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Christmas in Romania

In Romania, Christmas and mid-winter celebrations last from 20th December to 7th January. The 20th is when people
celebrate St. Ignatius's Day. It is traditional that if the family keep pigs, one is killed on this day. The meat from the pig is
used in the Christmas meals.
The Christmas celebrations really begin on Christmas Eve, 24th, when it's time to decorate the Christmas Tree. This is
done in the evening of Christmas Eve. In Romanian, Christmas Eve is called 'Ajunul Craciunului'.
Carol singing (known as 'Colindatul') is also a very popular part of Christmas in Romania. On Christmas Eve children go
out carol singing from house to house performing to the adults in the houses. They normally dance as well. The children
get sweets, fruit, traditional cakes called 'cozonaci' and sometimes money for singing well. Adults go carol singing on
Christmas Day evening and night.
A traditional Romanian Carol is the 'Star Carol'. The star, made of colored paper and often decorated with tinsel, silver foil
and sometimes bells, is put on a pole. In the middle of the star is a picture of baby Jesus or a nativity scene. Carol singers
take the star with them when they go carol singing. The words of the Star Carol are:
"The star has appeared on high,
Like a big secret in the sky,
The star is bright,
May all your wishes turn out right."
Other popular carols to sing include 'Oh, What Wondrous Tidings' ('O, ce veste minunata') and 'Three Wise Men coming
from the East' ('Trei Crai de la rasarit').
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In many parts of Romania, it's also traditional that someone dresses up as a goat, with a multicolored mask, and goes
round with the carol singers. The goat is known as the 'Capra' and it jumps and dances around getting up to lots of
Another Christmas Eve tradition is a drumming band or 'dubasi'. This is normally made up of un married-men. A band can
up to 50 or 60 men in it! As well as the drums there's often a saxophone and violin. The band will practice for about a
month before Christmas so they are really good. The go round the streets and are given presents.
In Romanian, Merry Christmas is 'Crciun Fericit'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
In Romania Santa Claus is known as 'Mo Crciun' (Old Man Christmas), 'Mo Nicolae' (Old Man Nicholas) & 'Mo Geril'
(Old Man Frost).

Traditional Romanian Christmas foods include Roast Gammon and Pork Chops (made from the killed pig!), 'Ciorba de
perisoare' which is a slightly sour vegetable soup made with fermented bran and pork meatballs; 'Sarmale' cabbage
leaves stuffed with ground pork and served with polenta; 'Cozonac' a rich fruit bread; Romanian doughnuts called 'gogosi'
and cheesecakes.
New Year's Eve is also an important celebration in Romania. It's sometimes called Little Christmas. Traditionally a small,
decorated plough called a 'Plugusorul' is paraded through the streets on New Year's Eve. It is meant to help people have
good crops during the following year.
On New Year's Day, children wish people a Happy New Year while carrying around a special bouquet called a 'Sorcova'.
Traditionally, the Sorcova was made of twigs from one or more fruit trees like apple, pear, cherry or plum. They're put into
water in a warm place on 30th November, so they hopefully come into leaf and blossom on New Year's Eve! Nowadays
often a single twig of an apple or pear tree is used and it's decorated with flowers made from colored paper.
In Egypt about 15% of people are Christians. They are the only part of the population who really celebrate Christmas.
Most Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church and they have some very unique traditions for Christmas.
Christmas Day isn't celebrated on the 25th December but on 7th January (like in Ethiopia and by some Orthodox
Christians in Russiaand Serbia).
The Coptic month leading to Christmas is called Kiahk. People sing special praise songs on Saturday nights before the
Sunday Service.
For the 43 days before Christmas (Advent), from 25th November to 6th January, Coptic Orthodox Christians have a
special fast where they basically eat a vegan diet. The don't eat anything containing products that come from animals
(including chicken, beef, milk and eggs). This is called 'The Holy Nativity Fast'. But if people are too weak or ill to fast
properly they can be excused.
On Coptic Christmas Eve (6th January), Coptic Christians go to church for a special liturgy or Service. The services
normally start about 10.30pm but some chapels will be open for people to pray from 10.00pm. Many people meet up with
their friends and families in the churches from 9.00pm onwards. The services are normally finished shortly after midnight,
but some go onto 4.00am!

