Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas around the world 1

How my family and I celebrate Christmas
By Megan - Australia

Christmas in Australia signals our longest school holiday of the year: Seven weeks of no fighting to pull childerbeast from their bed or homework fights of nuclear war magnitude. Instead, seven long weeks of Christmas sunshine.

Christmas in Australia lasts seven weeks for our lucky children. “Oh no,” I hear the mother’s cry. Seven weeks of Christmas sounds like hell on earth. Peace and goodwill to our fellow man is well and good, but the kids? I don’t think so. On the contrary, Australian kid Christmas is bliss. This year our bliss includes a two-week camping trip.

Our Christmas celebrations begin on December 2nd. We raise the tree, decorate the house and spend weeks cooking and making Christmas gifts for our extended family. We attend as many free pantomimes and Shopping Centre Christmas shows as we can. We swim, we picnic, we laugh and we have fun in the sun. We also together plot our hugely family oriented Christmas day at Grandma’s house.

Our tradition is to alternate Christmas between both family sides. Last year was his family, this year it is my family. The host of Christmas lunch generally falls to the most senior family member. Given both sets of parents are still living, we all trundle off to their homes on Christmas morning to prepare our shared family feast.

This Christmas heralds my married daughters first Christmas in her new house. We are breaking our own “senior abuse” tradition and my entire extended family will be converging upon my 24 year-old daughter’s abode for Christmas lunch.

We have split the food responsibility between the different families. Someone brings all the seafood, another all the red meat, another white meat, another dessert, another drinks, etc.

To extend our travel to my daughter’s home, we are taking the weeks either side of Christmas to camp out in the Australian bush. My son owns a piece of Australia, bordered by a crystal clear creek and shadowed by bush hugging mountains. It is off the beaten track, quiet and just waiting for us to set up the campfire and boil the billy. For five days we will camp on his block, return to my daughters for Christmas and then head off for another five-day camping trip in the opposite direction.

Such rebels we are, redesigning our Christmas tradition. As much as I am looking forward to it, I cannot shake the pull of convention. Christmas in Australia is very much a family affair. For the first time in my life I will not be at home preparing, stressing, caring for, and accommodating, those arriving from afar. Instead, I will be camping with two of my four children, having a ball, walking in the bush and experiencing a carefree Christmas period.
My daughter assures me that she wants it this way. She wants to create a new Christmas. She wants to make her mark as the Christmas guru of the family. She wants her extended family in her house. Married into a culture who celebrate Christmas differently to us, my daughter is establishing a novel Christmas behaviour: a bridge between the traditional and the contemporary. Who knows, this may just begin a new tradition: Christmas at the house with the most air conditioning.
By Erik
Christmas is the celebrating of the birth of Jesus and the date of this event is 25th December. It is in fact an event of the Catholics but also other religions celebrate this event. In Belgium we have two Christmas Days, the 25th December, the original Christmas Day and first Christmas Day; the 26th December will be called the second Christmas Day.
A tradition of the Catholics is the Midnight Eucharist the day before Christmas but we see that this tradition become weaker the last years and more people go to the Eucharist on an earlier time 6p.m or 7p.m; or they go on Christmas Day.
Some usual Christmas signs are: the Christmas Star, the Christmas stable and of course the Christmas tree. All the families put many of their energy to find original Christmas decorations.
Very special are also the Christmas Markets, which are beginning in December. Very special is this one of Brussels. This year, the Christmas Market of Brussels is called the European Christmas Market of 2006 and will be hold from 2 December till the first of January on the place of St Catherina.. The Great Market of Brussels will be in atmosphere of light and magic with the traditional Christmas tree and a beautiful Christmas stable. You can have a look over more than 200 stalls from all over Europe to offer their traditional crafts, Jewellery, hand-made Christmas decorations and of course the Belgian Chocolate.If you want to walk around this Christmas Market it is a walk of about 3 km. Very special is the Big Wheel on the Marche aux Poisson.There is always the possibility of ice skating which offers fun for everyone. This year there will be a separate small skating ring for toddlers to enjoy this sport
Of course there are many other important Christmas Markets in Belgium. The Christmas Markets in Antwerp, Bruges, Gent, Ostend are surely a visit worth. Even the Christmas Markets in little towns like Lier, Mechelen and some others are nice but more commercial and in fact it is only a variety of stalls with some snacks and drinks and some other Christmas decorations.
A tradition of Christmas is of course Santa Claus. He brings presents for the whole family. In fact Santa Claus doesn’t exist but it is a belief for the children that he put some presents under the Christmas tree. In fact the parents buy presents for the children and put it there. But when they become older the tradition of giving presents is something that always stays. Children and parents buy presents for each other and it is always nice to receive some presents. Gifts are opened on Christmas Eve after a nice dinner with the family.
The problem is that we have 2 events in December with two persons who look almost the same: St. Nicholas and his Black Piets who give presents to the good children on the 6th of December and Santa Claus on Christmas. The name given on this person is “De kerstman” for the Dutch people and “Père Noël The time between the two events is so short and that gives some confusion for the children.
Christmas is an event that many people celebrate at home with an extensive Christmas Dinner but also a lot of families celebrate it in a restaurant. Popular dishes are chicken and turkey, something similar like the food served with Thanksgiving Day in America. And of course wine is the drink that can’t be missed on this special day.
Christmas is a nice time, even in a small country like Belgium, all the Christmas decorations, the beautiful Christmas Songs, the lights in the streets gives a warm atmosphere on this event.Enjoy it.
By Jayne Scott

