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Saturday, December 23, 2006
How the Filipinos Observe Christmas

IN THE PHILIPPINES, Christmas is a seaon in the real meaning of the world. For twenty-two long, lively days, December 16 to January 6, the devout Filipinos express the spirit of Christmas with a series of Masses, pageants and festivals to the background of unedning music by carolers and brass bands.

Celebrations begin at dawn on December 16, when twonspeople are awakend by the pealing of church bells, hearlding the first of a novena of dawn Misa de Gallo(since the mass presumably starts at the first cock's crow.)

Following the service, streets begin to show signs of festivity. People bundled in warm coats pour from the church, stopping at nearby stalls for tea and warm bibingka (rice cakes). They talk with friends, walk leisurely home, or join a group of wandering carolers.

At night, star lanterns and strings of multicilored lights shine over windows and doorways. Lights are everywhere, illuminating the town plaza, public buildings and trees. On Christmas eve, in the town of San Fernando in Pampanga, forty-four miles from Manila, lavishly decorated star lanterns, measuring fifteen to thrity feet, are paraded in a contest to find the most elegant, gigantic, and colorful lantern in the land.


IN THE FINNISH HOME the Christmas tree is set up on Christmas Eve. Apples and other fruits, candles, paper flags, cotton and tinsel are used as decorations, and candles are used for lighting it.

The Christmas festivites are usually preceeded by a visit to the famous steam baths, after which everyone dresses in clean clothes in preparation for the Christmas dinner, which is generally served from five to seven in the evening.

Christmas gifts may be given out before or after the dinner. The children do not hang stockings, but Santa Claus comes in person, often accompanied by as many as half a dozen Christmas elves ( in brown costumes, knee-length pants, red stockings, and red elves caps) to distribute presents.

The main dish of the dinner is boiled codfish served snowy white and fluffy, with allspice, boiled potatoes, and cream sauce. The dried cod has been soaked for a week in a lye solution, then in clear water to soften it to the right texture. Also on the menu are roast suckling pig or roasted fresh ham, mashed potatoes, and vegetables.

After dinner the children go to bed, their elders staying up to chat with visitors and drink coffee until about midnight. Christmas Day services in the churches begin at six in the morning. It is a day for family visits and reunions. In some parts of the country the Star Boys tour the countryside singing Christmas songs. During all these days the people keep wishing each other a "Merry Yule".


CHRISTMAS IN AUSTRIA is the time of the year when family members get together for hours of quiet and thoughtful celebration. The Christmas tree plays a most important part. Every town sets up its own huge tree on the main square and frequently there will be an extra one, adorned with bread crumbs for the birds. In families, it is usually the father of the house who selects the tree and decorates it with gold and silver or sometimes golored balls, tinsel, sweets and candy wrapped in tin foil, gilded nuts, etc. Electric Christmas lights are not too popular throughout Austria and in most homes candles are used. Candles are also places in windows as a symbolic Christmas greetings to those absent from home and in commemoration of deceased family members.

On Christmas Eve, all the shops close at 6PM. There are no movie or theater performances and no concerts. Bars, restaurants, night clubs are likewise closed and traffice is almost nonexistent. Around 7PM on Christmas Eve (December 24), the tree is lighted for the first time and the whole family gathers to sing Christmas carols. "Silent Night, Holy Night", written on December 24, 1818, by Josef Mohr in the Austrian village of Obendorf, is still the favorite Christmas carol. Presents are place unwrapped under the tree and young children believe that they were brought to them - as fo good behavior - by Knecht Ruprecht or by the Christ-child.


PREPARATION FOR THE BIRTH of the Christ-child begins on December 1. Children gather flowers, particularly the pastora, the natinal flower and much like a poinsettia, in the mountain valleys, to decorate the Nativity Scenes in the home and church. In the churches, gold and silver figurines are used for the Nativity scenes. On December 24, peopl attend a midnight Mass or pray to their homes and place gifts about thier sleeping children. In the towns and cities, Christmas celebrations last until January 6. The working classes participate less in these celebrations.

The natives of Bolivia (50 percent of the population) celebrate Christmas more as a harvest festival. Thnaks are given for completion of the year's work. Labor leaders given an account of the work done during the year and propose what is to be done during the following year. Chiefs and tribes gather to organize their work. Christmas tends to become a feast of adoration of the Goddess Mother Earth, who is asked to bring a fruitful harvest, to keep away plagues, and to give a prosperous year, though these customs are frowned on by the authorities.


IN BRAZIL SANTA CLAUS IS LITTLE KNOWN,and those who do know of the jolly fellow call him Papa Noel. He enters through the window on Christmas Eve, as many of the house have no chimneys in the warm climate.

An old legend says that the animals have the power of speech on Christmas night. The children are told that the crow crows in a loud voice at the stroke of twelve, "Christo nasceu" (Christ is born). The bull in a deep voice inquires "Onde?" (where), and the sheep answer in chorus, "Em Belen de Juda" ( In Bethlehem of Judea).

The children have no Christmas trees, but they do have creche or presepio, representing the Christ child's birth. It is commonly found in private homes as weel as in public hospitals, and it is left standing until Epiphany. Gifts and toys are exchanged during the holidays, after which the "presepio" is put away untlk the following christmas.

Many Christmas activities in Brazil are much like those in the United States. Store windows have been full of decorations; Santa Claus, called Papa Noel, visits little children. Many Christmas trees, both artificial and real, are found in the homes and churches. Churches hold pageants and candlelight services. The poor are cared for by churches and clubs. Colored lights are found in the city streets, maybe in the towns of the interior - only the city sqaure will have colored lights. In all of this acitivity the Protestant church is busy giving out literature, holding programs, and preaching the Christmas message. Each Protestant church actually takes care of her poor and many others.

(Source: Celebrating Christmas Around the World by: Herbert H. Warwick)
posted by infraternam meam @ 12:55 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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