It is very interesting to see how cultures different from our own go through their day-to-day routines, social etiquette, traditions, etc. This was our first Christmas in a different country, and, yes, there are some differences in how they go about Christmas.
- Christmas comes in with a bang! On Christmas Eve it is a tradition here to shoot fireworks at midnight. This includes nearly everyone in the city and lasts for one solid hour. My friends had told me about the fireworks here, but I was not prepared for how many. If you are from Georgia, think “Stone Mountain 4th of July fireworks display.” In every corner of the city fireworks could be seen and heard. The whole “not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” doesn’t apply at all here.
- Jesus stays hidden. In their nativity scenes they cover Jesus up with a blanket, or sometimes they just leave him out of the scene, until Christmas Eve. Just as the clock strikes 12 midnight they uncover Jesus and shoot the fireworks. Their reasoning is that Jesus wasn’t born until Christmas, so he is not displayed.
- Singing to Jesus. I’ve been told that in years past children would go to different houses and ask if they can come in and sing to Jesus and Mary in the nativity scene. This is not practiced much now days.
- Panetón and hot chocolate. Panetón is a sweet loaf bread that originated in Milan. It has fruit in it and it is good. People here love to eat this during Christmastime with hot chocolate. What makes this a little strange to me is that I identify hot chocolate with cold wintery days. Here, Christmas falls at the beginning of summer. As a matter of fact the whole Christmas season has seemed a bit strange to me because of the weather.
We have really enjoyed our first Christmas abroad and looking forward to many more. Whether you are eating panetón in Latin America, or fruitcake from Claxton Bakery in the states makes no difference. The important thing is what we are celebrating: the dawn of hope, good tidings of great joy to all people, the birth of the Messiah.