Parthenia Manor Senior Club
Christmas Around the World
Continued from previous page
The Presépio is common in northeastern Brazil (Bahia, Sergipe, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Maranhão, Ceará, Pernambuco, Piauí and Alagoas). The Presépio was introduced in the 17th century, in the city of Olinda in the state of Pernambuco by a Franciscan friar named Gaspar de Santo Agostin-ho.
From 1875 onwards, Christmas lost its essentially religious character in Canada, at least, for Anglophones and the upper middle class. Little by little it became a community festival which gave rise to much family merry-making. New customs began to take root. Henceforth, the decorated Christmas tree, the creche with its santons or plaster figures, gifts and the Christmas "rŽveillon" became part of family tradition.
In Czechoslovakia, St. Nicholas is called Svaty Mikalas and is believed to climb to earth down from heaven on a golden rope along with his companions: an angel and a whip-carrying devil.
An ancient tradition shared by Czechoslovakia and Poland involves cutting a branch from a cherry tree putting it in water indoors to bloom. If the bloom opens in time for Christmas it is considered good luck, and also a sign that the winter may be short. The hope of early spring helps keep spirits up during the long dark winter.
Nearly every French home at Christmastime displays a Nativity scene or creche, which serves as the focus for the Christmas celebration. The creche is often peopled with little clay figures called santons or "little saints."
An extensive tradition has evolved around these little figures which are made by craftsmen in the south of France throughout the year. In addition to the usual Holy Family, shepherds, and Magi, the craftsmen also produce figures in the form of local dignitaries and characters. The craftsmanship involved in creating the gaily colored santons is quite astounding and the molds have been passed from generation to generation since the seventeenth century.
To members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, as are most Greek Christians, Christmas ranks second to Easter in the roster of important holidays. Yet there are a number of unique customs associated with Christmas that are uniquely Greek. On Christmas Eve, village children travel from house to house offering good wishes and singing kalanda, the equivalent of carols. Often the songs are accompanied by small metal triangles and little clay drums. The children are frequently rewarded with sweets and dried fruits.
The popularity of the Nativity scene, one of the most beloved and enduring symbols of the holiday season, originated in Italy. St. Francis of Assisi asked a man named Giovanni Vellita of the village of Greccio to create a manger scene. St. Francis performed mass in front of this early Nativity scene, which inspired awe and devotion in all who saw it. The creation of the figures or pastori became an entire genre of folk art.
In Rome, cannon are fired from Castel St. Angelo of Christmas Eve to announce the beginning of the holiday season. A 24-hour fast ends with an elaborate Christmas feast. Small presents are drawn from the Urn of Fate.
Monthly publication of Parthenia Manor Senior Club
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December 2006 Internet Edition
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