Holiday Traditions With Friends

Holiday Traditions With Friends

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was in the Bahamas one Christmas when I was nineteen.  The Monday after Christmas I needed to go to a pharmacy. They were all closed because it was Boxing Day. That was my first real experience with  a holiday that we don’t celebrate here.  You never think about that until you are in a country that is celebrating their holiday.  It gives you a little more insight into a place when you see them observing their traditions.

Boxing day is traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and trades people would receive gifts from their superiors or employers, known as a “Christmas box”. Today, Boxing Day is better known as a bank or public holiday that occurs on 26 December, or the first or second weekday after Christmas Day, depending on national or regional laws. It is observed in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and some other Commonwealth Nations. I always remember that Dec 26 is Boxing Day though I don’t celebrate it. JZ, BAHAMAS

Cuban families in Miami have a delicious Cuban tradition that we carry on with zeal. Every Christmas Eve starting early in the morning, all the men in the family set up a ‘caja China’ (direct translation: Chinese box) in the front yard of the house. They sit outside, smoke their cigars, drink their rum and cokes and roast a full pig in this box for hours on end. When the whole family comes over for dinner, the pig is still cooking and the men cut off the skin to serve as ‘chicharron’ while the rest of the pig roasts. It’s undeniably good. Our ‘kosher’ Jewish neighbors will tell you the same.   MA, CUBA

All Saints Day on Nov 1 is big day. Croatia is a strongly Catholic country and November  1st – the day of the dead – is a big family occasion.  All Saints Day is the day that people go to  visit the cemeteries . They bring flowers , light candles and say a prayer. All the businesses are closed and it is a time for families to be together in peace and quiet. ( spirituality)  to celebrate the lives of their deceased relatives.  PV, CROATIA

In Colombia, the Christmas traditions come from Spain. They make nativity scenes  called Pesebre.  Columbia is deeply rooted in Catholic tradition. From the 16th till the 24th everyone gets together and prays to the Novena and sing Christmas songs called Villancicos.    On Christmas Eve, the families gather around the Nativity Scene    and eat pork or ham,  dulce de guayaba , dulce de guanabana,bunuelos  ( fried dough) and natilla  (special pudding dessert with sugar, cloves, panela and milk). They drink Aguardiente (fire water) and dance and sing all night. The kids write letters to Nino Dios ( baby Jesus) and wait for him to bring them presents. On Christmas Day everyone makes their own brightly colored balloons and fills them with hot air and lets them into the sky at the same time. Feliz Navidad. AN, COLOMBIA

Shavuot is a holiday that usually  occurs in May, fifty days after Passover. It is  the end of the harvest season for grain and wheat.  People brought  the first fruits  of the season to the temple to thank God. It is fun to celebrate Shavuot on a kibbutz in Israel. Everyone wears white . The girls braid their hair and  make crowns of greens and flowers .  Families bring blankets and carpets and sit out on the grass and have a picnic. They eat dairy food.  The kids bring decorated baskets of fruit. There is a “parade” of tractors and farm equipment decorated for the holiday. This is followed by a lot of dancing and singing to celebrate the day that the Torah was given to the Jewish People on Mount Sinai.   KR ISRAEL

Peruvians put up a nativity scene at Christmas, not a tree.  In the Andean city of Cusco they buy the pieces for their nativity on Christmas Eve at the festival of Santorantikuy  — “buying of saints”. The city fills up as people come to Cusco from all over the region to sell little figures they have made of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Magi, the star and the stable animals, along with an array of ornaments, moss, lichen, ferns, bromeliads and other wild plants to create the backdrop. PF, PERU

One of the events I’m going to is Maha Kumbh Mela in February.  Maha Kumbh Mela held in Allahabad , India is the “ largest pilgrimage on earth.” It attracts between thirty and seventy million people.  The Maha Kumbh Mela comes every 144 years and will occur this Feb 2013.  Hindus gather at the Ganges for a purification bathing ceremony during the auspicious days. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies. The devout –including mystics, yogis and sadhus (in saffron sheets with powder and ashes on their skin), spend a month there. Kumbh Mela is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages in India- the Maha being the most important. DL, INDIA  (if you are interested, some of the other videos that appear at the end are fascinating)

People prepare their homes for Christmas. Dubrovnik  is covered in Christmas lights and a lot of Christmas trees on the Stradun. On Christmas Eve, lunch is traditionally fish. (codfish-usually)That is the same in many Catholic and Eastern European countries. In the afternoon we go to our first neighbors to wish them  a good Christmas Eve. We sing the traditional Christmas song from door to door. (Colenda song – a song that has been sung for centuries). In the evening most people go to confession to wait for Christmas in the best spirit. Then we go to midnight mass.On Christmas Day our families are altogether for lunch. It is a time of happiness and celebration. PV CROATIA

New Year is a special holiday in Japan. It is leaving of old and starting of new. At the end of the year, we clean the house and decorate the entrance gate with ornaments made of pine, bamboo and plum. Bonenkai parties (forget the year gathering) are held everywhere to leave the old worries behind, and on New Years Eve, just before the temple bells ring at midnight, we eat toshikoshi soba (end of year buckwheat noodle) wishing for another healthy new year to come.

Viewing the first sunrise of the New Year is the best way for a fresh start.  We visit the shrine or temple, buy o-mikuji ( random fortune written on strips of paper) and hope for another happy year. RH, JAPAN

Happy Holidays and Fly Safe,

JAZ

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