Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays - and what they all mean

Santa Claus
The dhredel
Christmas trees
The Nativity

All of them are symbols of the holiday season. Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, Kwanza - December is a sacred month for several belief systems. Understanding why some thing are relevant, and to which belief system can be a challenge for any child, even more so for an autistic child who has trouble making connections.

My friend asked me to search for one book that explained all of the season's stories in simple easy to understand language. She wanted a book that not only dealt with the belief systems but also discussed the numerous stories that are told at this time of year - Father Christmas, Black Pete, and Frosty just to name the first three that popped into my head.

I couldn't find such a book. So my challenge to you, and myself, is to share a holiday story or tradition. I'm going to spend the year gathering them all together(a task I suspect could actually take much longer) as a gift for my friend's son next year. Different cultures celebrate in a multitude of ways. This young man, is questioning all of them. I'd like to give him some answers.

Have a wonderful holiday season!


  1. I've never even heard of Black Pete. Shows what I know.

    I don't know of a book that meets this requirement, but if there is one, I bet it's in Powells... which you need to come visit again...

  2. A great idea.

    Give me time to think and I'll come back with stories and/or a book that fits your parameter and/or links.

  3. Merry Christmas, CMS! I guess this has become one of my "new" traditions -- taking time to visit the blogs of friends and wish them the peace and joy of the season. The sentiments are nearly universal, but the practice? Not quite sure how you're going to explain that to anyone, much less a child.

    Hope you're spending the day with family and friends, and that you got all your various crafts completed in time. Knowing how dedicated you are, if you didn't, I'm sure it wasn't for lack of trying!

    Have a beautiful and joyous holiday -- and give your mom a hug from me!

    pawarshu: a new kind of yarn, perfect for spinning, and found only on the internet

  4. From
    Bring your roller skates to Caracas, Venezuela, where they block the streets on Christmas Eve so that locals can roller-skate to church for Christmas service.

    Don't swat the tree in Ukraine, where a fake spider and spider's web are placed on Christmas trees for decoration. It is believed that a spider web found on Christmas morning is a sign of good luck for the coming year.

    On Christmas Eve in Norway, all the brooms in the house are hidden because it was believed that witches and evil spirits would come out on this night to steal their brooms for riding.

    Make a wish when stirring in all the ingredients for Christmas pudding in England - but it will only come true if you stir in a clockwise direction.

    In Japan, it's considered bad luck to give red Christmas cards or envelopes as funeral notices are usually written in red.

    In Italy, locals celebrate Christmas - not by decorating a Christmas tree with tinsel and ornaments - but by decorating small wooden pyramids with fruit.

    When in Belgium, you celebrate two Santa Clauses: St. Nicholas, the Santa that spies on children to sort them into naughty and nice; and Pere Noel, who does all the Christmas delivery work.

    In Brazil, it's believed that Santa lives in Greenland, that the shepherds that sought out Jesus were actually women, and that the animals in the manger spoke when Jesus was born.

    The oldest Christmas tradition in Estonia takes place on Christmas Eve when the whole family goes to visit the sauna together.

    In Latvia, "Big Zimmer," the Latvian Santa Claus, brings presents not on just one day, but 12 days in a row. It's also here in Latvia that the Christmas tree tradition was first celebrated, although the holiday doesn't celebrate Jesus, but the re-birth of the Sun Maiden.

    In the town of Urbania, Italy, an ugly witch named La Befana parades around town on her broomstick bringing gifts to children on Christmas Day. The tradition is believed to have come from the Vatican - who couldn't prove the existence of Santa Claus so decided to tell children that it was witches that delivered the presents.

    During the Middle Ages, boar's head was known as a traditional Christmas dish. The custom began when a bear attached a student who saved himself by forcing Aristotle's books into the bear's mouth. The bear choked to death and the student cut off his head and brought it back to college.

    In coastal towns like Brighton and in London's Serpentine Lake in England, many communities take part in a Christmas Day swim in frigid waters.

    On Christmas Eve in Remedios, Cuba, locals celebrate Parrandas, a religious festival remembering the priests who would send altar boys into the streets to bang on pots and pans to awaken the townspeople for mass at midnight.