Tradition Tours

By Amanda Pizzolatto (Rated G)

“Hello, welcome to Tradition Tours!” the stewardess said brightly. “Thank you for choosing to travel the world with us. We have a few special guests with us today, natives of the countries we’re going to visit. Our first stop is Germany, and I’ll let our German guest take over from here.”

“Thank you, stewardess. To begin, I would like to say Guten Tag which means good morning in German. To start things off right, we have what’s called an Advent wreath. We set it up four Sundays before Christmas, a wreath made of pine branches and four candles: three purple and one pink, or rose-colored. One purple candle is lit on the first Sunday of Advent, two purple candles for the second Sunday of Advent, two purple and the rose on the third Sunday of Advent, and all four on the fourth Sunday of Advent. Now, the rose candle for the third Sunday has great significance because the Third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is a Latin word meaning rejoice; the Sunday’s readings start with the word. Purple is the color of royalty, and a color of suffering, while the rose color indicates a time of rejoicing amidst a time of reflection and preparation for the coming holiday. As for the big day itself, parents put up the tree on Christmas Eve, when all the children are asleep, sometimes with the help of der Weihnachtsmann, better known as Santa Claus or Father Christmas, who brings the gifts that night as well. That way, when the children wake up on Christmas morn, the tree and the presents are already there, to their delight. And yes, the Christmas tree started in Germany; you can thank us for that. Danke for your time!”

Danke for your time!” the stewardess responded. “Our next stop is much different from the snow-capped mountains of Germany. We’re heading to the outback of Australia, and here is the man from Australia himself!”

“Thanks mate, and you are right, things in the outback are very different from those cozy mountainsides back in Germany. Sure, we have a few mountains of our own, but they are very different indeed. In fact, in Australia, December comes in the summertime. Lucky, you might say, not so for us Australians, it gets pretty darn hot down there in the summer, so instead of snow-capped mountains and white Christmases, we get a green Christmas instead in the middle of a blistering heat, well, if you can call it a green Christmas, it’s more like a brown Christmas, if anything. So, instead of sitting by a fire sipping tea or hot chocolate and getting a hot meal, we’ve got a barbecue rolling for a fun day at the beach! Oh, and Santa don’t wear a fur-lined coat, he can’t – too hot – so he switches to cooler clothes and swaps out his reindeer for kangaroos, or even the six white boomers! Take that for something different!”

“Wow that really is different!” the stewardess agreed. “Thanks, mate! Time to head on to our next destination, Japan! Things are really different over there, as our Japanese friend is here to tell us.”

“Hai, hai, konnichiwa mina-san! Good day to you all! Stewardess-san is correct; things are rather different, though we do have snow-capped mountains, by the sea! It is a rather romantic spot for many, in fact, for many couples, Christmas Eve is celebrated much like Valentine’s Day, with an exchange of presents, walking through the streets to look at the Christmas lights, and going out to eat. Speaking of eating, we like to have fried chicken and Christmas cake, but it’s not a rich fruit cake, it is usually a sponge cake decorated with strawberries and whipped cream, or trees, flowers, and Santa Claus for the children. Sounds good, right? You should come to Japan to try out our tasty treats! But other besides that, we do have Christmas trees, Christmas cards, and Christmas presents. However, Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, so schools and businesses are normally open on December 25th. You might think that odd, but Christmas is not a big religious holiday in Japan. Perhaps with some time, it can become so.”

“Thank you for all of that information!” the stewardess said. “We must move on to our next destination, Nigeria. Are you ready for a little African flavor? Well, here is our Nigerian guide!”

“Thank you, madam, thank you. Things are a little different here than in most places, we tend to have a party all night long on Christmas Eve before heading to Mass on Christmas morn! Christmas Day is typically celebrated mainly between friends and family. Some people travel for miles to celebrate Christmas with their family, though the church choir may visit the homes of the congregation for some Christmas carols around an artificial Christmas tree. Our Christmas dinner has turkey, beef, goat, sheep, ram and/or chicken. Other dishes might include pounded yam, jollof rice, fried rice, vegetable salad and some type of stew, it can vary. I think that is the most of it.”

“Thank you! That was certainly most interesting; I never knew that,” the stewardess told him. “Well, it’s time for our next stop, Chile! I wonder what our Chilean guide has to say about Christmas in South America.”

“Not much, I’m afraid. We are in the southern hemisphere much like my Australian friend here, so Christmas comes in the summertime for us as well. Santa is dressed much the same and we do have barbecues. And we have recently been able to afford Christmas lights, so we’ve started competing in light shows! Those are certainly fun to do and see. We do celebrate Advent much like the Germans do, and nine days before Christmas we participate in a nine-day prayer called a novena. You can use any prayer, basically, even the Mass, but it has to be for nine consecutive days, this one typically ending on Christmas Eve. Then we have the Midnight Mass and the opening of all the presents! Children are allowed to go around their neighborhood right afterwards to show off their new toys! It’s lots of fun, though people sleep for most of the next day! Is that enough, yes?”

“That’s wonderful!” the stewardess exclaimed. “It must be a lot of fun for the children to be able to stay up all night! I know my children would love it. But it’s time to head off to a nearby country, one I’m sure you must know rather well, Mexico! Here is our Mexican guide.”

“Gracias, señora stewardess, gracias. Buenas dias! I hope you will like the traditions of Mexico! It seems to me that we have more than my Chilean friend, though we do have several we share, thanks to the Spanish influence. We do have Nativity scenes that we call nacimiento that are put out instead of Christmas trees, though trees are becoming popular now. And we have what we call Las Posadas, a procession that takes place over a period of nine days, basically from December 16th to Christmas Eve, commemorating the journey of Joseph and Mary as they search for an inn to spend the night. The children go around the streets with a cardboard cutout of Joseph and Mary and knock at various houses, but are turned away. When the children are finally welcomed into a home, there is a party afterwards. On Christmas Eve, baby Jesus and shepherds are added to the cardboard scene before everyone heads off to Midnight Mass. And the children don’t get just presents from Santa Claus; they’re also visited by the three Wise Men on Epiphany!”

“Wow! That’s a lot of presents!” the stewardess commented. “I bet the children are happy, though, and it sounds like a lot of fun! Alright, we’re heading to our next and final stop, the United States of America! And I shall be your guide – welcome to my country! We have a little bit of everything: German traditions, Mexican traditions, Nigerian traditions, Japanese traditions, even traditions from many other parts of the world. But that makes sense, for we are a country of many races thanks to immigration. We have the usual, Santa Claus coming to town, lights on the house for several competitions, ornaments on the tree, presents under the tree, family and friends around the dinner table, just having a good old time. However, it sounds like we don’t celebrate it as long as some countries, but it is a national holiday unlike others. Whatever the case may be, however you celebrated Christmas, I hope your holiday was filled with love and cheer! And thank you for traveling with Tradition Tours! Have fun, and don’t forget to take a fresh look at your own traditions!”

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