Christmas in Brazil

Many Brazilian Christmas traditions come from Portugal as Portugal ruled Brazil for many years. Nativity Scenes, known
as Prespio are very popular. They are set-up in churches and homes all through December.
Christmas plays called Los Pastores (The Shepherds), like the plays in Mexico are also popular. In the Brazilian versions
of the play, there's also traditionally a shepherdess and also a woman who tries to steal the baby Jesus!

Most people, especially Catholics, will go to a Midnight Mass service or Missa do Galo (Mass of the Roster). The mass
normally finishes about 1.00am. On Christmas day, people might go to church again, but this time the services are often in
the afternoon.
After the Missa do Gallo there are often big firework displays and in big towns and cities there are big Christmas Tree
shaped displays of electric lights.
In Brazil, Santa Claus is called Papai Noel & Bom Velhinho (Good Old Man). Many Christmas customs are similar to ones
in the USAor UK.
Sometimes children leave a sock near a window. If Papai Noel finds your sock, he'll exchange it for a present!
Taking part in a 'Secret Santa', known as 'amigo secreto' (secret friend) is popular in Brazil at Christmas. It is traditional to
give small gifts all through December using a pretend name (apelidos). On Christmas Day, people reveal who their amigo
secreto was!
The most popular Christmas song in Brazil is 'Noite Feliz' (Silent Night).
Favourite Christmas foods in Brazil include pork, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork and fresh and dried fruits, Brazil nuts and
Epiphany, when people remember the Wise Men visiting Jesus, is widely celebrated in Brazil.
Christmas in Finland

Finnish people believe that Santa Claus or Father Christmas lives in the north part of Finland called Korvatunturi (or
Lapland), north of the Arctic Circle. People from all over the world send letters to Santa Claus in Finland. There is a big
tourist theme park called 'Christmas Land' in the north of Finland, near to where they say that Father Christmas lives.
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It means that Santa doesn't have far to travel on Christmas Eve to deliver presents to people in Finland! If he doesn't get a
chance to deliver the present personally he will often leave them under the Christmas Tree.
In Finland, Santa might also be known as Joulupukki! (This really means 'Christmas Goat' as it was traditional in Finland
that there was a Yule Goat who was scary and asked people for presents - and certainly didn't give any out! Over time the
goat became the gift giver and then Santa took over the gift giving duties but the name of the Christmas Goat was still
retained in Finland!) Joulupukki rides with reindeer leaves gifts under the Christmas tree but if you have been naughty you
could end up with a bag of coal!
In Finnish Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Hyv Joulua'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
Everyone tries to be at home for Christmas, including fishermen who try to get their boats into the harbour by December
21st, St. Thomas' Day

Animals are given their own Christmas in Finland, with farmers sometimes hanging a sheaf of wheat on a tree to be eaten
and pecked at by the birds. Nuts and pieces of suet are also hung on trees in bags from the branches.
Everyone cleans their houses ready for the three holy days of Christmas - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing
On Christmas Eve, or the day before, Christmas trees are bought from the local market or square. The seller expects you
to bargain with them on the price.
Christmas Eve is very special and the most important day over Christmas. It's traditional to eat rice porridge and plum fruit
juice for breakfast. Then the tree is bought (if it hasn't been already) and is decorated. At midday, the 'peace of Christmas'
is broadcast on radio and TV by the City Mayor of Turku (which is south Finland).
Because it gets dark very in most parts of Finland around Christmas (about 3.00pm) it's now traditional to go cemeteries
and visit the graves of family members. Some cemeteries are enormous and police are on duty to manage the traffic, but
everyone must walk the last few yards to the grave. Candles in hanging lanterns are left around the grave, often lots of
many family members go. The whole cemetery is alight with glowing lanterns shining in the snow - a winter wonderland.
Other people like a sauna on Christmas Eve.
The main Christmas meal is eaten in the early evening. Lutefish (salt fish) is the traditional starter, but is not so common
nowadays. The main meal is a leg of pork served with mashed potato traditionally baked slowly in birch-bark boxes in the
oven with similarly cooked mashed swede. Casseroles containing different vegetables including, rutabaga, carrot and
potato are also common. Cured salmon is very popular and some people also have turkey. Desert is baked rice
pudding/porridge eaten with spiced plum jam. One almond is hidden in the pudding. Whoever find the almond will be lucky
for the next year.
After the meal, Joulupukki (Santa) might visit the house! When he comes in with his sack he asks if any children are living
there. They reply very loudly! Next then asks if they have been good all through the year. When they are given their
presents the whole family gathers to watch the fun of opening. After opening some presents, it's time to go to bed.
Christmas Day is much quieter with families usually spending it quietly at home. On Boxing Day people like to go out.
Skiing is popular along the flat terrain or skating if the lake or river has frozen.

