It’s so close to Christmas now; only a few sleeps away. I thought I would take the opportunity to write about Christmas-related festivals around the world. It is both an interesting insight and also it may give you some ideas on holiday destinations at Christmastime for next year!
• Timkat in Gondar, Ethiopia •
Celebrated in January by Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia, this festival commemorates the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan. It is the Feast of the Epiphany, and during the procedures the water of the Royal Bath is blessed and many immerse themselves in the pool for a second baptism. The word ‘Timkat’ itself means ‘baptism’ in Amharic. Much singing, dancing and feasting is enjoyed, which is certainly not uncommon in Christmas-related celebrations!
• Procession De San Lázaro in El Rincon, Cuba •
San Lázaro is patron saint of the poor and sick, and thousands of people make the pilgrimage to his shrine each year on the 16th of December. Pilgrims often undertake suffering (e.g. crawling on their knees) to arrive at the shrine, for it is believed that they will then reap a greater reward. Candles, flowers and coins are given to the saint at his shrine.
• Den Svatého Mikuláša in the Czech Republic •
On the eve of St Nicholas Day, St Nick, an angel and a devil will be seen walking around together on the streets of Prague. It is said that if a child has been good that year, the angel will give them sweets and they will be rewarded. However, if the child has been bad they will be taken to hell and they will only receive coal for their gift! Often the three characters visit houses in small towns as well. I was lucky enough to experience this celebration when I was living in Prague. I met the three characters in the local town square and I also received my own fruits and chocolates from Mr. Czech’s Babička (Granny!).
• Quema del Diablo, Guatemala •
Guatemalans believe that the devil is in the dirt and dust in their houses, and so they therefore engage in a big winter clean on the 7th of December. This is in order to be rid of him before Christmas arrives! All of their old and unwanted things are tossed out in a rubbish pile on the street, and often a paper devil is placed on top of the pile before the whole thing goes up in flames. The Guatemalans sing and dance in celebration.
• Noche de Rabanos, Oaxaca, Mexico •
This event takes place in Oaxaca’s main plaza during their Christmas markets. Radishes sculpted by craftsmen are showcased at the markets, with some representing themes such as the Nativity.
• Black Nazarene Procession, Manila, Philippines •
Celebrated on the 9th of January, this festival is celebrated by faithful pilgrims. The suffering Christ is paraded through the streets of the parish of Quiapo in Manila. The statue is a life-sized Christ shouldering the cross, which is carried on a carriage pulled by devotees dressed in purple and walking barefoot.
• Rite of the Kalyady Tsars, Semezheva, Belarus •
This celebration occurs on the 13th of January, and is thought to date back to the 1700’s when the Tsar’s army was stationed nearby. Seven people are chosen to represent the Tsars, and are dressed in red and white. Each one plays a character from local stories, and the mock Tsars entertain and continue their procession into the night.
• Klausjagen, Kussnacht, Switzerland •
On the night before St Nicholas Day (5th December), the village parades around with the men cracking whips and wearing special hats that are lit by candles. A man dressed as St Nicholas is chased and beaten by members of the village who carry cowbells and horns. This dates back to a pagan ritual of scaring off evil spirits with noise. Quite a different day for St Nick than it is in the Czech Republic!
I hope you enjoyed learning about some Christmas-related traditions around the world! Are there any interesting Christmas traditions that you know of and would like to share? Pop it in the comments below, I am definitely interested!