Celebrating Christmas & Cultures, part 1

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Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?

Well, which phrase do you use the most—Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas? Not wanting to ever offend anyone, my preference is Merry Christmas for celebrating Christmas and cultures around the world. Over the past decades, political winds have required a more generic salutation. And businesses definitely want to be viewed as inclusive to insure buyers of all religious stripes are considered welcomed. So, Voila, Happy Holidays was Christmas togetherembraced.

Fast forward to December 2017 where the political winds have shifted somewhat to resurrect, or at least allow, a very Merry Christmas greeting at the holiday table. Possibly we can all again enjoy what Christmas brings in blessings, beauty, brilliance, and benevolence. Even if one doesn’t consider themselves a Christian, we can all share good tidings from our treasured possessions of heart and home, particularly for those in need of comfort and hope.

So, how about celebrating cultures around the world in whatever way reflects the message of Christmas? With the love of family, friends, and even strangers, let’s see how other cultures celebrate Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas & Cultures

Australia Christmas

According to Customs of Christmas, “Australia's Christmas customs are drawn from a unique blend of cultures, mixed with outback ingenuity, and a bit of hot weather. While people in the northern hemisphere experience cold temperatures and dream of white Christmases, Australians celebrate a sun-and-surf Christmas.” Australia’s celebration comes with much pomp, parades, and pageantry throughout their cities and towns.

Around 1838, the town of Hahndorf, Australia, was bustling with German Lutheran family traditions to celebrate St. Nicholas Night on December 5. “Santa Claus dressed in his bishop's apparel as St. Nicholas comes to town accompanied by two ‘Black Peters.’ They arrive in a candlelight parade giving treats to children along the parade route. As St. Nicholas passes the townsfolk join the pageant which ends at a candlelight caroling service. At the service people get to enjoy another German tradition as St. Nicholas passes out gingerbread men to the attendees.”

Armenia Christmas

According to WhyChristmas.com, “The Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates Christmas on January 6th. On this day it also celebrates the Epiphany (which means the revelation that Jesus was God's son). Epiphany is now mainly the time Churches remember the Visit of the of Wise Men to Jesus; but some Churches. . . also celebrate the Baptism of Jesus (when he started his adult ministry) on Epiphany.”
Santa Claus, Gaghant Baba/Kaghand Papa traditionally comes on New Year's Eve (December 31st) since Christmas Day is considered a religious holiday. In Armenian, Happy/Merry Christmas means “Congratulations for the Holy Birth.” And yes, they have a Christmas Tree (Tonatsar) in the Republic Square in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.

There are some Armenians who fast from all food the week before Christmas. The Christmas Eve meal includes dishes such as rice, fish, nevik (green chard and chick peas), and tanabur (yogurt/wheat soup). Desserts include dried fruits and nuts, including rojik (whole shelled walnuts threaded on a string and encased in grape jelly), and bastukh (a paper-like dessert made of grape jelly, cornstarch and flour).
“This lighter menu is designed to ease the stomach off the week-long fast and prepare it for the rather more substantial Christmas Day dinner. Children take presents of fruits, nuts, and other candies to older relatives.” Some favorite Armenian holiday foods include Anooshaboor (Armenian Christmas Pudding), Khozee bood (glazed ham), and dried fruits. “Every house is ready with lots of sweets because anyone might knock on the door and come in for a party!”

What country and culture sparks your Christmas curiosity?