Christmas in Russia

In the days of the Soviet Union, Christmas was not celebrated very much. New Year was the important time. Now
Christmas is celebrated normally on the January 7th (only a few Catholics might celebrate it on the 25th December). The

date is different because the Russian Orthodox church uses the old 'Julian' calendar for religious celebration days. The
Orthodox Church also celebratesAdvent. But it has fixed dates, starting on 28th November and going to the 6th January,
so it's 40 days long.
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The official Christmas and New holidays in Russia last from December 31st to January 10th.
In Russian Happy/Merry Christmas is 's rah-zh-dee-st-VOHM' (C !) or 's-schah-st-lee-vah-vah rah-zh dee-stvah' ( !). Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
Some people fast (don't eat anything) on Christmas Eve, until the first star has appeared in the sky. People then eat
'sochivo' or 'kutia' a porridge made from wheat or rice served with honey, poppy seeds, fruit (especially berries and dried
fruit like raisins), chopped walnuts or sometimes even fruit jellies!
Kutia is sometimes eaten from one common bowl, this symbolizes unity. In the past, some families like to throw a spoonful
of sochivo up on the ceiling. If it stuck to the ceiling, some people thought it meant they would have good luck and would
have a good harvest!
The Russian word for Christmas Eve 'sochelnik', comes from the word 'sochivo'.
Some Orthodox Christian Russian also don't eat any meat or fish during the Christmas Eve meal/feast.
Other popular Christmas Eve foods include beetroot soup (borsch) or vegan potluck (solyanka) served with individual
vegetable pies (often made with cabbage, potato, or mushroom); salads often made from vegetables like gherkins,
mushrooms or tomatoes, and also potato or other root vegetable salads.
Sauerkraut is main dish in the Christmas Eve meal. It can be served with cranberries, cumin, shredded carrot and onion
rings. It might be followed by more pies or porridge dishes such as buckwheat with fried onions and fried mushrooms.
Dessert is often things like fruit pies, gingerbread and honeybread cookies and fresh and dried fruit and more nuts.
'Vzvar' (meaning 'boil-up') is often the end of the meal. It's a sweet drink made from dried fruit and honey boiled in water.
Vzvar is traditionally at the birth of a child, so at Christmas it symbolizes the birth of the baby Jesus.
Following the meal, prayers might be said and people then go to the midnight Church services. They often don't wash the
dishes until they get home from Church - sometimes not until 4.00am or 5.00am!
The New Year celebrations are still very important to Russians (sometimes more than Christmas).
This is when - when 'Father Frost' (known in Russian as 'Ded Moroz' or ) brings presents to children. He is
always accompanied by his Grandaughter (Snegurochka). On New Year's eve children hold hands, make a circle around
the Christmas tree and call for Snegurochka or Ded Moroz. When they appear the star and other lights on the Christmas
tree light up! Ded Moroz carries a big magic staff. The traditional greeting for Happy New Year is 'S Novym Godom'.

