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Good News - Broward Edition
38 December 2013
Cresonia Hsieh
Good News
To celebrate Christmas in
America, we cut down pine trees
and firs, decorate our homes with
colorful lights and red ribbons,
and exchange carefully wrapped
gifts among friends and family.
Although
Christmas
is
a
trademark holiday for Americans,
countries all around the world
celebrate Christmas and have
traditions of their own. From
roller skating to church to
oscillating back and forth on a
swing set, people all around the
world have embraced the spirit of
Christmas and made traditions
and customs of their own. Read
on to discover some unique
holiday customs practiced around
the globe.
China
Though a Communist and
an
officially
atheist
state,
Christmas is a widely celebrated
holiday in China (though not an
official
one).
While
most
Westerners at least recognize
Christmas as a religious holiday,
the Chinese instead prefer to treat
Christmas more of an informal
holiday that is often associated
with romance. For this reason,
young couples may go out for a
night of ice skating or watching a
movie to celebrate the joyous
occasion.
The
Chinese
exchange
cellophane-wrapped
apples.
Because the words “Christmas
Eve” (píng’ān yè) and “apples”
(pínggu) are relatively similar,
many Chinese give each other
cellophane-wrapped,
colored
apples with inscriptions like,
“Merry X-Mass” written across
them.
Santa Clauses are often seen
playing the saxophone. For
reasons widely unknown, Santa
Clauses in China are often seen
portrayed jamming on the
saxophone. Some believe it is
because Christmas is associated
with Western culture and the
saxophone is of western origin;
thus, Santa Clause plays the sax in
China. Others believe that it has to
do with the fact that Bill Clinton
played “Heartbreak Hotel” on the
tenor sax on “The Arsenio Hall
Show” shortly after DengXiaoping
opened some southern cities in
China to the world in 1992. To
date, there is yet a clear consensus
on the origin/reason of this
portrayal of Santa Claus.
Egypt
According to Egypt’s 2006
Census data, 5.3 percent of
Egypt’s population is Coptic
Christian. This people group is
the
largest
supporter
of
Christmas in Egypt. However,
much like China, the holiday is
becoming
increasingly
commercialized.
Christmas is celebrated on
January 7 in the Coptic faith. As
done in America, on Christmas
Eve Christians go to church for a
special service. For Christmas Day,
Egyptians gather for a night of
feasting with family and friends.
Coptic Christians observe 43
days of fasting. During the 43 days
before Christmas (Advent), Coptic
Christians abstain from eating
meat, poultry, dairy and other
animal products. Increasingly
though, people are opting only to
fast the last week of Advent.
Iraq
According to the CIA
Factbook, Christians constitute
three percent of the Iraqi
population; with 97 percent of
Iraqis belong to the Muslim faith.
Nevertheless, Gulf News states
that even since the American-led
invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraq
declared Christmas an official
holiday in 2008.
On Christmas Eve, Iraqis
burn wreaths of dried thorns. It is
tradition on Christmas Eve for the
children of the family to read the
Christmas story from Arabic
Bibles while family members light
candles and listen. Afterward,
dried thorns are burned and if the
pile disintegrates into all ash, then
it is deemed an indicator of good
fortune. The familymembers then
proceed to hop over the ash and
make wish as they do so.
During
Christmas
Day
service, members engage in the
“touch of peace.” The process of
the touch of peace is done during
the church service and is
initiated by the bishop. By
placing one hand on a member,
the member is then supposed to
bless another member by
touching him/her and the
process is continued until
everyone has been physically
blessed.
Spain
With 94 percent of Spain’s
population claiming to be
Catholic, according to the CIA
Factbook, Christmas is a widely
celebrated and religious holiday in
Spain. The joyous occasion is often
celebrated with dance, music, and
tradition inspired by biblical
events and Catholic culture.
Spaniards partake in fire
leaping. In honor of the winter
solstice, men andwomen are often
seen jumping over bonfires, or
“hogueras” in Spanish, in a
symbolic effort to ward of illness.
This custom is mostly observed in
the cities of Granada and Jaen.
People swing to complement
Christmastime music. During the
Christmas season, swings fill up
the town square so that young
children can swing to the beat of
the music. The tradition dates
back to ancient myth that
swinging higher would encourage
the sun to “swing” higher and
higher in the sky too.
Venezuela
Christmas in Venezuela is
similar toChristmas inAmerica, in
that Venezuelans also have
Christmas trees, Santa Claus (or in
their case, a PapáNoel), and gifts to
be exchanged. However, unlike
Christmas in America, the holiday
in Venezuela possess many quirks
of its own.
Venezuelans roller-skate to
church. InCaracas, it is common in
the days leading up toChristmas to
attend EarlyMorningMass (“Misa
de Aguinaldo”). However in the
country’s capital, rather than
driving or walking to church,
Venezuelans often roller-skate to
church. In order to perpetuate this
tradition,
the
Venezuelan
government closes down many
roads on Sunday just so people can
roller-skate to church.
Venezuelan children tie a
piece of string around their big toe
the night before Sunday service.
Although the origins of this
tradition are largely unknown, the
custom is that on the night before
mass leading to Christmas,
Venezuelan children tie a long
piece of string to their toe and then
leave the other end out the
window. If a roller skater onhisway
to church sees the string hanging
out the window, it is his job to pull
the dangling string.
Whatever
your
family’s
unique traditions are, enjoy
making Christmas your own …
roller skates optional!
Cresonia Hsieh is a journalism
student at the University of
Florida. She can be reached at
cresoniahsieh@yahoo.com.
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Christmas Traditions from Around the World
CHRISTMAS