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CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS AROUND THE WORLD

A HOLY NIGHT FOR ALL
BY
ANNA MAY KINNEY

 

If you think we start preparing for Christmas early, you should check out the Philippines. From the beginning of September, they enjoy waking to the sound of Christmas carols bellowing from their radios.
   

A collection of islands in the South China Sea, there are few traditional Christmas trees to be found. Most people cut off a large branch from a tree in their back yard. After removing all it’s leaves it is either painted white or covered with strips of Japanese colored paper. Once set inside a can filled with stones, it’s decorated with an assortment of ornaments.
   

From December 16 to December 24, Filipinos rise at 4 a.m. to the sound of church bells. They get up before sunrise for "Misa de Gallo", (The mass of the rooster), a custom that is as much of a social gathering as it is a religious observance. After mass, everyone gathers outside the church where they can purchase all kinds of traditional foods.
   

Early Christmas morning, when everyone returns home from midnight mass, they feast on whole roasted pig, smoked ham, assorted cheese and other delicacies.
   

In the Philippines it is Lolo and Lola (grandfather and grandmother), not Santa Claus, who give out the gifts to their grandchildren. Maligayang Pasko means Merry Christmas in the Philipines.
   

In Poland, a country that is 90% Catholic, Christmas is a two day celebration, Dec. 25th and 26th, but the major part of the celebration is on Christmas Eve. After the Christmas tree is decorated, and the table is set, including an extra plate for an unexpected guest, the family sits down to a meatless feast, which is an assortment of fish and other traditional dishes.
   

After dinner, sitting by candle light, the mother of the house hands out the Christmas presents one by one, the evening is concluded when everyone goes to midnight mass and sings praises to the Christ Child.
   

If one Santa Clause is not enough for you, take a trip to Iceland. Here they believe in thirteen mischievous Santas who come down from the mountains one by one starting on December 12.
   

Each carries out his particular mischief, the one known as the Meat Hooker tries to run off with a piece of meat, the Candle Beggar snatches candles, every day it is something and someone new. The Christmas celebration starts with the arrival of the last Santa.
   

They return to the mountains like they arrived, one at a time until the last one leaves on January 6, (known as The Thirteenth) the end of the Christmas celebration, the day that the decorations are taken down. Merry Christmas in Iceland is Gledileg jol.