One of the most famous things about Christmas in Russia, to people in western Europe and the USA, is the story of
Babushka. Babushka means Grand Mother in Russian. It tells the story of an old women who met the Wise men on their
way to see Jesus.
However, most people in Russia have never heard of the story and I've had many emails from Russian visitors to the site
who have never heard the story before! It seems that it was probably created by an American poet and writer called Edith
Matilda Thomas in 1907. Here's more information about how the story of Babushka came into being on another site.
The Story of Babushka
Once in a small Russian town, there lived a women called Babushka. Babushka always had work to do sweeping,
polishing, dusting and cleaning. Her house was the best kept, most tidy house in the whole village. Her garden was
beautiful and her cooking was wonderful. One evening she was busy dusting and cleaning, so busy that she didn't hear all
the villagers outside in the village square talking about and looking at the new star in sky.
She had heard about the new star but thought, "All this fuss about a star! I don't even have the time to look because I'm
so behind with my work. I must work all night!" So, she missed the star as it shone brightly, high overhead. She also
missed the little line of twinkling lights coming down towards the village at dawn. She didn't hear the sounds of the pipes
and drums. She missed the voices and whispers of the villagers wondering whether the lights were an army or a
procession of some sort. She missed the sudden quiet of the villagers and even the footsteps coming up the path to her
door. But the one thing that she couldn't miss was the loud knocking on her front door!
"Now what is that?" she wondered, opening the door. Babushka gaped in amazement. There were three kings at her door
with one of their servants! "My masters need a place to rest," the servant said, "and yours is the best house in the village."
"You want to stay here?" asked Babushka. "Yes, it would only be until night falls and the star appears again." the servant
replied. Babushka gulped. "Come in, then." she said.
The kings were very pleased when they saw all of the of the home-baked bread, pies and cakes. She dashed about,
serving them, asking lots of questions. "Have you come a long way?" "A very long way." sighed Caspar. "Where are you
going?" "We're following the new star." said Melchior. "But where?" The kings didn't know, but they believed that it would
lead the to a new-born king, a King of Earth and Heaven. "Why don't you come with us?" asked Balthasar. "You could
bring him a gift like we do. I bring gold, and my colleagues bring spices and perfumes." "Oh, I'm not sure that he would
welcome me," said Babushka, "and what could I bring for a gift? Toys! I know I could bring a toy. I've got a cupboard full of
toys." she said sadly. "My baby son, died when he was small." Balthasar stopped her as she went to tidy the kitchen up.
"This new king could be your king too. Come with us when the star appears tonight." he said. "I'll think about it." sighed
Babushka.As the kings slept, Babushka tidied up as quietly as she could. "What a lot of extra work there was!" she
thought, "and this new king, what a funny idea, to go off with the kings to find him."
Babushka shook herself. There was no time for dreaming, all this washing-up and putting away had to be done. "Anyway,"
she thought, "how long would she be away? What would she wear? What about the gift?" She sighed. "There is so much
to do. The house will have to be cleaned when they've gone. I couldn't just leave it." Suddenly it was night-time again and
the star was in the sky. "Are you ready, Babushka?" asked Balthasar. "I'll come tomorrow," Babushka called, "I must just
tidy here first and find a gift."

