Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas around the world

Being the naive American I am, I kind of assumed that Christmas was one of those world holidays where everyone celebrated it the same way or another. Sure I've read Mickey's (stay-as-secular-as-possible) Christmas Around the World pop-up book that informed me in some countries they used shoes instead of stockings or don't use a tree, and the only thing really different is the style of their houses and skin color. But this year, due to friends being world travelers and informing me of such holiday traditions, I realized I am once again oblivious to the world around me.

I'm just typing word-of-mouth things without doing research, so here's what I've gathered. In Spain, it's much more of a religious holiday than anything. There are few decorations, but not as crazy as other places. Mainly, they celebrate the birth of Jesus. And it's not the typical Dec. 25, it's January 3rd.

In the Netherlands, these things take place on December 5th, but it's not a religious holiday. It's when Pere Noel (okay, that's french, i just mean some form of Santa Claus) comes and puts goodies in shoes and knocks on the door and leaves a bag of presents.

In Ireland, it is celebrated like us, and I sure know they like to decorate Dublin a lot. That I've personally experienced.

After that around-the-world tour of Christmas, you're probably not as enlightened as I was. But, as I was listening to recounts of tales and travels and updates on international holidays, I was reminded that despite the differences and ways these traditions have evolved in different countries, there's still a common background. No celebration of countries gaining independence, no feasts with pilgrims only in our land, no celebrating the Queen's birthday, but celebrated something international. And to beat around the bush as much as possible without actually saying the ever-cliche sermon topic of Christmas Eve "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," I will leave you with this:

Il y avait, dans cette même contrée, des bergers qui passaient dans les champs les veilles de la nuit pour garder leurs troupeaux.Et voici, un ange du Seigneur leur apparut, et la gloire du Seigneur resplendit autour d'eux. Ils furent saisis d'une grande frayeur.Mais l'ange leur dit : Ne craignez point ; car je vous annonce une bonne nouvelle, qui sera pour tout le peuple le sujet d'une grande joie : c'est qu'aujourd'hui, dans la ville de David, il vous est né un Sauveur, qui est le Christ, le Seigneur. Et voici à quel signe vous le reconnaîtrez : vous trouverez un enfant emmailloté et couché dans une crèche. Et soudain il se joignit à l'ange une multitude de l'armée céleste, louant Dieu et disant :

Gloire à Dieu dans les lieux très hauts, Et paix sur la terre parmi les hommes qu'il agrée !

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."