Friday, December 14, 2012

Aren't Foreigners Funny?

We all know what we do to celebrate the holiday season which might be Christmas or Chanukah or Kwanza depending on the household celebrating.  Suddenly curious I wondered what's going on in the rest of the world while we're busy ripping into packages and digging in stocking toes.  Wikipedia to the rescue!

I'm not sure this is the real Christmas spirit somehow... In Nigeria the financially comfortable leave their smart cities to descend on their poor relations in the villages and on the farms.  They are eagerly awaited and given a day to get over any rigors of the trip.  Then the locals pounce!   "Help me out here!" They want money! 

The very comfortable financially make a point of calling a family gathering and then toss money into the air while laughing at the ensuing scramble for the money.  This strikes me as rather mean spirited.  Still it makes for a diversion for the rich so someone gets something good out of it. 

India has proclaimed Christmas a national holiday despite the fact that only 2.3 per cent of the population are Christians!  That old hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers" comes to mind...

Due to the fact that many of us are greedy, the name for this holiday in many countries is "Big Day" or "Great Day."  Clearly fireworks, sumptious meals and presents we didn't pay for are very influential in calling a spade a spade.

Pakistan wriggled not to have to call it "Christmas" and celebrated accordingly.  Since one of the country's founders - Jinneh - was born December 25th (or was he?) they celebrate that fact.   

Sri Lankans call Christmas "Nattala" for natal or birth.  Impatiently, they start celebrating December 1st which is nearly as bad as our habit of starting Christmas right after Halloween.  Here in the South Bay, you could buy your tree November 28th.  And good luck keeping it fresh until January 6th. 

There are so few Christians in China that they tend to celebrate privately, behind closed doors, despite the fact that greeting cards are exchanged and Christmas trees are a favorite decorative item in the big city malls.  Hong Kong calls it a national holiday and to their cash registers, I don't doubt for a moment that it is. 

A 1970s ad campaign in Japan was so successful that to this day it is a tradition to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken for a meal at this  time of year!   I wonder if they eat the chicken with fingers or chop sticks? 

For overly enthusiastic Christmas fans I think that the Philippines has to be the hands-down winner.  Christmas begins September 1st there! 

December 7th is the Day of the Candles in Columbia, much like the candles stuck in sand in paper sacks in Santa Fe, NM.  A beautiful sight if something of a fire hazard.  On December 16th, the many Catholics in Columbia start the Christmas novena which ends on the 24th with midnight mass before an enormous feast where the presents are opened.  Nothing much happens on the 25th, apparently it is a Recovery Day. 

In Venezuela, churchs and neighborhoods hold "patinatas," a gathering for children to try out that new bike or skateboard or roller skates. 

The Czechs are a superstitious lot.  At this time of year, to predict the events of the coming year, an apple is cut in half.  If the pattern of the core is a perfect star, good for you!  Prosperity lies ahead.  If the star is badly-formed...not so much.  Worst of all, if it forms a cross, You Are Doomed.  This seems a little harsh for a day that is supposed to celebrate a birth.   Unmarried women toss a shoe over their shoulder.  If it lands with the toe pointing at a door, they will be married soon.  It is considered cheating, I would imagine, to stand with your back against the door and slide the shoe down your back,  toe first. 

Christmas in other parts of the world proved to be fascinating and there's still Europe to go.  In Sweden the girls set their hair on fire... just kidding.  They wear wreathes with lit candles!  Don't get all excited.    We have our ways; others have theirs.

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