The kings went away sadly. Babushka ran back into her house, keen to get on with her work.
Finally, she went to the small cupboard, opened the door and gazed at all the toys. But they were very dusty. They weren't
fit for a baby king. They would all need to be cleaned. She cleaned all of the toys until each one shined. Babushka looked
through the window. It was morning! The star had came and gone. The kings would have found somewhere else to rest by
now. She could easily catch them up, but she felt so tired. She had to sleep. The next thing she knew, she was awake and
it was dark outside. She had slept all day! She quickly pulled on her cloak, packed the toys in a basket and ran down the
path the kings had taken.
Everywhere she asked "Have you seen the kings?" "Oh yes," everyone told her, "we saw them. They went that way." For
a day Babushka followed the trail of the kings and the villages got bigger and became towns. But Babushka never
stopped. Then she came to a city. "The palace," she thought. "That's where the royal baby would be born." "No, there is
no royal baby here," said the palace guard when she asked him. "What about three kings?" asked Babushka. "Oh yes,
they came here, but they didn't stay long. They were soon on their journey." "But where to?" asked Babushka.
"Bethlehem, that was the place. I can't imagine why. It's a very poor place. But that's where they went." replied the guard.
She set off towards Bethlehem. It was evening when Babushka arrived at Bethlehem and she had been travelling for a
long time. She went into the local inn and asked about the kings. "Oh yes," said the landlord, "the kings were here two
days ago. They were very excited, but they didn't even stay the night." "And what about a baby?" Babushka cried. "Yes
there was." Said the landlord. "The kings asked about a baby, too." When he saw the disappointment in Babushka's eyes,
he stopped. "If you'd like to see where the baby was," he said quickly, "it was across the yard there. I couldn't offer the
couple anything better at the time. My inn was really full, so they had to go in the stable."
Babushka followed him across the yard. "Here's the stable." he said. He left her in the stable. "Babushka?" Someone was
calling her from the doorway. He looked kindly at her. She wondered if he knew where the family had gone. She knew now
that the baby king was the most important thing in the world to her. "They have gone to Egypt, and safety," he told
Babushka. "And the kings have returned to their countries. But one of them told me about you. I am sorry but you are too
late. It was Jesus that they found, the world's Savior."Babushka was very sad that she had missed Jesus and it is said that
Babushka is still looking for him.

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. Having said this, the population of India is over
1 Billion, so there are over 25 million Christians in India!
One of the largest Indian Christian Communities in a city is in Mumbai. A lot of the Christians in Mumbai (previously known
as Bombay) are Roman Catholics. In India's smallest state, Goa which is on the west of India, about 26% of people are
Christians. Many of the Christians in Mumbai came from or have roots in Goa. The states of Manipur, Meghalaya,
Nagaland and Mizoram (all on the very east of India) have high populations of Christians as well.

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
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Many different languages are spoken in India. In Hindi Happy/Merry Christmas is 'ubh krisamas' ( ); Urdu it's
'krismas mubarak' ( ;)in Sanskrit it's 'Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa'; in Gujarati it's 'Anandi Natal' or 'Khushi Natal'
( ); in Bengali 'shubho br odin' ( ); in Tamil it's 'kiistumas vttukkal ' ( ); in
Konkani it's 'Khushal Borit Natala'; in Kannada it's 'kris mas habbada shubhaashayagalu' (

); in
Mizo it's 'Krismas Chibai'; in Marathi it's 'ubh Ntl ' ( ); in Punjabi it's 'karisama te nawm sla khuaymwl
hewe ' ( ); in Malayalam it's 'Christmas inte mangalaashamsakal' and in Telugu it's
'Christmas Subhakankshalu'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
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.
Christians in Goa to celebrate it Christmas! It has lots of 'western' customs as part of it as Goa has historical connections
with Portugal. Most Christians in Goa are Catholics. People like to go carol singing around their neighbors for about a
week before Christmas. Christmas Trees are also very popular as is a 'traditional' rich fruit Christmas Cake! Lots of local
sweets are also eaten at Christmas in Goa. Favourite sweets include neureos (small pastries which are stuffed with dry
fruit and coconut and fried) and dodol (like toffee that has coconut and cashew in it). These are other sweets are often
part of 'consuada' when epople make sweets before Christmas and give them to their friends and neighbors. Most
Christian families also have a nativity scene with clay figures in it. On Christmas Eve Christians in Goa hang out giant
paper lanterns, in the shape of stars, between the houses so that the stars float above you as you walk down the road.
The main Christmas meal is also eaten on Christmas Eve and is also 'western' with roast turkey or chicken being popular!
After the meal, Christians head to Church for a Midnight mass service. After the service the church bells ring to announce
that Christmas Day has arrived. Many Christians in Goa also celebrate Epiphany and remember the Wise Men visiting
Christians in Mumbai use many Christmas traditions from Goa including the star lanterns and manger scenes (people like
to make sure they have the best the nativity scene!).
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.
In South West India, in the state of Kerala Were, 22% of the state's 33 Million population are Christians and Christmas is
important festival. Traditional Catholics fast don't eat from 1st to 24th of December - until the midnight service. Every
house will be decorated with a Christmas star. During the start of the Christmas season, almost all the stationary shops
will be filled with new and variety Christmas stars. People make cribs in their homes and Churches.
In India, Father Christmas or Santa Claus delivers presents to children from a horse and cart. He's known as 'Christmas
Baba' in Hindi, 'Baba Christmas' in Urdu (both of those mean Father Christmas); 'Christmas Thaathaa' in Tamil and

