Christmas is just around the corner! It’s the perfect time to have a look at how different cultures celebrate Christmas in each of the five continents around the world.
The Americas 🎄
Las Posadas derives from the same Spanish word meaning lodging, or accommodation and in this case refers to the inn from the Nativity story. It uses the plural form as the celebration lasts for a nine-day interval (called the novena) during the Christmas season, which represents the nine-month pregnancy of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Mexican Christmas season begins early in December with Las Posadas and is typically celebrated each year between December 16 and December 24. The celebration has been a Mexican tradition for over 400 years, starting in 1586. Two people dress up as Mary and Joseph and certain houses are designated to be “inns”. The actors travel to one house each night for nine nights. At each house, the resident responds by singing a song and the pair are recognized and allowed to enter; the group of guests come into the home and kneel around the Nativity scene to pray.
In this French Caribbean island, faire la ribote is a longstanding tradition which consists, during the Christmas period, of going from house to house to visit neighbors and friends to share food and gifts and sing Christmas carols.
In Venezuela, the Christmas celebrations begin on December 16 with the Misa de Aguinaldo (Early Morning Mass). But if you live in Caracas, you will most likely go to church … on rollerblades! Traffic is cut off in the streets of the Venezuelan capital to give time to the faithful of the snow sports to get home. Apparently, this tradition dates back to the 1950s, when families gathered in the city after attending mass and children brought their gifts including bicycles, skateboards … and rollerblades with them.
United States of America
The Santa Run is a Huge Holiday Bar Crawl which originated in Philadelphia and where all of its participants dress in Santa Suits or holiday gear hopping from bar to bar on busses spreading the Christmas Spirit throughout the town. A great way to start off the holiday season. However, there is a humanitarian objective: the majority of the proceeds from the event benefit a charity or a family in need. The event has since then spread to other cities like Atlantic City, Baton Rouge, Chicago and New Orleans, and it now attracts thousands of people.
Known as Las Parrandas, the carnival-like festival originated in Remedios, one of the country’s oldest cities. This tradition dates back to the 1820 when a young priest named Francisco Vigil de Quiñones noticed that in the chilly mornings of the last days of the year, his congregations were dwindling. People seemed to prefer to spend time in their warm beds than fill the pews of his church. To persuade them to change their ways, he came up with an ingenuous solution. He got together a group of children and encouraged them to make as much noise as they could. They were instructed to gather horns, tins full of pebbles, maracas, pots and pans, and make as much noise as possible to ensure that everyone would be up for the series of masses beginning on the 16th and ending on the 24th of December. And so was born a tradition that will make the city of Remedios famous. As the tradition evolved, organized bands began playing music in the streets, competing with each other for the honor of best performance. The idea then spread throughout the country. Like a street party or local parade, part of the appeal of Parrandas has been its reflection of organic town culture: each festival is said to represent the identity of a particular town.
Little Candles Day (Spanish: Día de las velitas) is one of the most observed traditional holiday in Colombia. It is celebrated on December 7 on the eve of the Immaculate Conception, which is a public holiday in Colombia. This day is the unofficial start of the Christmas season in the country. On this night, people place candles and paper lanterns on windowsills, balconies, porches, sidewalks, streets, parks and squares; in short, everywhere they can be seen, in honor of the Virgin Mary and her Immaculate Conception. This celebration was initiated on December 7, 1854, when Pope Pius IX announced as dogma the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. In Colombia, as in many places all over the world, this announcement was observed by lighting candles. The Catholic Church of Colombia kept alive the celebration and made an annual tradition of lighting candles the night of December 7.
The Cavalcade of Lights is an annual event highlighting the lighting of the City of Toronto’s official Christmas tree at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The event has been held annually since 1967 when it was designed to showcase Toronto’s newly constructed City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square. The event falls on the final weekend of November to kick off the holiday season with the official illumination of the square and Christmas tree. Since 2002 Cavalcade of Lights has been transformed from a one-night event to a month-long one with the addition of Saturday night skating parties to live music at Nathan Phillips Square’s outdoor rink.
And you? How do you celebrate Christmas in your country?
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