Welcome to our first Christmas blog! We thought we’d have a look at how some of the countries that we visit with MAES Therapy celebrate Christmas, explore some of the local traditions and interesting variations on what we are used to in the UK.
Firstly, Christmas in Brazil..
Brazil, as a former Portuguese colony, has many Christmas customs which originate from this heritage, although the country is made up of many other ethnic people.
The nativity scene or Presépio is commonly seen in Brazil, the word originating from the Hebrew word “presepium” which means the bed of straw upon which Jesus first slept in Bethlehem. The Presépio is most common in north-eastern Brazil and presépios are set up in December and displayed in churches, homes, shops and public areas
Father Christmas is known as Papai Noel and, as he traditionally lives in the cold climates of Greenland. When he arrives in Brazil, he usually wears silk clothing when visiting Brazil due to the summer heat!
On to Croatia next…
Due to the variety of influences over the years, both geographically and culturally, Christmas traditions in Croatia are quite varied and diverse. One such tradition is that on St. Lucy’s Day (December 13), the mother of the family plants wheat grains in a round dish or plate and are left to germinate. By Christmas Eve the sprouted grains are around 8 inches tall and are tied in a red, white and blue ribbon which represents the Croatian trobojnic.
For Croatians the big day in the Christmas period is “Badnji Dan” (Christmas Eve Day) and “Badnja Večer” (Christmas Eve night). The term badnjak comes from the old slavic words bodar or badar meaning “to be awake”, hence referring to staying awake all through the night until Christmas Day.
Father Christmas has a number of names in Cratia, Djed Mraz, the Croatian Santa, is also known as Djed Božičnjak. Djed Mraz means Grandfather Frost, and Djed Božičnjak means Grandfather Christmas. These characters are most analogous to Santa Claus, but Croatian’s also have Sveti Nikola, or St. Nicholas who has an important place in Croatia’s Christmas Traditions.
Finally, our friends in Italy…
Christmas in Italy goes on for three weeks, starting eight days before Christmas day and is known as the Novena. During this time, children go from house to house reciting Christmas poems and singing carol’s and Christmas songs.
The nativity crib scene is extremely important in Italy. Using a crib to help tell the Christmas story was made very popular by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 and is held in great importance today and indeed, the city of Naples is world famous for its cribs and crib making.
Father Christmas in Italy is known as Babbo Natale, although most children don’t get their presents until the end of Novena, which is Epiphany and is on January 6th. In Italian tradition, the gifts are delivered by a kind ugly witch called Befana on a broomstick.
So, Joyeux Noël, Frohe Weihnachten, Buon Natal, Feliz Natal, Sretan Bozic, Feliz Navidad .. Merry Christmas wherever you may be!