'Christmas Thatha' in Telugu (both of those mean Christmas old man); and 'Natal Bua' (Christmas Elder Man) in Marathi.
In Kerla Were state, he's known as 'Christmas Papa'.

Christmas in Spain

Most people in Spain go to Midnight Mass or 'La Misa Del Gallo' (The Mass of the Rooster). It is called this because a
rooster is supposed to have crowed the night that Jesus was born.
Most families eat their main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve before the service. The traditional Spanish Christmas
dinner is 'Pavo Trufado de Navidad' which is Turkey stuffed with truffles (the mushrooms, not the chocolate ones!) In
Galicia (a region in north-west Spain, surrounded by water) the most popular meal for Christmas Eve and for Christmas
Day is seafood. This can all kinds of different seafood, from shellfish and mollusks, to lobster and small edible crabs.
After the midnight service, people walk through the streets carrying torches, playing guitars and beating on tambourines
and drums. One Spanish saying is 'Esta noche es Noche-Buena, Y no Es noche de dormir' which means 'Tonight is the
good night and it is not meant for sleeping!'
A few different languages are spoken in different regions in Spain. In Spanish Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Feliz Navidad'; in
Catalan it's 'Bon Nadal'; and in Galician 'Bo Nadal'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
December 28th is 'Da 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. Newspapers and TV stations also run silly
stories. If you trick someone, you can call them 'Inocente, inocente' which means 'innocent, innocent'. 28th December is
when people all over the world remember the babies that were killed on the orders of King Herod when he was trying to
kill the baby Jesus.
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.
Apart from Christmas, there is another festival that is celebrated in Spain that is about the Christmas Story. It is called
Epiphany and is celebrated on 6th January. This is the twelfth night after Christmas. In Spanish, Epiphany is called 'Fiesta
de Los tres Reyes Mages': in English this means 'The festival of the three Magic Kings'. Epiphany celebrates when
the Kings or Wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus.
Children have some presents on Christmas Day, but most are opened at Epiphany. Some children believe that the Kings
bring presents to them at Epiphany. They write letters to the Kings on Boxing Day, December 26th, asking for toys and
presents. And on Epiphany Eve (January 5th) they leave shoes on windowsills or balconies or under the Christmas
Tree to be filled with presents. Gifts are often left by children for the Kings, a glass of Cognac for each King, a satsuma

and some walnuts. Sometimes a bucket of water is left for the camels that bring the Kings! If the children have been bad,
the Kings might leave pieces of coal made out of sugar in the presents!
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Some big towns and cities have Epiphany Parades with each King having a big float that is shaped like a camel.
Sometimes there are also real camels in the parade. The Three Kings in the the Spanish Epiphany are:

Gaspar, who has brown hair and a brown beard (or no beard!) and wears a green cloak and a gold crown with
green jewels on it. He is the King of Sheba. Gaspar represents the Frankincense brought to Jesus. Frankincense is
sometimes used in worship in Churches and showed that people worship Jesus.

