The Christmas time is already here. Time of the family, kindness and peace. Time of the birth of Jesus Christ. And to get you even more into the Christmas mood we are coming to you with an article about the Christmas traditions which are kept here, in the Czech Republic, but also we would like to show you a kind of comparison of how Christmas is celebrated in different countries around the globe.
We will start with the Christmas Eve. On this day, families place their Christmas tree in the room and decorate it all together with Christmas bulbs, stars and other decorations made of wood, paper, glass or straw. During the whole day, they may watch traditional fairy tales in TVs and eat Christmas sweets. In the evening the whole family gets together for the Christmas dinner that is traditionally consisted of fish soup and a carp with potato salad.
After the dinner, when a bell starts to ring, children know that the Ježíšek (baby Jesus) has already brought them some gifts and left them under the tree. But before the gifts unpacking the family sings some traditional Christmas carols like for example Pásli ovce valaši, Narodil se Kristus pán, Jak si krásné neviňátko, Veselé vánoční hody and many others. Afterwards, they finally can unpack their presents
In some families, much more traditions are kept. Now we are about to describe a few of them. First of all, some people fast the whole Christmas Eve in the hope that they will see a vision of “the golden pig” that appears on the wall before dinner which is a sign of good luck.
Boating is a tradition when every family member makes a little boat from a nutshell and a candle. They put them into a container with water and light the candles. If the boats stay stuck together it means that the family will stay together for the next year. If some of the boats float away their owners will leave the family.
Another of the traditions is the cutting of an apple. You should cut it in the middle. If a star appears you will be healthy next year.
Lead pouring is also a tradition of the future predicting. People pour hot lead into cold water. When the lead solidifies they can check its shape. This shape will tell them what is ahead of them.
Last of the traditions that we will describe is the throwing of a slipper. Unmarried girls and women do that. They throw a slipper behind themselves. If the slipper falls down turned to the door the girl will get married and leave.
And now is the time for a comparison of several countries in term of Christmas celebrations. For example, in Spain, most people go to the Midnight Mass or 'La Misa Del Gallo' (the Mass of the Rooster). It is called so because a rooster is supposed to have crowed the night that Jesus was born. Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena. In the days before Nochebuena, children might take part in 'piden el aguinaldo' where they go and sing carols around their neighbours hoping to get some money!
Christmas in Costa Rica comes at the end of the school year and the start of the holidays - so people really look forward to getting to the beach! People like to decorate their houses with beautiful tropical flowers. A model of the nativity scene, called the Pasito or Portal, is the centre of the display. It's also decorated with flowers and sometimes fruits. Some of the scenes take a long time to make and all the family is involved. As well as the traditional figures, people add other models including houses and lots of different sorts of animals. Christmas wreaths are made of cypress branches and are decorated with red coffee berries and ribbons. Most homes, shops and important buildings are decorated with Christmas lights. In Costa Rica, the gift bringer is often 'Niño dios' (Child God, meaning Jesus) or 'Colacho' (another name for St. Nicholas).
In Jamaica, Christmas Eve is also called 'Grand Market' and it is a really exciting time, especially for children. In every town and city, there is a cross between a festival and a market. During the day, people go shopping for Christmas foods, sweets, toys, etc. You might also buy some new clothes to get ready for the celebrations in the evening. (But you don't want to spend all your money during the day cause there are lots of great things to buy in the evening as well!) Around 6.00pm the evening part of Grand Market starts and it lasts until the morning! Everyone comes out in their new or best clothes, including children, to celebrate and party all night. All the streets, shops and many houses are decorated with lights. There are normally street vendors selling food like chicken, boiled corn, and sweets like candy canes and sugarcane.
Christmas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is more of a religious festival rather than being commercial. Most people don’t have any presents. Christmas Eve is very important with churches having big musical evenings (many churches have at least 5 or 6 choirs) and a nativity play. These plays last a very long time. They start at the beginning of the evening with the Creation and the Garden of Eden and end with the story of King Herod killing the baby boys. People taking part in the play really like to show off their 'best' acting skills and tend to go over the top and 'ham it up'! King Herod and the soldiers are often figures of fun (like pantomime 'baddies') and Mary is often well advanced in labour before she arrives!
We hope you have learnt something new, and from the whole ESN MENDELU family, we wish you very Merry Christmas and a lot of happiness and peace in the next year. VESELÉ VÁNOCE to everyone!