A Merrier Christmas
As Filipinos, we love to celebrate Christmas for as long as possible. We put up Christmas decorations around our house, set up a Christmas tree and play Christmas songs while having our morning coffee as early as September. We can also feel the Christmas spirit in shopping malls where they play Christmas carols and decorate the place with a Christmas theme. When it’s already Christmas eve, you can watch how your mom and titas prepare the Noche Buena for the whole family, which includes everyone’s favorite dish, lechon! There are also various foods prepared on the table such as fruit salads, spaghetti, different types of kakanin and more. As Christmas is a big holiday in our country, this is not the case for other countries.
In Japan, Christmas is not seen as a religious celebration as there aren’t many Christians in the country. It is more known as a time to spread happiness where Christmas Eve is celebrated more than Christmas Day. Among their traditions is the Japanese Christmas cake, which is a sponge cake decorated with strawberries and whipped cream. Some traditions are relatively new. In 1970, Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC restaurant in Japan, started a Christmas campaign promoting their fried chicken “party barrels” as a Christmas meal serving as the substitute for the traditional American Turkey. The campaign went nationwide under the slogan “Kentucky for Christmas” and eating KFC as a Christmas meal has since become a widely practiced custom in Japan. Instead of Santa, Japanese people look forward to a visit from Hoteiosho, the Japanese God of good fortune from Buddhism.
Due to its geographic location, the seasons in Australia are reversed. Christmas falls during their summer season and some people might even go camping. However this doesn’t stop Australians from finding many ways to enjoy Christmas. They usually decorate their houses and gardens with Christmas trees and Christmas lights, and they sometimes have a competition for the best light display. They also use the Christmas bush, which is a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream-colored flowers, for decorations. On Christmas eve, fish markets are full of people buying seafood for Christmas day and their main meals are usually eaten at lunch time. On Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas, most people often have barbecues with their friends and families at the beach where they build snowmen in the sand and hold a famous yacht race called the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
Most Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church and they have very different traditions for Christmas. They celebrate Christmas not on December 25th but on January 7th. People sing special praise songs on Saturday nights during the Kiahk, which is the Coptic month leading to Christmas. On Coptic Christmas eve (January 6th), they go to church for a service which starts at 10:30 pm and ends at midnight, and when the service ends they go home to eat a big Christmas meal. They prepare foods which contain meat, eggs and butter. One popular meal is called Faatah, which is a lamb soup that contains bread, rice, garlic, and boiled lamb meat. Their Santa is called Baba Noël and the children usually leave some kahk, a special sweet biscuit for Baba Noël which is similar to how the Western leave cookies and milk for Santa.
Christmas in Mexico is not only a one-time event but a month full of festivities! Christmas celebrations start on December 12 and last until January 6, with one other celebration on February 2. Many traditional decorations are displayed during this holiday, such as the poinsettias which are flowers with star-shaped leaves patterns. They were thought of as the Star of Bethlehem symbol, which led the Wise Men to Jesus. Many more traditions are celebrated during the Christmas season. On December 12, the joyful holiday begins with a tradition of celebrating Dia De La Virgen De Guadalupe. This is when Mexican pilgrims worldwide travel to the Basilica of Guadalupe to visit La Virgen Morena – the Virgin Mary. It is also a day where religious feasts are held, fireworks are set off, and parades happen. On December 16-24, Las Posadas is celebrated, where the re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter takes place in Mexico. The night ends at different houses for a fiesta with lots of food and drinks each day. On February 2, Dia De La Candelaria, which is known as Candlemas, marks the end of the Mexican celebrations. Local’s traditionally celebrate it by going to the church to have their Christ figurines blessed and then having a feast.
Christmas in Russia is widely celebrated on January 7 as the Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian Calendar. On Christmas Eve, which is on January 6, after families attend services like Royal Hours and Vespers, they return home for the traditional Holy Supper. This meal can be made up of 12 dishes to represent the 12 apostles and are usually meatless. The meals include Lenten bread, Solyanka which is a vegetarian-style borscht typically served with salads, and Kutya which is a mixture of grains, poppy seeds, and sweetened honey. Some people fast on Christmas eve until the first star is seen in the evening sky. The tradition on Christmas day includes families going to church in the morning to attend the mass of Divine Liturgy of the Nativity. The main course during this day varies from different types of meat such as pork or goose with desserts like pies, dried fruits, and Pryaniki which are Russian gingerbread cookies served alongside.
For others, the word “Christmas” does not hold any meaning to them. They don’t get excited when Christmas is around the corner, and it’s not something that they celebrate like for Muslim countries. For them, the Christmas season is most likely called “Winter Break”, where they go on holidays and spend time with their family and friends. This is also to give a sense of respect for the people who celebrate Christmas. But despite the differences in culture and beliefs, they do respect the people who celebrate Christmas.
Many beautiful traditions take place during the Christmas season. Christmas may be celebrated on different days, have different origins of their traditions, cultures incorporating folklore in their customs, so we must remember to be respectful to each and everyone’s celebrations. Christmas is a time of love, joy, and unity. It is not only a celebration of festivities but a commemoration of the birth of our loving God, Jesus Christ.
We hope all our Enderun students, faculty, and staff have a wonderful and safe Christmas!