Celebrating Christmas

CHRISTMAS, the birthday of Jesus Christ the God-King, is celebrated in various ways all over the world.

In the United States, it is the season for Santa Claus to come to town; his mythical gift-giving trip from the North Pole to American homes, dutifully tracked down by Norad (North American Air Defense Command) for the past 60 or so years. In American homes, says US Consular agent Glenn Loop, families start looking for a suitable Christmas tree soon after Thanksgiving Day, decorating it with various tinsels and lights. Christmas Day is a time for family to get together, open presents left under the Christmas tree, and feast on turkey and ham, fruits and cakes and the drink of the season: eggnog.

In Japan, Christmas is a working day, explains Kinue Sakurai Castillo, president of the Japanese Association of Cebu Inc. But it is a joyous occasion for children because even if the Japanese are mostly Buddhists or Shintoists, they are on Christmas vacation from school from Dec. 24 to Jan. 7 and are given presents on Christmas Day. She recalls receiving a baseball glove from her father one Christmas because he wanted to have a son, not a daughter. “In the community, some people do go to a Catholic Church, especially those married to Filipinos.”

In southern Germany, which is mostly Catholic, Honorary German Consul Franz Seidenschwarz says Christmas is a time for family reunions. Relatives living far away try to come home on this special day. The table will be festive, probably with a turkey or duck as the main dish. Though they don’t have Christmas lanterns, the tradition is for families to light the advent wreath.

In Romania, Radisson Blu Cebu resident manager Gabor Bors recalls that Christmas is celebrated on the same day by both the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church; elsewhere, they are celebrated on different days by these two religions. They don’t have carolers but in the countryside, some people dress in animal costumes, to recall the days when they had to use animal hide as clothing. Some groups dance around the streets to celebrate the occasion. Whether in the urban or rural areas, the activity centers around the market square, plaza or park where people converge to eat, drink (hot wine), and where children may play out in the snow, building a snowman or perhaps ice skating. The children are encouraged to be out of the house late afternoon, to come home at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve when they find their gifts under the Christmas tree. Adults get their gifts in the morning and the practice is never to put “from,” only “to,” on the gifts which are supposed to come perhaps from Santa or perhaps from an angel.

In the Philippines, Christmas is the longest season of the year, starting in the “ber” months when stores and some homes start putting up Christmas trees, Christmas lights and Christmas lanterns. The season starts to peak nine days before Christmas Day when Catholic churches start their novena of dawn masses, after which the faithful may partake of hot chocolate, bibingka, puto or whatever snack may be available, outside churches or in their own homes. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, whichever occasion the family chooses, families go to Mass and have a get-together, feasting on lechon, hams, spaghetti or pancit, fruit cakes or local sweet concoctions, and usually imported fruits which are abundant during the season. The season ends traditionally on Jan. 6, which used to be the feast of the Three Kings. In times past, Christmas season ended on Feb. 2, the feast of the Candelaria (the feast of Christ’s presentation in the temple).

Wherever it is celebrated, Christmas is a time of joy and love; a celebration of the gift of family and friends, of giving as well as forgiving, of Christ coming to redeem mankind from sin.
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