Monday, 23 December 2013

Holidays Around the World: Part 5

Argentina, South America

Coming from the UK we celebrated Christmas on 25th December with the Traditional Christmas dinner of Turkey and vegetables, pulled crackers and opened presents.  

In Argentina however, Christmas is celebrated on the evening of the 24th. 
Families get together to eat a traditional BBQ of meat or chicken together with side dishes of different salads and grilled vegetables.  

La Parrillada (Traditional BBQ)

Personally, I still cook a turkey and we eat it cold with salad, usually outside unless it is too hot, which it often is.  We do not eat the traditional Christmas pudding and Christmas cake and mince pies but enjoy the Panettone, which is a sweet, yeasted bread full of nuts and dried fruit.  The Panettone know here as pan dulce (sweet bread) was brought to Argentina by the Italian immigrants and has become a big part of the Christmas tradition here.

Pan dulce
pan dulce

I usually go to the British Embassy Christmas fair just before Christmas where I can buy crackers, Christmas cake, mince pies, etc.  and listen to carol singers.

As it is a Catholic country, many people go to midnight mass after dinner then come home to open presents and continue the celebrations.  A big part of Christmas here is on the 24th and 31st.  People let off fireworks until early hours of the morning.  It is also common to see globos  (paper balloons).  the globos are lit inside and float up high into the sky.

globos (paper balloons)

The Christmas celebrations go on until January 6th which is the Three Kings Day and celebrate the Magi taking gifts to baby Jesus.  
In Argentina the children leave their shoes outside the door of under the Christmas tree the night before so that they can be filled with presents.  So children receive presents on the 24th December and on January 6th.

Christmas decorations in Argentina are Christmas wreaths on the front doors, Christmas trees and some Christmas ornaments.  Christmas card giving is not common here and it is not common to see the towns lit up with lights and decorations either.  

Submitted by Karen of Karen's Loom & Felt Natural
Follow Karen on her blog
Photo credits:
BBQ and Paper Balloon photos courtesy of Hispanic Culture online
Pan Dulce courtesy of argentina4u

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Holidays Around the World: Part 4

South Florida USA

The climate I grew up in and think of as Christmastime comes around is very different from where I am now.
Christmas was a time when we bundled up in layers of warm clothes to go shopping.  I have memories of waiting at bus stops with friends or family waiting to get home and put on the kettle, sit by the fire and let fingers come back to life.
Celebrating Christmas here in South Florida is sometimes a little chilly but more often than not, it is hot and sunny and not at all typical of the way I remember Christmas growing up in England.
I really don't miss the cold... just at Holiday time.

Other than the temperature, things are pretty much the same as the rest of the US.
Some people have real trees, trucked in from tree farms in the northern states and people decorate their houses and yards with lights.. some to the extreme.  All very festive.

Last week the Christmas tree was lit downtown... this year a 35 foot high sand sculpture tree covered in lights! Different and fun.

Sand Sculpture Tree with Changing Color Lights

Although I miss the way I have always thought of Christmas, I do love seeing the palm trees decorated with lights accentuating the palm branches... usually white twisted up the trunk and green or white along the drooping palm fronds. So exotic and tropical, especially on a balmy evening with an ocean breeze rustling the fronds.

Decorated Palm Tree

There is also an annual boat parade of boats of all sizes, from small skiffs to large impressive motor yachts all decorated and playing music, some with people dancing as they travel up the waterway, collecting Toys for Tots along the way.
The bridges close to traffic and open for the boats. You have to decide before the bridge closes which side you want to be on... the beach side or the town side then people line the streets to enjoy the sights. Some along the banks down by the water and some above them on the bridges. Everyone waving and having a good time.

One of the many boats in the parade

Definitely a totally different type of Christmas but a festive and happy atmosphere.

submitted by Linda of JustOneLook/SewFineFashions
boat photo courtesy of
sand sculpture courtesy of

Friday, 13 December 2013

Holidays Around the World: Part 3



My most striking impression of the Christmas festive time is from my days when I worked at I lived in a large community with able bodied and persons with handicaps or learning difficulties. I was responsible for 2 young ladies, one of whom had mental and physical problems, the other had a form of autism. Needless to say our days were challenging, on every scale, but it was immensely fun and seriously rewarding.

Within Camphill the passing of the days, months and years are marked with various celebrations and traditions. For advent there is the advent spiral.

I found this the most breathtaking experience ever and it still brings a tear to my eye. The room is darkened and everyone comes in quietly singing. In the centre of the room is a large pillar candle and leading out from it is a spiral made from precious stones, mosses and fir branches.

One by one each young person takes their candle, usually in a holder made from a red apple, and walks the spiral into the centre, lights their candle and comes back out. They place their candle somewhere on the spiral. Now that sounds straightforward, but imagine you are someone with physical and mental restrictions. I was unsure that my young friend would be able to walk the spiral, nor light a candle, nor place the candle on the floor. "Watch" said the quiet voice of my most lovely housemother, in my ear, and my friend started walking, alone, somewhat lopsided, but purposefully into the centre, lit her candle and only needed some assistance to place it safely on the floor on the return journey.