A local tradition in Zambia is the making of beer for any celebration. The beer is made from fermented maize and millet and is very alcoholic! This recipe comes by courtesy of James, my ever helpful house worker and friend.

The maize and millet are soaked in a bucket with water for three days until they start sprouting and fermenting. They are then hung in a sack overnight and spread in the sun to dry the following day. When dry, they are ground into a fine powder, added to maize meal and cooked into a fairly stiff porridge with added yeast. This mixture is then left covered for a further 24 hours to bubble and ferment. During this process it become like a thin gruel. Once again it is boiled and left to cool overnight, being now ready to drink. The beer develops a fairly bitter taste during the process and is extremely potent! Traditionally the process would be carried out in large homemade clay pots.

A children’s ‘cool drink’ version is made too! The process is similar, but the maize and millet are only soaked overnight and no yeast is added. The mixture is only boiled up once and retains its sweetness, apparently a great favourite with the children and completely non-alcoholic!


Blogger Brit & Grit said...

Hi Megan,

How do y'all manage to get that much time off? Working stiffs around here are lucky to get a 4 day weekend for Christmas. Oh, and I expect we will experience the every other year visit soon. My son has his eye on a young lass that, I suspect, will soon be his bride. Of course, he couldn't pick a local girl, and had to find one who's family lives several hundred miles away. Oh well...


That sounds like fun. Of course, we now start celebrating Christmas right after Halloween :)


You do realize that, by most definitions, that is NOT beer. In Germany, where by law the only ingredients in beer are water, yeast, hops, and barley, such blasphemy would see you in irons! However, if you ran that through a still, it would be very close to what my Grandfather made out in the woods :)

the Grit

12:17 PM  
Blogger Charlie Cory said...

Hi Guys,

It is really hard to read this blog. Maybe I am getting old, but red on green is really tough on my eyes.

Best wishes


1:24 AM  
Blogger cathrina said... is really the celebration of joy and to show one cares..even my dad will come down this christmas and i always look forward to celebrate with him..

3:58 AM  
Blogger Brit & Grit said...

Hi charlie,

Finally some feedback on the decorations. Many thanks. Is this better? Should I switch the text back to black?

the Grit

4:48 AM  
Anonymous TomCat said...

Hi Guys. Thanks for this. It's interesting to read about Christmas traditions from around the world. Thanks also for the link to PP. Just an FYI.... It's broken. :-)

Looking forward to more in the series.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Brit & Grit said...

Hey Tomcat

Thanks for the comments. More to come in a day or so. I will get the Grit to look at the link.

Welcome Cathrina

Hope Christmas goes well for you all.



10:49 AM  
Blogger Brit & Grit said...

All I want for Christmas is a working link ;) And there you have it.

the Grit

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Jayne said...

Hi Grit

Zambian's are well known for making the best out of what is available - I believe they further refine the process in homemade stills, much as your Grandfather did!

2:28 AM  
Blogger ERIK said...

Very nice, all the differences between celebrating Christmas around the world.
This was surely a good initiative.


3:33 AM  
Blogger Brit & Grit said...

Thanks Erik,

If you know anyone else from a country who wants to be involved,let us know. From today we are going to do at least one a day

the Brit

6:03 AM  
Blogger Megan Bayliss said...

Hey, hey, hello my good friends. I have resurfaced. All of my crazy work schedule has been complted and now I'm on holidays for the next 5 weeks. YAHOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How do I get that much time of Grit? I'm just a wonderful women who demands (sorry, I meant deserves) a period of nothingness.

My house is decorated, my cooking is sort of done (we ate all the rumballs already so I have to make more) and I'm now madly cleaning the house for the house sitter who's coming to stay whil;e we go away.

It's Christmas. Merry, merry Christmas to everyone around the world.


1:40 AM  

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