With Christmas just around the corner many of you will be seeking a festive adventure to make the season that little bit more special – so we have a great line-up of yuletide cultures and customs to tempt you away from home.
Cancun, Mexico has a fantastic spirit about it during the Christmas period with beautifully decorated streets, parks and shops. Primarily a Christian country, the nine days leading up to Christmas are spent celebrating the Posadas. The journey of Mary and Joseph towards the inn at Bethlehem is re-enacted, culminating each night in a fiesta. Call and response songs take place between the people outside – representing the travellers – and the people inside the house they have arrived at, who represent the innkeepers. These processions take place across Mexico and are unique to each neighbourhood. Christmas piñatas are hung to keep children and adults alike entertained, and the beautiful poinsettia flower predominates in the decorations. Booking Cancun holidays will certainly get you into the spirit of the season!
In Africa, religion also plays a strong part in the celebrations. In the Congo, a designated group organise a small pageant, where carollers walk throughout the village singing popular numbers, rousing the residents in time for the church service, to which everyone brings an offering. In Liberia, families use oil palms for Christmas trees and decorate them with bells, while in South Africa, the sun shines and the beaches beckon!
The people of Bulgaria celebrate Christmas Eve with as much importance as Christmas Day, preparing a 12 course meal to share with the family. Each dish contains no meat and represents one month of the year. This is similar to the Russian tradition of eating a 12 course meal on Christmas Eve, with each course symbolic of one of the 12 apostles.
Russians spread the festivities over a four week period, usually running from mid-December to mid-January, under the title of the Russian Winter Festival. The festival incorporates Russian Christmas and Russian New Year. Russian Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January in accordance with the Orthodox calendar, while Russian New Year is something of an amalgamation of more standard Christmas/New Year celebrations. Children are visited by the Russian version of Santa Claus, Ded Moroz, which translates as “Grandfather Frost”, along with Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden, who represents Ded Moroz’s granddaughter. A New Year tree, in lieu of a Christmas tree, is decorated with lights and figures. The most notable celebrations take place in Moscow with street entertainment, traditional foods and thrilling ice sculptures dotted throughout.
Babushka is another part of the Russian tradition. The story goes that she was meant to set out with the three wise men to visit Jesus but stayed at home to keep warm. She regretted this greatly and so now visits all the children giving out toys and gifts. Sicilians have a similar legend, though they refer to her as La Befana.
Why not venture overseas instead of staying at home this Christmas? You never know how you might end up celebrating!