Melchior, who has long white hair and a white beard and wears a gold cloak. He is the King of Arabia. Melchior
represents the Gold brought to Jesus. Gold is associated with Kings and Christians believe that Jesus is the King of

Balthazar, who has black skin and a black beard (or no beard!) and wears a purple cloak. He is the King of Tarse
and Egypt. Balthazar represents the gift of Myrrh that was brought to Jesus. Myrrh is a perfume that is put on dead bodies
to make them smell nice and showed that Jesus would suffer and die.
Christmas in the Basque Country
In the Basque country (which is a part of northern Spain and southern France), on Christmas Eve, children's presents are
delivered by a magical man called Olentzero. He's a big, overweight man wearing a beret and smoking a pipe. He dresses
like a Basque farmer.
Christmas in Catalonia
In the Catalonia province of Spain there's a Christmas character called 'Ti de Nadal' (the Christmas log) or he's
sometimes known as 'Caga tio' (the pooping log!). It's a small hollow log propped up on two legs with a smiling face
painted on one end. From the 8th December (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) Catalan families gives the log a
few morsels of food to 'eat' and a blanket to keep it warm. On Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, the log then 'gives out'
small gifts! People sing songs and hit the log with sticks to help its 'digestion' and the log drops sweets, nuts, and dried
fruits. When garlic or an onion falls out of the log, all of the treats are finished for the year.
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Nativity Scenes 'Pesebres' are also popular in Catalonia (and all throughout Spain!). Many towns also hold 'Pastorets'
which are big plays/presentations about the Christmas story, the birth of Jesus. They have lots of music and readings from
the Bible. You can find out more about Pastorets on the Pastoret Society of Catalunya's website.
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A special cake called 'Roscn' is eaten at Epiphany. Roscn means 'ring shape roll'. It is very doughy and is bought from a
bakery on Epiphany morning. Roscn can be filled with cream or chocolate and contain a little gift.
Thank you to Mara Nez for her help in giving me information on Christmas in Spain!


Christmas in the United Kingdom

In the UK (or Great Britain), families often celebrate Christmas together, so they can watch each other open their

Most families have a Christmas Tree (or maybe even two!) in their house for Christmas. The decorating of the tree is
usually a family occasion, with everyone helping. Christmas Trees were first popularised the UK by Prince Albert, the
husband of Queen Victoria. Prince Albert was German, and thought that it would be good to use one of his ways of
celebrating Christmas in to England.
Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe are also sometimes used to decorate homes or other buildings.
Most villages, towns and cities are decorated with Christmas lights over Christmas. Often a famous person switches them
on. The most famous Christmas lights in the UK are in Oxford Street in London. Every year they get bigger and better and
thousands of people go to watch the big 'switch on' around the beginning of November.
Like a lot of countries, Nativity Plays and Carol Services are also very popular at Christmas time. The Church that I go to
always has a Carols by Candlelight Service where the church is only lit up by candles. It is a very special service and
always makes me feel very Christmassy! Lots of other British churches also have Carols by Candlelight
and Christingle services.
Children believe that Father Christmas or Santa Claus leaves presents in stockings or pillow-cases. These are normally
hung up by the fire or by the children's beds on Christmas Eve. Children sometimes leave out mince pies and brandy for
Father Christmas to eat and drink when he visits them. Now, some people say that a non-alcoholic drink should be left for
Santa as he has to drive!
Children write letters to Father Christmas/Santa listing their requests, but sometimes instead of putting them in the post,
the letters are tossed into the fireplace. The draught carries the letters up the chimney and Father Christmas/Santa reads
the smoke.
There are some customs that only take place, or were started, in the UK. Wassailing is an old anglo-saxon custom that
doesn't take place much today. Boxing Day is a very old custom that started in the UK and is now taken as a holiday in
many countries around the world.
In Scotland, some people celebrate New Year's Eve (which is called Hogmanay) more than Christmas! The word
Hogmanay comes from a kind of oat cake that was traditionally given to children on New Year's Eve. All across the UK, in
cities and towns, there are fireworks to celebrate the New Year. Two of the most famous fireworks displays are in London,
along the River Thames, and in Edinburgh at the Hogmanay celebrations.
Also in Scotland, the first person to set foot in a house in a New Year is thought to have a big effect on the fortunes of the
people that live there! Generally strangers are thought to bring good luck. Depending on the area, it may be better to have
a dark-haired or fair-haired stranger set foot in the house. This tradition is widely known as 'first footing'. In England it is
sometimes said that a stranger coming through the door carrying a lump of coal will bring good luck.
In Scots (a Scottish dialect) Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Blithe Yule'; in Gaelic it's 'Nollaig Chridheil'; and in Welsh (which is
spoken in some parts of Wales it's 'Nadolig Llawen'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
In the UK, the main Christmas Meal is usually eaten at lunchtime or early afternoon on Christmas Day. It's normally roast
turkey, roast vegetables and 'all the trimmings' which means vegetables like carrots, peas, stuffing and sometimes bacon
and sausages. It's often served with cranberry sauce and bread sauce. (Traditionally, and before turkey was available,


