Monday, 14 December 2015
by Erin McAllister, Paralegal
Tevye in The Fiddler on the Roof.
A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. Common examples include holiday traditions we see this time of year.
Many European countries celebrate Christmas Advent with either an Advent wreath, calendar or candle. Advent wreaths have four candles attached to a wreath and the tradition is to begin four Sundays before Christmas and light the first candle. The next Sunday two candles are lit until the Sunday before Christmas all the candles are lit. Advent calendars have a pocket to open each day in December culminating on the 25th. Chocolates or trinkets are put inside each pocket. The Advent Candle has the dates written on the side and the candle is burned each day to mark the coming of the 25th of December.
St. Nicholas visits children in several European countries on December 6th. Children shine their shoes and put them out by the door. The legend is that St. Nicholas comes by and if the children have been good, they receive candy in their shoes.
St. Lucia is celebrated on December 13th. Lucia wears “lights in her hair” to bring light to the long winter nights in Sweden. In remembrance, girls dress in white and wear lighted wreaths in their hair. The Lucia tradition is traced back to St. Lucia of Syracuse, martyr who died in 304, and to a Swedish legend that Lucia was Adam’s first wife. It is believed that she consorted with the devil. Lucia Night was the longest night of the year. This night was considered dangerous because supernatural beings were out and animals could speak. By morning the livestock needed extra feed. People were urged to eat seven to nine breakfasts. The last person to wake up was nicknamed ‘Lusse the Louse’ and given a playful beating. The following is the song for Lucia:
The night treads heavily
around yards and dwellings
In places unreached by sun,
the shadows brood
Into our dark house she comes,
bearing lighted candles,
Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia.
Santa Lucia is celebrated in the Scandinavian countries as well as some European countries like Switzerland, Italy and France.
Many countries now celebrate the 25th of December and Santa Clause. Here are some names for Santa throughout the world:
Brazil – Papai Noel
China – Sheng dan lao ren
Costa Rica – Nino Dios
Argentina - Colacho
Denmark - Julemanden
Egypt - Baba Noel
Ethiopia - Yagena Abat
France – Pere Noel
Armenia - Gaghant Baba
Georgia – Tovlis Papa
Vietnam - Ong Gia Noel
Ukraine - Svgatyi Mykolai
Germany - Weihnachtsman
Indonesia - Sinterklass
Hong Kong - Sing Daan Lou Yan
Haiti - Jwaye Nowe
Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st. It is a week-long celebration started by Maulana Karenga, professor of African Studies in 1966. It is meant to honor African heritage and has seven core principles:
1. Umoja (Unity)
2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
5. Nia (Purpose)
6. Kuumba (Creativity)
7. Imani (Faith)
Families decorate their houses in African art, colorful cloth (kente) and women wear kaftans. They may have ceremonies which include drumming, musical selections and reading of the African Pledge.
Epiphany is celebrated throughout the world on January 6th. It is the tradition of celebrating the Three Wise Men who traveled to Jerusalem to see the Christ Child. Epiphany traditions range from religious observances to celebrations with much eating and partying.
In America, the holiday season is celebrated with parties, outside decorations, life-size nativities, gingerbread houses and gift giving. Christmas caroling, ice skating and sledding or tubing are also popular when there is snow.
Holiday traditions throughout the world seem to center on family; experiences and activities that foster connection, peace, love and unity. Families and communities take time at the end of the year to connect and express good wishes. Families have special dinners, neighbors share goodies or Christmas cards all in an attempt to connect. Author, Susan Lieberman has noted: “Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.” Perhaps Tevye was right. Our traditions tell us who we are and what we should be doing and give us balance in a shaky world.
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