THE Christmas season or Christmastide,reckoned from Christmas Day, December 25, to the Epiphany or the Feast of the Three Kings, January 6,brings all people together in many ways. Commemorating the birth of Jesus, “the central figure of Christianity,” Christmas is a Christian holiday, nonetheless widely celebrated by non-Christians.There are celebratory Christmas customs of other countries similar to ours; there are also unique ones. Popular are gift-giving, Christmas music, Christmas cards, the legendary Santa Claus who bring gifts especially to children, Christmas trees and the nativity scenes set up in homes, schools and public places, church celebrations as in the advent or midnight masses andChristmas meals which in the Philippines is the lechon, hamon and queso de bola.
At Christmastide, our local government communities set up their own unique Christmas trees. Creative barangays ingeniously bring out the best in the townsfolk. We enjoy gazing at such artistic handicraft, decorating Christmas trees from recycled materials such as plastic bottles and empty soda cans. Nativity scenes set up by public communities are usually bigger than life-size, some of them sourcedfrom “religious” stores. Images crafted from local materials display Filipino workmanship. Christmas colors are red and green, the colors of poinsettia, the traditional Christmas flower. Some Christmas trees and decor are mostly white, gold and silver–the colors of the Epiphany, “of celebration, newness, and hope that mark the most sacred days of the church year.”
<www.crivoice.org › Resources for Worship › Seasons of the Church Year>. Being familiar with the customary ways we prepare for Christmas, let us ventureintosome practices in other parts of the world.
Abundant mango trees and bananasin India conveniently serve as Christmas trees while others are made of artificial pine trees.India’s streets would be brightly lit, well-decorated with Christmas banana or mango trees. In Ukraine, artificial spiders and webs made of paper and wire decorate Christmas trees. Finding a real spider (not a black one) on a Christmas tree is considered good luck. The spider and web décor is based on a legend about a poor but hardworking widow who once lived in a small hut with her children. A pine cone which fell one summer day on the earthen floor of the hut took root. Cared for by the widow and her children, the tree grew and was their prospective Christmas tree. Christmas Eve arrived;the family had nothing to decorate the tree with. Sadly, they went to sleep. On Christmas morning, they found the tree covered with cobwebs.When they opened the windows, the sunlight touched the webs which turned into gold and silver. The overjoyed family from then on never lived in poverty again.
Christmas day in Japan has lovers share a meal together, usually a chicken dish, very popular for Christmas. No wonder, Kentucky restosare always full on Christmas, where reservations have to be made in early December. About gift bringers, the Japanese have Santa-san whose figure is the major décor of the Christmas cake, and Hoteioshio, a Japanese god from Buddhism, not really related to Christmas. Figures of both gift givers, trees and flowers serve as major décor of the Christmas cake–a centerpiece duringchildren’s Christmas parties. Finland has its own gift-giver–the Christmas Goat, “a thinly veiled version of Father Christmas represented as a straw goat under Finnish
Christmas trees” and part of the festive tapestry. The Christmas Goat is linked to the “Norse god Odin who arrives on Christmas Eve and delivers his presents by coming through the front door instead of way down the chimney.”
In Finland, families usually visit the graves of their ancestors and relatives on Christmas Eve, December 24, to light candles in memory of the deceased (hence cemeteries are brightly lit up with candles). Families living in cities in Nigeria go home to their villages to be with their grandparents, parents and relatives. As in our country, Christmas is a family eventin Nigeria. They party on Christmas Eve lasting long into the night, attend the morning Christmas mass, exchange gifts, and sing Christmas carols. Children expectedly peep at the family Christmas tree for gifts from Santa. <http://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/nigeria.shtml>. Similarly, Greek families come together to celebrate Christ’s birthon December 25.Saint Vasilis, the equivalent of Santa Claus, is believed to visit homes on Christmas Eve to bring children gifts. During Christmastide, Greek hearths burn bright, which is said to keep evil spirits away. Known as “Greek elves,” they are believed to be active during the 12 days of Christmas. Smoke from the chimneys keep evil spirits away. These Greek “elves” are usually thought to be “male and have hooves or wooden boots to harm people with.” See more at:
To mark Christ’s birth, the Russian Orthodox Church, celebrates Christmas on January 7. Christmas Eve is January 6 during which the Divine Liturgy is celebrated. Families go home for Christmas Eve dinner (known as Holy Supper) where there are the usual 12 kinds of recipes in honor of the 12 apostles.Since 1992, Russia has declaredChristmas as part of the 10-day holiday at the start of every new year.<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_in_Russia>.
Regardless of where we are, let’s celebrate Christmas with love, forgiveness, hopeand thanksgiving to God for sharing Christ Jesus with us. A blessed Christmas to us all!
The author, one of the Philippines’ most accomplished institutional management experts, held top academic positions at Xavier University (the Ateneo de Cagayan) before heading chartered institutions. She attended topmost universities in the Philippines, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. An internationalization consultant on call, she is journal copy editor of, and Graduate Studies professorial lecturer at, the Liceo de Cagayan University.
Awards include a Lifetime Professional Achievement from the Commission on Higher Education and recently, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland).