candlelight Concert, on Christmas Eve, held at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne and Carols in the Domain, Australia's largest annual community Christmas celebration.
The event is free to attend. It is always held on the last Saturday before Christmas in Sydney's Domain Gardens, a short distance away from the Sydney Opera House. These events are broadcast live on television and radio throughout the country and viewed through Southeast Asia and New Zealand.
As end to a big Christmas lunch, Australian families set off for a lounge on the beach or a float in the ocean.
French are more flexible when it comes to giving presents. In the north of the country, gifts are offered to kids on December 6th, the feast of St Nicolas. Many families prefer to exchange presents on Christmas Eve and others, who can control their excitement, do the giving and receiving on Christmas day. A very interesting tradition is Postcards from Père Noël. Letters from French kids to Father Christmas don't just disappear into dustbins or drawers in France. Since 1962, France has had a law that stipulates any letter to Santa must be responded to in the form of a postcard. The law has no doubt helped boost the myth of Santa Claus among French kids, although it's doubtful the postmen themselves appreciate all the extra work.
Another peculiar tradition at Christmas is The galette des Rois or "cake of kings". This cake is traditionally shared on Epiphany, on the 6th of January. Inside the cake is hidden a charm known as a fève. Whoever finds it in their portion is a king or queen and wins the right to wear the crown and choose their partner. This ritual may sound daft, but it's still taken very seriously.
On the south shore of Nova Scotia, over Christmas, there's the tradition of Belsnickeling, where people dress up in funny Santa costumes and go from house to house until the home owners guess who they are. The midnight mass is the central celebration of French Canadians on Christmas eve, where they display a nativity scene beneath a Christmas tree. After the mass, the family has a huge banquet called Réveillon as part of the French Christmas traditions. Gift-giving occurs on New Year’s Day.
As part of the French tradition, Santa Has a Lot of Canadian Elves. Since 1982, Santa’s Post Office has employed mailroom elves from Canada, and he has received more than 20 million letters from children around the world.
In Spain, most families eat their main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve before the service. Most people in Spain go to Midnight Mass or 'La Misa Del Gallo' (The Mass of the Rooster).
December 28th is 'Día de los santos inocentes' or 'Day of the Innocent Saints' and is very like April Fools Day in the UK and USA. People try to trick each other into believing silly stories and jokes.
New Year's Eve is called 'Nochevieja' or 'The Old Night' in Spain and one special tradition is that you eat 12 grapes with the 12 strokes of the clock at Midnight! Each grape represents a month of the coming year, so if you eat the twelve grapes, you are said to be lucky in the New Year.
On the Eve of Epiphany, the 5th January there are parades in most Spanish towns and cities to symbolise the arrival of the Three Wise Men - Melchior, Casper and Balthazar to the city where Jesus was born. It is a major event especially for the children when massive floats pass with the Three Kings waving, camels or horses join the street parades and sweets are thrown into the crowds.
Before going to bed that night children will leave out milk and biscuits for the Three Kings and their best pair of shoes to be filled with presents! Then on the 6th the children awake to see how good they have been by the amount of presents left! If they have been naughty they are left coal ... you may have seen bags made of sack cloth with the words "carbon" on them in supermarkets. Now the "coal" is actually made of sugar and it’s edible, but in the "olden days" it really was a lump of coal.
Gift-giving is done on January 6th (the day which marks the visit of the three kings to Jesus in the manger), and is not as important as time spent with family and religious celebrations.
Christmas celebrations in Mexico begin with posadas, processions which take place on each of the nine evenings leading up to Christmas Eve (Nochebuena in Spanish). From 16th-24th December the people in a Mexican neighbourhood gather together and process through the streets to a particular house. The neighbours take the part of the peregrinos or pilgrims (ie the Holy Family) in a song which is chanted back and forth between them and the residents of the house who play the part of the innkeeper. Eventually the peregrinos are admitted and there is a party in the house, with food and drink, and a piñata in the shape of a Christmas star.
Which is your favourite Christmas tradition? Do you have a unique Christmas tradition to unwrap?? We look forward to reading your comments below