Ever wondered how Christmas is celebrated in other parts of the world. Well you won't need a passport to find out. For the 9th post of Christmas, we're taking a look at some unique holiday traditions that you may not have known about.
The Santa Claus Parade in Toronto is one of the oldest and largest Santa parades in the world! It started in 1913 when Santa was pulled through the streets of Toronto. Children saw Santa as he passed and marched along with him. The parade is now a huge event with over 25 animated floats and 2000 people taking part! To learn about the parade and how to view the broadcast, visit the parade's website thesantaclausparade.com. Mummering is another Canadian Christmas tradition which mainly takes place in the province of Newfoundland. People dress up in costumes and knock on someone's door and say in a disguised voice, "Are there any Mummers in the night?" or "Any mummers 'loud in?'", meaning 'are mummers allowed in the house?' If allowed in, the Mummers will entertain their hosts and have Christmas cake before moving on to the next house. Going Mummering is a fun Christmas season activity for adults. Mummers usually come out between December 26th and January 6th (The 12 Days of Christmas), however some come out only before Christmas Day. In some places Mummering is now banned because people started using it as an excuse to go begging door-to-door. In northern Canada, some people plan a Taffy Pull. This is held in honor of Saint Catherine, the patron saint of single women and the ensuing party provides an opportunity for single women to meet single men!
In Mexico, Christmas is celebrated from the December 12th to January 6th. From December 16th up to Christmas Eve, children often perform the Posadas, which means inns in Spanish. There are nine Posadas total which celebrate the portion of the Christmas story where Joseph and Mary were looking for a place to stay. For the Posadas, the outside of houses are decorated with evergreens, moss and paper lanterns. During each Posada, children are given candles and a board with painted clay figures of Mary riding on a donkey led by Joseph. They visit houses of friends and neighbors and sing a song at each home. The song they sing is about Joseph and Mary asking for a room in the house. But the children are told that there is no room in the house and that they must go away. Eventually they are told there is room and are welcomed in! When the children go into the house they say prayers of thanks and then they have a party with food, games, piñatas and fireworks.
In Australia, Christmas comes in towards the beginning of the summer holidays. Children take their summer holidays from mid-December to early February, which is why some people in Australia go out camping at Christmas time. When Santa gets to Australia, he gives the reindeer a rest and uses kangaroos or 'six white boomers' according to a popular Australian Christmas song. The celebration continues on Boxing Day, December 26th, as most people go and visit their friends and often have barbecues at the beach. There is also a famous Yacht race from Sydney to Hobart in Tasmania held on Boxing Day.
In Japan, Christmas in known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious holiday, in fact, Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend time together and exchange presents. In many ways it resembles Valentine's Day in the USA. Young couples like to go for walks to look at the Christmas lights and have a romantic meal in a restaurant, so much so that booking a table on Christmas Eve can be very difficult. Unfortunately this means that Christmas is not viewed as a national holiday in Japan, so schools and businesses are normally open on December 25th.
Some people fast on Christmas Eve, until the first star has appeared in the night's sky. Once the fast ends, people then eat sochivo or kutia which is a porridge made from wheat or rice served with honey, poppy seeds, fruit, chopped walnuts or sometimes even fruit jellies. Kutia is sometimes eaten from one common bowl, as a symbol of unity. In the past, some families like to throw a spoonful of sochivo up on the ceiling. If it stuck to the ceiling, it meant that they would have good luck and would have a good harvest! Other popular Christmas Eve foods in Russia include, beetroot soup (borsch) or vegan potluck (solyanka) served with individual vegetable pies (often made with cabbage, potato, or mushroom); sauerkraut, porridge dishes such as buckwheat with fried onions and fried mushrooms, salads often made from vegetables like gherkins, mushrooms or tomatoes, and also potato or other root vegetable salads. The meal often consists of 12 dishes, representing the 12 disciples of Jesus.
The children in Belgium believe that Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) brings presents on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day. Children often leave a drawing or biscuits for Sinterklaas and might also leave a carrot for Sinterklass's horse and something for Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), Sinterklass's assistant. The visit of Sinkerlass is a separate occasion than Christmas, which is a more religious festival. On Christmas Eve ('Kerstavond' in Flemish and 'le réveillion de Noël' in Walloon), a special meal is eaten by most families. It starts with a drink (apéritif) and 'nibbles', followed by a starter course such as seafood, and a stuffed turkey. The dessert is Kerststronk a chocolate Christmas Log made of sponge roll layered with cream. The outside is covered with chocolate butter cream and made to resemble a bark-covered log. Some people celebrate Advent and have Advent Wreaths/Crowns made from fir or leylandii greenery. The wreaths have four candles attached them and a candle is lit each week counting down to Christmas. These are very popular in Elementary Schools where an Advent song is sung when the candles are lit. Lots of children are given a paper Advent Calendar at the beginning of December. The Advent Calendar is filled with chocolate behind the doors for each day leading up to Christmas.