Thursday, November 29, 2012

Winter Holidays and Traditions

Teach your child to respect other people's traditions and cherish her own.

The month of  December, or rather the winter season, is observed by people

 in many parts of the world as  a time for observing many seasonal days. 
Most of  them are linked to the winter solstice in some 
way, especially in the northern hemisphere.

Hanukkah,  Christmas and Kwanzaa are the most well-known winter holidays celebrated in USA.
We should all celebrate the holidays of others around us in keeping with the spirit of the season.
 I have a multicultural family, my husband my children and me are fom Mexico, my daughter in law is from Poland;  we have  nieces whose husbands are from:  Korea, Lithuania, Italy and  
Turkey and, our friends are from all around the world.

Let me tell you something about our mexican traditions

The Biggest Holiday Tradition of Mexico are 

La Posadas," the remarkable buildup to Christmas Eve, is perhaps the most delightful and unique Mexican tradition. Beginning December 16th, it commemorates the events in the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

After dark, each night of the "Posada," a procession begins led by two children. The children carry a small pine-decorated platform bearing replicas of Joseph and Mary riding a burro. Other members of the company, all with lighted long slender candles, sing the "Litany of the Virgin" as they approach the door of the house assigned to the first "Posada." Together they chant an old traditional song and awaken the mast of the house to ask lodging for Mary. Those within the house threaten the company with beatings unless they move on. Again, the company pleads for admittance. When the owner of the house finally learns who his guests are, he jubilantly throws open the doors and bids them welcome. All kneel around the manger scene or "Nacimiento" and offer songs of welcome, Ave Marias and a prayer.

Now it's time of the "Pinata," refreshments and dancing. The "Pinata" is a pottery (or paper) container, brightly decorated and filled with candy and toys. It is hung from he ceiling or a tree. One by one, the children are blindfolded, turned around and instructed to strike the Pinata with a stick. Usually several attempts are made before the container is broken. Of course, when that happens, there is an explosion of goodies and a scattering of children.

On Christmas Eve another verse is added to the Ave Marias, telling the Virgin Mary that the desired night has come. Small children dressed as shepherds stand on either side of the nativity scene while members of the company kneel and sing a litany, after which the Christ Child is lulled to sleep with the cradle song, "El Rurru" (Babe in Arms).

At midnight the birth of Christ is announced with fireworks, ringing bells and blowing whistles. Devout worshipers surge into churches to attend the famous "Misa de Gallo" or "Mass of the Rooster." Following Mass, families return home for a tremendous dinner of traditional Mexican foods. The dishes vary with the different regions. However, somewhat common are the ,"tamales," rice, rellenos, "atole" (a sweet traditional drink) and "menudo," which is said to be more sobering than strong coffee.

Mexican children delight in the game where the "Pinata," a pottery or paper container, many times shaped like a bull or donkey, is filled with candy and suspended from the ceiling on a rope. Each child is blindfolded and attempts to break the Pinata with a stick or bat. The child who succeeds is the hero of the festival and the candy is shared by all

Polish customs, especially at Christmas time, are both beautiful and meaningful.  

oles are famous for their hospitality, especially during Christmas. In Poland, an additional seat is kept for somebody unknown at the supper table. No one should be left alone at Christmas, so strangers are welcomed to the Christmas supper. This is to remind us that Mary and Joseph were also looking for shelter. In Poland, several homeless people were interviewed after Christmas. Some of them were invited to strangers' houses for Christmas; others that were not asked inside the homes but were given lots of food.

The Breaking of the Oplatek
One of the most beautiful and most revered Polish customs is the breaking of the  oplatek. The use of the Christmas wafer (oplatek) is not only by native Poles in Poland but also by people of Polish ancestry all over the world.

The oplatek is a thin wafer made of flour and water. For table use, it is white. In Poland, colored wafers are used to make Christmas tree decorations. In the past, the wafers were baked by organists or by religious and were distributed from house to house in the parish during Advent. Today, they are produced commercially and are sold in religious stores and houses. Sometimes an oplatek is sent in a greeting card to loved ones away from home.

On Christmas Eve, the whole family gathers and waits impatiently for the appearance of the first star. With its first gleam, they all approach a table covered with hay and a snow-white tablecloth. A vacant chair and a place setting are reserved for an unexpected guest, always provided for in hospitable Polish homes.
The father or eldest member of the family reaches for the wafer, breaks it in half and gives one half to the mother. Then, each of them breaks a small part from each other's piece. They wish one another a long life, good health, joy and happiness, not only for the holiday season, but also for the new year and for many years to come. This ceremony is repeated between the parents and their children as well as among the children; then, the wafer and good wishes are exchanged with all those present, including relatives and even strangers. When this activity is over, they all sit down and enjoy a tasty though meatless supper, after which they sing koledy (Christmas carols and pastorals) until time for midnight Mass, also know as Pasterka ("the Mass of the Shepherds").

Hanukkah (sometimes transliterated Chanukkah) is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights. It starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November-late December on the secular calendar.

In Hebrew, the word "hanukkah" means "dedication." The name reminds us that this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States and Canada but also celebrated in the African Diaspora. The celebration honors African heritage in African Canadian and African-American culture, and is observed from December 26th to January 1st of each year, culminating in a feast and gift-giving.  

 It is ideological comprised of seven core principles (Nguzo Saba): Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. It was created by Maulana Karenga, and was first celebrated in 1966–67.

 Chinesse New Year

This is two-week winter holiday celebrated in the latter part of January or early part of February, or during the first lunar moon, by the Vietnamese, Koreans, and Chinese. In China this celebration is called Spring Festival, where it is marks the end of the winter season. It starts on the first day of the Chinese New Year and ends after fifteenth day, when the Lantern Festival is celebrated. The Korean New Year falls on the second new moon following the winter solstice. This celebration lasts for three days and is primarily a family oriented celebration. In Vietnam, like in China it heralds the arrival of spring. It is based on the Chinese calendar. Practices that are common to this celebrations are visiting friends and family, worshiping the ancestors, exchanging gifts, etc. People wear their best clothes and exchange gifts and food during this period.

These were some of the winter holidays around the world. If we have to closely examine these holidays, we will be able to conclude, there may not be a part of the world, which does not have some festival, celebration or event around the said time.

Merry Christmas!!!! Happy Holidays !!!!

The saying Happy Holidays includes all religions and cultures in its sentiment. It spreads good tidings to those who celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other holiday.
 Happy Holidays also includes New Year's Day. This sentiment works both for people who celebrate for religious purposes and those who just enjoy the season for its own sake.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays used to be easily interchangeable. Everyone seemed to understand that the spirit of the wish was more important than the exact words said.  
Merry Christmas is felt to leave out too many people. Because of this, it has been abandoned by a lot of official institutions, such as governments and schools in the United States.

Merry Christmas!!!! Happy Holidays !!!!


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