Monday, December 24, 2012

Bits and Pieces of Christmas Tinsel

They don't a'caroling go in Hungary.  Instead, a group gathers, dons costumes and goes house-to-house re-enacting the nativity scene.  As with carolers, they are rewarded with food and drink.   This custom is called "playing Bethlehem." 

If you're invited for a "Vigil Dinner" in Poland, you can expect to start by sharing a communion wafer and giving one another Christmas greetings.  The festivities (dinner and then presents) start when the first star peeks out of the night sky.

Christmas celebration days are all over the map in Europe.  Due to the 13-day difference between the Gregorian and Julian calendars,  Christmas isn't celebrated until January 7th in Russia.  How's that for being patient about tearing into the loot?

All of these countries celebrate on Christmas Eve - Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, Finland, Iceland and Norway.  On Christmas day, they generally visit friends and family.

Ireland spends the most to celebrate Christmas.  In 2006, they racked up a grand total of 16 billion Euros or 4,000 Euros PER PERSON.   Traditionally, everyone who has a regular or "home pub" goes there for a free drink, courtesy of the house.  Santa's midnight nosh is a glass of Guinness and a mince pie.  None of this milk and cookies nonsense.

Scotland used to celebrate Christmas pretty much on the down low.  The Church of Scotland was not an enthusiastic supporter of it.  Today, due to the influences of the rest of the United Kingdom, they are loosening up a bit.  But in their hearts, they still prefer to cut loose on "Hogmanay" or New Years Eve.

Christmas must be as weird weather-wise in Australia as it here in Southern California.  It's summer there in December and, as a rule, we generally have sun and temps in the 70s.  Our pastel houses look very strange indeed with the traditional red and green of Christmas decorating them.   To say nothing of palm trees swathed in colored lights. 

The Australians are mad to send cards around and about and the govern,ent encourages it.  Christmas card stamps are cheaper than regular postage, but you have to write "Card Only" on the envelope to get to use them.  

Here at home, I am reminded of my mother's strict admonition for any social gathering:  "Do not discuss politics, religion or how to bring up children."  To these, I would add "gun control."  The evening won't end in genial conviviality, I can promise you.

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