Traditions Make the Christmas


Growing up, midnight mass was a Christmas Eve staple for my mostly Catholic family. We'd rest most of the day, get all dressed up, and stay up way past our bedtimes. After mass my mother would take us to any open coffee shop, restaurant or (more than likely since it was midnight on Christmas Eve) gas station for cups of hot chocolate. We'd sip the cocoa in the car and chat about nothing and everything at the same time. It was the same routine year after year after year.

Once we were back home we were allowed to pick out one gift to unwrap. We'd put out cookies and milk for Santa and then it was off to bed to dream about all of the toys, the stream of family members that would stop by, and the ham/mac and cheese/collard greens/pecan pie we'd devour the next day. Those were our traditions, and so many of them I've adopted for my own little family.

I'm always curious to hear about and experience the Christmas traditions of my friends because they are often so different, and many times influenced by the country of their origin. Here are a few of the interesting Christmas traditions from around the world. Anything sound familiar?

In Peru, December 24th, which is known as La Noche Buena (“the Good Night”), is when all of the celebrating takes place. After mass, families go home to feast, open gifts, and toast each other at midnight. ​

Icelanders often swap books on Christmas Eve, then spend the rest of the night reading them and eating chocolate (!!!). The tradition is part of a season called Jolabokaflod, or “The Christmas Book Flood.”

​There are a whopping 12 courses in the traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve supper, each of them dedicated to one of Christ’s apostles.​

In Ghana many people observe a traditional folk libation ritual at Christmastime. In it, people drink from a cup and then pour some of its contents on the ground as a symbolic offering to their ancestors.​

The poinsettia is native to Mexico and was originally cultivated by the Aztecs, who called it Cuetlaxochitl (“flower which wilts”). The plant’s brilliant red color symbolized purity for the Aztecs, and they often used the plant to reduce fever.

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