EUROPE- Christmastime in Europe is truly a spectacle. Often, cities will decorate town plazas, squares, and streets with sparkling lights, evergreen trees, and large ribbons. Stars, glowing shapes, and garland are also popular decorations within European cities. Such decorations make European cities such charming places to be during the Christmas holidays.
In Europe, people often tell their children the story of St. Nicholas. The legend goes that St. Nicholas was a man who loved giving gifts, so he would put small treasures in children’s shoes during the night. Today, children put their shoes outside on St. Nicholas day, hoping to receive small presents such as coins and candy from the generous Saint Nicholas. He eventually became the basis for the modern-day Santa Claus, who also gives gifts to young children in the night while they’re asleep.
People all across the Philippines enjoy caroling for the holidays, often singing and using a traditional Filipino instrument called a rondolla, which is similar to its stringed counterpart, the mandolin. The cheer of the Christmas holidays is definitely captured in both traditional Filipino as well as English carols, which are performed by people of all ages.
In the Philippines, people also celebrate Christmas with a traditional lantern, called a parol. These parol lanterns are often shaped like stars, using frames made of bamboo. The lanterns themselves are made of rice paper. Most families hang these from windows or display them for all to see during the Christmas season.
Noche Buena is another major Christmas tradition in the Philippines. After an evening Catholic Mass, families often prepare a feast to celebrate the early morning hours of Christmas. Usually, Filipino people will prepare traditional Philippine dishes such as lechon (whole roasted pig), chicken adobo, pancit (traditional noodle dish), and desserts such as bibingka. This is a wonderful way for a family to spend time together after celebrating the religious parts of the Christmas holiday.
UNITED STATES- The Christmas season in the United States begins the day after Thanksgiving, on a day called Black Friday. This is America’s biggest shopping day, with stores opening as early as 8 PM the night before! Stores often hold huge sales on Black Friday, marking the first day of the holidays for many people.
During Christmas parties, people in the United States enjoy a tradition called Secret Santa. Secret Santa is a gift exchange where party guests each receive the name of a different person, and no two people are linked. Guests must buy a present that suits that person without revealing their identity to that person. Sometimes gift exchanges are gag gifts, or odd items that are often meant to be entertaining, whereas some are more meaningful and serious.
A popular tradition for many is seeing their city’s lighting ceremony, where a large decorated tree is placed in the middle of the city and is lit to celebrate the winter holidays. One of the most famous tree lightings is in Rockefeller Center in New York City, NY, where thousands of people gather to watch the grand illumination that takes place here during the holidays. Other cities, big or small also have similar lighting ceremonies that take place during the month of December.
No matter where you are in the world, Christmas is a holiday full of cheer and good spirits, and despite differences in cultures or traditions, it is often regarded as a time to spend with family or loved ones.
Wherever you are, and whatever traditions you celebrate, have a happy, safe, and merry Christmas and holiday season!
(Photo credits - Rockefeller via www.thelmagazine.com, Parol via ninjaturtlestew.deviantart.com, Vienna via thekaydays.com)
Kay Rodriguez is a nineteen year old full-time student at Rice University. The summer after my high school graduation she took her first solo trip abroad, and it changed her life forever. Now she’s on a mission to see the world and everything it has to offer, while keeping her “broke-college-student” budget to a minimum.