Brazil: I decided to look up Brazil because one of my friends and my sister's best friend is from Brazil : ) He was a foreign exchange student at the beginning from January-June and he quickly embedded himself into all of our lives, never to be the same again. He's a very special guy with a brilliant personality! So thankful to have met him and look forward to many more memories over the years. I hope I do this justice for ya, Gui!
(Gui, Me, and Alicia before prom in May!)
First of all, YES, Brazil celebrates Christmas as well :P They also have running water, cellphones, and *gasp* electricity too :O Hahahaha! Apparently they celebrate Christmas because of their Portuguese heritage. Unlike our Santa Claus, Papai Noel or Father Noel is the gift-bearer or notable figure of this season for Brazilians. According to the legend, he resides in Greenland and when he gets to Brazil, he changes into silk robes due to the summer heat! How cool is that!?
Devout Catholics attend a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve called Missa do Galo which gets out a 1am on Christmas Day.
A lot of decorations are freshly picked flowers, fireworks are seen and heard Christmas night, and huge Christmas "trees" of lights can be seen against the night skies of major cities like Brasilia, San Paolo (Gui's hometown!), and Rio de Janeiro.
Luckily (in my opinion!), the festivities continue until January 6th, otherwise known as Three Kings Day. This is supposedly the day when the three wise men gave their gifts to Jesus.
Cool, huh!? I hope you all had fun in ever-moving Brazil!! Maybe you'll see the statue of the iconic Christ the Redeemer on our way out! We're jetting off to.....can you guess it?? Ireland!! As you all know, I have a history with this beautiful country. It was my first and longest international trip. Two weeks spent touring all over the place seeing so many wondrous sites! Absolutely fantastic : ) I hope you ALL have a chance to visit someday! So welcome to our second stop!!
Christmas usually lasts from Christmas Eve to Little Christmas which is celebrated on either January 6th (ironic after learning about Brazil, eh!?). This is a very old holiday also known as "Little Women's Christmas" for women to go out with one another. Since Ireland's Christmas tends to be more religious than fun, this is said to be a day of fun for them. Ummmm can I just say I wish we had that :P
Lighted candles are placed in each window of the home as a guide that Mary and Joseph may be looking for shelter. Normally they are red in color and decorated with sprigs of holly.
They, like us, believe in Santa, but unlike our traditional milk and cookies for him, they leave out mince pie and Guinness!! I cannot get over this one XD Don't forget the carrot for his reindeer though!
Another difference is instead of stockings, children leave out sacks at the foot of their beds where basically all presents are left by Santa. Occasionally one big present is found under the tree, but it is unwrapped.
As I said before, a big emphasis is put on religion. Mass is a major excursion on Christmas Eve. Surprisingly, most actions even decorating usually have a religious purpose behind them. In the US, we usually decorate for the sole purpose of decorating and getting excited about the coming holiday. However, the aforementioned candles are due to Mary and Joseph, Christmas trees are fairly new to Ireland. Instead they used to find a holly bush, which are considered good luck in the new year. They Ancient Celts believed that mistletoe has tremendous healing powers, which was then banned until the so called "Revival-of-Christmas" in the Victorian Era.
Here's our family when we were there. Seems like such a long time ago!! Probably six years now or so? In order from left to right: Me, Grampa, Gramma, Aunt Donna (back), Alicia, and Mom. Yes, it is usually that cloudy there :P Those aren't rumors that it rains a lot!! Now, we've got one last quick stop to make! Onto Russia :) In Russia, interestingly enough the religious festival of Christmas is being replaced by the Festival of Winter, but I still thought it was an interesting place!
Christmas is celebrated on January 7th here. A great deal of the population fasts until Christmas Eve, up to 39 days! They then attend a twelve course meal, yes you read that right, twelve! Each course represents one of the twelve apostles. I think that this is a really cool idea! This meal includes things like fish, beet soup, and cooked dried fruit. Isn't it so interesting to hear what other cultures eat?
They do not have Santa Claus, but like Brazil, their story is really cool to me! Instead, they have Babushka, which in English translates to grandmother. The legend has it that she turned down the wise men to see Jesus because it was too cold! Ever since that decision, she has regretted it. So she set out to catch up to the wise men, filling her basket with presents. Unfortunately, she was never able to catch up and thus never saw Jesus. To make up for her mistake, she continues to bring presents to good children every year. I love that!
Though Babushka is the main gift-giver for their holiday, they do have Dedushka Moroz or Grandfather Christmas. Apparently he is known for wearing a blue coat and giving gifts in person instead of being secretive, like Santa for example. He also actually lives IN Russia, which is kind of cool.
Snegurochka is supposedly the granddaughter of Ded Moroz. She is known mostly in fairy tales other than actually having a role as a person. She's known for always having her animal friends with her, as depicted in this picture!
Well, now that we've been on this whirlwind trip, are you glad to be back home? How cool is it though that even though we're all celebrating the same thing.....it's so different amongst cultures. I learned so much today researching for this post about other cultures that I didn't include as well! I hope you enjoyed it even if it was a lil long : )
Merry Christmas, since we're home sweet home! Hope to see you tomorrow for another special interview from a newbie to the blog!!