roast beef or goose was the main Christmas meal. In Scotland, some people might even have Haggis instead of turkey!).
One vegetable that is often at Christmas in the UK are brussel sprouts. I love them some lots of people don't!
Dessert is often Christmas Pudding. Mince pies and lots of chocolates are often eaten as well! The dinner table is
decorated with aChristmas Cracker for each person and sometimes flowers and candles
Christmas in the United States of America
The United States of America has many different traditions and ways that people in celebrate Christmas, because of its
multi-cultural nature. Many customs are similar to ones in the UK, France, Italy, Holland, Poland and Mexico.

The traditional meal for Western European families is turkey or ham with cranberry sauce. Families from Eastern
European origins favour turkey with trimmings, keilbasi (a Polish sausage), cabbage dishes, and soups; and some Italian
families prefer lasagne!
Some Americans use pop-corn threaded on string to help decorate their Christmas Tree!
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In New England (the American States of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and
Maine), there are shops called 'Christmas Shops' that only sell Christmas decorations and toys all the year round!
People in America like to decorate the outsides of their houses with lights and sometimes even statues of Santa Claus,
Snowmen and Reindeer.
Towns and cities often decorate the streets with lights to celebrate Christmas. Perhaps the most famous Christmas street
lights in the USA are at the Rockerfeller Center in New York where there is a huge Christmas Tree with a public ice
skating rink in front of it over Christmas and the New Year.
In Hawaii, Santa is called Kanakaloka!
Customs such as Mumming take place in some communities. On New Year's Day in Philadelphia there is a Mummer's
Day parade which lasts over six hours! Clubs called "New Years Associations" perform in amazing costumes which take
months to make. There are four categories (Comics, Fancies, String Bands, and Fancy Brigades) which are judged. You
can find out more on the official website: www.phillymummers.com
In the Southwest USA, there are some special customs which have some similarities to those in parts of Mexico. These
include 'luminarias' or 'farolitos' which are paper sacks partly filled with sand and then have a candle put in them. They are
lit on Christmas Eve and are put the edges of paths. They represent 'lighting the way' for somewhere for Mary and Joseph
to stay.

At the end of another year, I wish you all MORE TIME.

Peaceful, stable times. Time with those we love - and time to look within, too. Times of beauty and song and
dance. Time to see new things, try new things, make new things - and time to return to our trusty old ones too.
Time with friends who know us, care for us, understand and forgive our failings, and take us as we are. Time
with those who make time for us. A little time for everything we cherish. Above all, the feeling of time well
spent. Here's to good time - and good times - in 2015!
"Time heals all wounds, but it is also the great destroyer. Time is relative but also relentless. There is time for
every purpose under heaven, but there is never enough. Time flies, crawls and races. Seconds can be both split

and stretched. Like the tide, time waits for no man, but in dramatic moments it also stands still. It is as personal
as the pace of one's heartbeat but as public as the clock tower in the town square. [...]
And, of course, time is ... the partner of change, the antagonist of speed, the currency in which we pay attention.
It is our most precious, irreplaceable commodity. Yet still we say we don't know where it goes, and we sleep
away a third of it, and none of us really can account for how much we have left. We can find 100 ways to save
time, but the amount remaining nonetheless diminishes steadily." (Scientific American, "What Time Is It?")