I have tears in my eyes as I type this, just so special for a handicapped child to manage to 'collect' their fragile being together enough to carry out this magical moment, all by themselves and start the process of lengthening the days of winter.

After all have placed their candle apples the room is very much filled with light and this marks the start of the Christmas celebration time.

By Julie, &

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Holidays Around the World: Part 2


I know that in many parts of the world folk are winding down for Christmas but it's a very different story here in Israel.  We Celebrated Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, last week with candle lighting, presents and yummy fried food.  Now we are back to routine and life has returned to normal.  No frantic shopping for us or huge meals to cook.  Well actually, Jewish people tend to make huge meals every single week -  for the Sabbath meals -  so the cooking meals part doesn't count!

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and marks the victory of a group of Jews called the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks, the most powerful army of the ancient world.  At the end of a three year war the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem and lit the seven-branched candelabrum, the Menorah, in the rededicated Holy Temple.

Nowadays Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting one additional candle on the Hanukkah (an eight-branched candelabrum similar in stlye to the one in the temple) each day to remind us of a great miracle that happened long ago.  After the Maccabees defeated the Syrians and chased them out of Jerusalem, the Jews wanted to light the Temple Menorah again but there was one problem; there was only enough oil in the Temple to last for one night, yet it continued to burn for a full eight days, the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate the fresh olive oil.
When we light the Menorah and sing the traditional Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages) song it is to remember this miracle.


Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes and sufganiyot during the Holiday.  Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions which are fried in oil.  Sufganiyot are jam filled donuts that are fried and dusted with confectioners' sugar. 

As a part of the Hanukkah tradition, we also play a game using a dreidel.  The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a different Hebrew letter on each side.  The four letters which appear on the four sides of the dreidel allude to the miracle of Hanukkah.  They spell out:  Nes (N-miracle), Gadol (G-great), Haya (H-happened) and Po (P-here, meaning in Israel).  "A great miracle happened here".  Outside of Israel, the letter Shin (S- there) replaces the Po (P-here).

All these traditions give significant meaning and importance to the festival, and add a little weight on the scales too!

Happy Holidays and best wishes from Israel,

by  Lisa of handmadeinisrael
follow Lisa on her blog @

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Holidays Around the World: Part 1

We are a team of expats living in countries far from home and different cultures from the ones we grew up knowing.
Some of us have written about our memories from our homeland and some have written about our new cultures. Here are some of our observations on the Holidays in our part of the world.

Thanks to Shannon of silent magician for her help organizing and formatting our articles so we can actually view the photos!



The Dutch do not approve of Sinterklaas being compared with Santa Claus. True, they are both wise old men dressed in red and white, sport long beards, and deliver gifts to good boys and girls. However, the first time I said there must be a connection, I was answered with indignant sputtering. The second time I joked to the Sint himself that I knew his friend. "Friend?" he said, "Well..."

Sinterklaas is celebrated with much festivity, showmanship, and national pride. The actual day is December 5th, but events begin with Sinterklaas's arrival to the Netherlands in mid-November. He, along with his Zwarte Piet assistants, travels by steamboat from Spain. Many families turn out to their local harbor to greet the boat, and the official arrival in Groningen is complete with television coverage and special news stories for the kids.
Arrival by steamboat.

Once he has arrived, he of course needs a place to sleep, so various cities set up their own Sinterklaashuis which is open to children to visit and see how he lives. They can play with the Zwarte Pieten, have their photo taken with Sinterklaas, and sign their name into his official book.

While the Sint is in the country, children put their shoes next to the fireplace or radiator each night, offer a carrot for his horse, and in the morning find a treat. Typical treats include pepernoten, speculaas, and chocolate letters. While Sinterklaas is primarily a children's holiday, adults also get into the spirit by exchanging small gifts on the 5th, sometimes accompanied by a poem written for the recipient.

Sinterklaas is a beloved holiday, but it isn't without controversy. The Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) character has come under criticism. Opponents are concerned he is a figure of slavery and object to the use of the black face paint that is part of the costume. Just this year the issue came up before the UN. On the other side, many (though not all) Dutch see him as the popular side-kick who is part of their tradition. I have heard several origin stories about Zwarte Piet. One Dutch friend explained that he was a slave who Sinterklaas rescued and freed. After offering him employment, Piet was so grateful he decided to work for him. My friend wondered if the historically greater division between boss and worker might play a part in the conception that he is a slave. For Dutch children, the modern Piet is portrayed as a friend and has taken on the role of the competent assistant to the rather absent minded Sint. As society evolves, the character will likely evolve as well as the issue continues to be debated.

Zwarte Piet at the Sinterklaashuis.
For the time being, Sinterklaas and the Black Pieten start the holiday season here in the Netherlands, and they continue to bring much joy and excitement to both Dutch children and adults.
by Shannon of silent magician
follow Shannon on her blog @