Canadians enjoy wintry scenes
Canada at Christmas for many is about embracing the snow and enjoying outdoor adventures amid the country’s sky-scraping mountains and snow-hushed forests. The eastern cities in Québec and Ontario provinces also rejoice by ice skating, hearty food, Christmas markets, ice sculptures and exuberant winter festivals.
Canadians watch the northern lights from a log cabin in the wilds of the Yukon, ride on snowmobiles or go snowshoeing in remote locations, and dog-sled with a team of Alaskan huskies. Meanwhile, up in Churchill on the edge of Hudson Bay, watching polar bears as they gather waiting for the water to freeze over so they can begin hunting is done by many.
Canadian traditions include decorating a Christmas tree and exchanging gifts. On Christmas Day a special meal is prepared often including roast turkey, seasonal vegetables, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Traditional favourite Christmas desserts reminiscent of England include Christmas plum puddings and mincemeat tarts.
Boxing Day takes place on Dec. 26 and is only celebrated in a few countries; mainly ones historically connected to the UK such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and in some European countries.
Hondurans love their tamales
For Hondurans, like the rest of the Christian world, Christmas is a time of religious significance and to celebrate with family and friends. Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 24, though the parties begin a week earlier.
Hondurans, like some other Latin American cultures, celebrate Las Posados, Spanish for “accommodations” or lodging.” It’s a tradition where relatives or friends knock on each other’s doors asking for a place to stay, representing Mary and Joseph searching for an inn. At first the family in the home will refuse them entry but will then let their friends in for a party and they may even spend the night. Some families do this for the nine days leading up to Christmas, representing nine months of pregnancy.
Children traditionally receive presents, but on a smaller scale than in rich countries. It is common to receive new clothes to be worn on Dec. 24. However, one new outfit is often all the family can afford. Dolls and toys are received by the more fortunate children.
Noche Buena or Christmas night is celebrated on Dec. 24 and the feast and fireworks often begin at midnight. Food is central to the celebration, and for many Hondurans, that means tamale, which are cornmeal dough rolled with ground meat or beans seasoned usually with chili, wrapped usually in corn husks, and steamed. The Christmas meal varies but may also include roasted pork, fried yucca, rice, turkey, sweets, plantains and eggnog.
Filipinos feast like crazy
Filipinos really know how to feast at Christmas. From sweet traditional Filipino delicacies to tasty Italian staples, Christmas gatherings usually have an eclectic medley of luscious and hearty food. With all the mouth-watering Christmas foods, it’s no wonder Filipino in their hordes enrol in gyms and fitness clubs in January.
Filipinos, in general, are fond of sweet treats. That’s why most of the Christmas hams distributed in the Philippines are drenched with syrupy glazes. These hams are often fried to add more flavour or paired with a slice of kesong puti, a white cheese made from carabao’s milk).
Leche Flan, or better known as caramel custard in the Western world, is one of the most beloved desserts in the country, especially during festive celebrations like Christmas.
One of the healthier Christmas foods in the Philippines, lumpiang ubod is a spring roll variety that is made from ubod (coconut). Wrapped in a lumpia, this dish also has a mixture of other ingredients, including lettuce, ground pork and carrots.
Keso de bola is basically the Filipino term for Netherland’s Edam cheese. Coated in a red paraffin wax, this festive delicacy is often used as a centrepiece during Noche Buena (Christmas Eve dinner). With a perfect blend of softness, creaminess and saltiness, Keso de Bola can be paired with hams, crackers, bread, fruits and wines like Zinfandel and Pinot Noir.
Puto bumbong is the most sought-after delicacy. Church goers even line up after mass just to enjoy this sticky and luscious purple-coloured rice cake.
A predominantly Catholic country, the Simbang Gabi, aka Misa de Gallo, is a solemn Christmas practice that shows how Filipinos value their faith, which is a series of early morning masses starting from Dec. 16 until Christmas Eve. The Christmas celebrations continue to the First Sunday in January when Epiphany or the Feast of the Three Kings is celebrated.
Cubans are more religious than many
Cubans tend to throw parties on Dec. 31, but Christmas is seen solely as a religious event that begins on Christmas Eve.
Until the 1990s, Christmas celebrations were banned. Now there is more openness but because of the poverty, few have enough money to do anything significant. Some people can put together a decent meal on Dec. 24, put up a beautiful lit-up tree in their home and yet there still isn’t that festive spirit on the street. An enveloping darkness prevails, with no Christmas carols, nor Santa Clauses at store entrances giving presents out to children. There may be some employees wearing bobble hats at certain state-run stores where they pretend to give good customer service.
Sales or discounts aren’t given because it’s the end of the year, far from it; food continues to be expensive and in shortage in a country where the average monthly wage is only US$30.
Turron sweets that sit all year round in shop windows aren’t reduced in the slightest, they cost nearly $5 and a bottle of red wine costs $7 or more. Apples are tiny and poor quality and cost too much.
Those who can afford it have turkey, cider and the traditional twelve grapes to be eaten before midnight.
Some families don’t even attempt to celebrate Christmas because their family emigrated and those left behind feel desolate. Many families are so devastated that a hurricane carried away their homes and they are left stuck in temporary shelters that they can’t possibly get into the Christmas spirit.
Venezuela big on nativity scenes
Venezuela is going through an economic crisis but for those that can afford it, this is the one time of the year that can lift their spirits. The religious celebrations begin on Dec. 16 with masses said every morning until Dec. 24 when the religious service is held at midnight (Misa de Gallo). The main celebration takes place on Christmas Eve, Noche Buena.
Most Venezuelans are Catholic and celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. The final service, Misa de Aguinaldo or Misa de Gallo, occurs at midnight on Noche Buena.
Many homes put up a Christmas tree, but the most authentic Venezuelan custom is to display a Nacimiento (nativity scene).
Traditional Venezuelan Christmas foods include hallacas, a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, capers, raisins, and olives that is wrapped in maize and plantain leaves and tied up with string into a parcel and then boiled or steamed afterwards. Aso, the Pan de Jamón, a type of bread that's made with puff pastry filled with ham, raisins and green olives.
Typical Venezuelan drinks are batido (thick fruit juice) and chichi, a fermented drink made with boiled rice, milk and sugar.
Brits start their celebrations early
The UK seems to start its Christmas culture from early November. There are TV channels devoted to showing only festive theme programmes, TV adverts are constantly trying to sell Christmas things and social events are all geared around the approaching big day. It’s very common for school children to write letters to Santa Claus. Christmas dinner is all about roast turkey, chicken or another poultry and trimmings. But, there are some specialty items that aren’t as common such as parsnips which are a root vegetable with a distinctive taste. Hot, mulled wine is a traditional festive drink in the UK. The Queen gives a speech on Christmas Day at 3pm in England. For dessert, pumpkin or apple pie, raisin pudding, Christmas pudding, or fruitcake are the staple. After consuming all that, most people can barely walk.
Boxing Day follows Christmas Day and is a nationally recognised holiday in the UK. Sports lovers tend to go to see their favourite team on Boxing Day which was originally the day for servants and tradesman to receive presents from their employers but is now basically a big shopping day for Brits. Oxford Street is packed on Boxing Day as thousands descend looking for bargains.
Brits take down their trees and decorations within 12 days of Christmas in fear of having bad luck for the next year if they don’t.
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