Holidays around the world

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From barbeques on a beach to just an ordinary day, Christmas traditions all over the world can widely vary.

For New Zealander Luke Ball, Christmas is a time to enjoy the sun and catch some waves. December is summertime in New Zealand, which means instead of covering up from head to toe to avoid the cold, it’s a time to get a tan.

“Let me tell you how it’s done in NZ (New Zealand) at Christmas,” Ball said. “We wake up and open pressies (presents) with the family first thing. Then we have a have a mean (good) barbecue outside in the scorching sun. After that, we end up at the beach for some swimming and touch rugby. But the day isn’t complete without some goody-goody gumdrop ice cream. That’s a type of ice cream with these chewy lollies (candy) all through it.”

And the barbecue is loaded with a ton of delicious food.

“Normally some lamb, steaks and sausages,” Ball said. “Sometimes we get the seafood out. New Zealand has got the biggest and best mussels in the world.”

It’s also summertime in Brazil. Ani Nachtajler said summer plays a role in the foods they eat.

“December is summertime in Brazil, so that affects the type of foods we eat,” Nachtajler said. “A lot of fresh fruits, a turkey, ham, a variety of salads such as potato salad, rice and cold desserts. We also included some of the traditional Brazilian dishes into the menu such as Farofa, which is a made from manioc flour. Most families I know celebrate Christmas on the evening of the 24th. We first eat later in the evening and gather the family at midnight for Papai Noel’s (Santa Claus) arrival, which will bring the presents to the kids first and then the adults.

For Christmas morning, Nachtajler and her family enjoy rabanada, a version of French toast, and then spend the day relaxing in the sun.

While presents under a Christmas tree seems like the default picture of a Christmas morning, in Tonga there are no Christmas trees.

“People use trees (at Christmas time) but its nothing like the Christmas trees you have here because we don’t have trees like that back in Tonga,” said Noke Funaki.

“People just get whatever trees, coconut trees or whatever, but basically Christmas is a family day kind of thing,” Funaki said. “Food and neighbors just sharing food. We don’t really do the presents in Tonga but it is a season of giving, so on the day of Christmas everyone prepares their best meal and before they eat they share that meal with their neighbors. After eating it’s off to the beach.”
While traditional Christmas food in America is ham and mashed potatoes, in Tonga it consists of taro, yams, kumara (a type of sweet potato), chicken and, of course, a pig roasted on the spit.

For Korean student Jaeyong Park, the food at Christmas time is not holiday specific.

“Christmas is a holiday in Korea and it is pretty much same as here,” Park said. “All television programs are focused on Christmas but tolerance of it has been shrinking too. I am not sure what other families do on the day, but my family doesn’t do many thing on Christmas. I guess the reason is that my family doesn’t have Christian beliefs. Christmas came from the belief in Christ so I am sure that other people who believe in Christ would do something else. My family usually has dinner together. There is no specific kind of food, but something we all can enjoy.”

While there aren’t too many Christians in Korea, in Africa there are plenty.

Joy Sitawa grew up in Kenya and Tanzania and said, “Some denominations usually hold midnight mass on Christmas Eve where they sing and pray all night. On Christmas Day, everyone wakes up very early in the morning to start preparing the foods before they go to church. This is the time when even non-church goers go to church.”

As with most countries, food is also a common factor in celebrating Christmas in Africa.

“Big meals are prepared,” said Sitawa. “In most cases, this is the only time when even poor families can eat food that is usually not affordable because of their little income. Families usually save to make sure that they have festive foods during this time. Common foods during this festival are chapati (flat bread), Rice, pilau (spicy rice) fries, mashed potatoes, cooked plantains, ugali, cakes and other delicacies. For meat, most families slaughter cows, sheep, goat and lots of chicken.”
Sitawa says that traveling throughout the country can be a problem as “most people leave the cities they live in and head to the rural areas for the holiday.”
For Rachel Edwards of England, hearing the Queen’s annual Christmas Day speech is part of the tradition.

“Christmas Crackers are part of the celebration,” Edwards said. “They don’t really represent anything as such but they are set out at the Christmas dinner table and have novelty toy and a weird looking hat or crown inside. We always gather on Christmas Day at 3 p.m. to hear the Queen’s speech. The majority of the country still does. Christmas here is a lot more commercialized and for us at home, it’s all about visiting family and giving back.”

While the day continues with its normal hustle and bustle in places like Korea, everything is closed in New Zealand.

“All the shops and everything close on Christmas,” said Ball. “It came from a need to make sure we respect the Savior’s birth and I think it’s a great thing.”

While traditions worldwide may include food, family and fun, the Savior and His birth are always focal point of the holiday celebrations.

“The main focus of the day is family and Jesus Christ,” Ball said. “It is a time to serve each other and remember our blessings.”

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