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Countdown to Christmas 2016 - Week 8 - Luxembourg

Chreschtmaart in Luxembourg City; photo courtesy of visitluxembourg.com

 

 

The Grand-Duche de Luxembourg is a very small independent country in Europe; it is just a little smaller than the U.S. state of Rhode Island. Germany is located to the east, France to the south, and Belgium to the west.  From the beginning of December, streets and store windows in all major cities are richly decorated and lighted.  Large Chrëschtbeemchen (Christmas trees) can be found most public squares.  Outdoor Chrëschtmaart (Christmas markets) can be found throughout the country.  From wooden huts that are set up in town squares, a wide variety of locally produced arts and crafts, such as candles, nutcrackers, Christmas tree decorations and manger scenes, are sold.  Glühwein, a popular spiced wine served hot in special mugs, is a regular part of the menu at Christmas markets all through Europe.  Foods to be purchased may include various soups (with or without Mettwurscht, a local sausage specialty), crepes, fresh bakery goods and Lëtzebuerger Grillwurscht, another type of sausage.  Concerts are given in bandstands and on special stages set up for the Christmas markets. Local bands, brass quartets, string trios, choirs, and soloists all contribute to the holiday atmosphere.  To get an idea of the beauty of the Christmas market in Luxembourg City, check out this short video: Luxembourg Christmas market . (My bags are packed!)

Countdown to Christmas 2016 - Week 7 - Peru

Traditional Peruvian Nativity; photo courtesy of Serrv - Creating Connections

 

 

 

Christmas traditions in Peru date back to 1535 to when the country was pillaged by the Spaniards (although the native Quechuans in the Andes have always maintained a strong cultural identity). Due to the huge Spanish influence, the majority of the population practices Catholicism to this day.  Peru is south of the equator so December is actually the first month of summer.  Since the first day of summer comes just shortly before Christmas, on December 21, Christmas decorations with a snow motif is somewhat peculiar to most people (unless you live in the highlands of the Andes, of course).  This is why the traditional Santa Claus, dressed in heavy red coat, pants, hat and boots  and hat, is not much of a tradition in Peru.  Additionally, the Peruvian government banned Santa Claus in 1972 because they believed that he was a depiction of western capitalism, greed and an anti-Christian myth.

Countdown to Christmas 2016 - Week 6 - Iceland

Jólasveinarnir (Yule Lads) - photo courtesy of Iceland 24

 

In Iceland, Christmas (called Yule or Jól) festivities start at 6 pm on Christmas Eve, December 24th, and last until Twelfth Night (Epiphany, January 6th). In the high north, Christmas is linked to ancient traditions related to the winter solstice, called Yule.  Celebrations took place on a full moon during the time of year when the day was shortest. Not much is known about how the feast was celebrated then except that Icelandic chieftains were in the habit of inviting scores of people to Yule drinking and eating feasts.  Later, Yule was superseded by the celebration of the birth of Christ with the coming of Christianity around 1000 AD.

Countdown to Christmas 2016 - Week 5 - Portugal

 

In Portugal, Christmas is celebrated with festive fun, but since it is a predominantly Catholic country, there is also much solemnity to the holiday.  A family Christmas tradition is setting up the presépio (nativity scene), the representation of Christ's birth in the stable at Bethlehem. While some families keep the creche simple, displaying only the Holy Family, many set up elaborate scenes, including the Three Kings, shepherds and the sheep, angels, other animals, lakes (made with mirrors) and hills (made with stones, moss, and clay).  The materials used to decorate the presépio are traditionally collected by the children.  A few days before Christmas Eve, the Baby Jesus is taken out of the manger.

 

Countdown to Christmas 2016 - Week 4 - Kenya

 

 

Since Kenya is predominantly a Christian country (approximately 82%), the celebration of Christmas is very important. A few days before Christmas, a mass migration of people from the cities and other parts of Kenya is made, back to the villages of their parents’ home in the "upcountry." Family members and relatives all congregate to celebrate.  For many people, this is the only time of the year they have the chance to see their families, so it is a very important time to reconnect.

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