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Archive for December, 2014

Scotland: Christmas was not celebrated until the 1960’s; it was once outlawed.england

England: Charles Dickens’ stories set the scene in England which we all associate with Christmas.  Other years we have talked about many of their traditions.  Among them are the favored mince pies. Mince pies were once baked in tins the shape of cradles in remembrance of the manger.

Ireland: The Irish brought the holly wreath to this country at the time of the potato famine.  A lighted candle in the window symbolizes the light brought into the world by the birth of Christ and once was a welcome to priests to say a Mass at their home.

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December 30: Wales

walesWales: “Carol singing in Wales has become an art form.  Nowhere in the world are Christmas carols more carefully crafted and lovingly sung.  Each village has a trained choir and great gatherings for group singing.”  Carol singing has a long history; sometimes it is accompanied by a harp.

Each year they have a contest for writing the best tune for the words written for a new song.

Hopefully, you will find a village that carries on this old tradition: A four o-clock service on Christmas morning is called Plygain for dawn or for the crowing of the rooster.  The young men, carrying torches, accompany the pastor from his home to  the church and after the service back home again.

There might be a taffy pull on Christmas Day – their answer to our candy canes.

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December 29: Spain 2

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December 28: Spain 1

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December 27: Sweden II

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swedebsabablucia Sweden I:  Plan on being in Sweden on Santa Lucia Day, December 13, the anniversary of her death in A.D. 304.  She was born in Sicily and became a Christian.  Before her wedding, she gave away her entire dowry to the poor.  And legend has it that she brought food to the hungry in a province of Sweden that was suffering from a famine.  The day is inspiring because of her gifts of love and hope but also because of the beauty in Santa Lucia wearing a halo of candles as she bears holiday breads for her family’s breakfast.

In recent years in the celebration in Stockholm  a Nobel prize winner from December 10 is the one to bestow the Lucia Ornament, following a contest for the girl to become Lucia.  Contribute to the  fundraising for the poor and attend the parade.

In a north country where the days are short, it is not surprising to seeswedde stamp that light is a part of more than one celebration.

If you are in Sweden on Christmas Day, attend the predawn service.  If the weather is right, people go to the service in sleighs or process to church carrying torches.  The day is reserved for religious observances.

And the next day, St. Stephen’s Day, the second day of Christmas, Stephen’s men ride through town to wake the swseden dahl hourseresidents.   This patron of animals was one of the first Christian missionaries to Sweden about A.D. 1050.  He had five horses, two red, two white and one dappled that helped him spread the message that “they who share with others shall also benefit and be blessed”.  Thus the animals are given extra food that day.

 

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December 25: Russia

russia1Russia:  Visit the country that has made Saint Nicholas its patron saint, the country known for its fabulous icons, but also a country that has not been able to practice its Christian traditions because of its political history.  Christmas trees were banned by the Communist regime, but people continued to trim their “New Year’s trees”.

Vladimir the Great visited Turkey in the 11th century, the home of St. Nicholas of Myra, and came back praising his protection of the weak, the poor and the oppressed.  Notice the many churches that have taken that name in his honor.

See the icon paintings in their formal Byzantine style that still inspire reverencerussia2 today.

As in many areas of the world, food or fasting from it can be given a religious symbolism.  When the evening star appears on Christmas Eve, the Advent fast is over.  Join in the Colatzia or supper served on a table which has a layer of straw under the cloth to symbolize the manger.  Try the little white wafers with Nativity scenes on them known in Lithuania as “the bread of angels” given to the family as a blessing of love and peace by the head of the household   Or perhaps visit another area of Russia where the Christmas Eve meal consists of koutia.  Porridge is put in a bowl (straw is put in the manger) and then honey and fruit (honey for the spirit of the Babe, fruit for the body).

And finally on the eve of the Epiphany witness the Blessing of the Waters, a tradition in U.S. Russian Orthodox churches also.  Its superstitious origins can be adapted to represent the forgiveness found in the baptismal waters.

 

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