Merry Christmas Friends,
I shall be spending the holidays with quite an assortment of friends and family this year, from the far corners of the world and some places that one would never be able to place upon a map. My humble abode will be chockablock with no less than sixteen people representing six different countries, with the oldest being Uncle Gordon, who fought in the Italian Campaign, and my nephew’s imminent arrival, who might make an unexpected early appearance during these Christmas holidays.
In honour of this coming together of cultures, we take a look at Christmas across the world. I’ll be checking in post-Boxing Day, so until then, cherish the friendly faces you will spend the holidays with, and as always, love the life you live.
Arabella May Biddle
In Peru, Christmas is celebrated at midnight on the night of December 24th and the morning of December 25. Children sleep all day so they can stay up to midnight, when traditionally the Christchild was born, to celebrate with fireworks. Peruvians also eat a kind of bread called panettone, which contains raisins and fruit in various markets.
In Uganda, the celebrants go to church and meet their families, but what differs is the type of celebration. Ugandans like to eat, drink and be very, very merry, and a lot of people can be seen dancing in the streets. A traditional meal is Luwombo, consists of smoked or baked meat, potatoes, bananas, and a mixture of spices and herbs wrapped in banana leaves and roasted. Amaranthus is collected to decorate the home, because of it’s brilliant red colour.
Mandatory for Christmas in Sweden and Denmark is a candle-trimmed Silver fir tree. Norwegian spruce is the slightly cheaper option for some families. Sweden and Denmark serve traditional foods such as herring, yams, and marzipan. Danes, who celebrate Christmas on the 24th, have a nice treat called Ris al’a Mande, a spiced rice pudding, that comes with a game included. The person receiving the serving containing a hidden almond must try to hide it from the inquisitive faces gathered around the table for as long as possible. There is usually a prize given to the winner. In Sweden you might enjoy surströmming, a fish soup served with slices of mandarin.
Although they share many similar traditions with their cousins in the United Kingdom, Australia has some key differences—most obviously, the weather. Christmas in Australia can take place on the beach, where children change the lyrics to “Jingle Bells” to include “Jingle Bells, jingle all the way. Christmas in Australia on a hot summer day, hey!”
Traditional holiday plants in Australia include Blandfordia grandiflora and Blandfordia nobilis (see photo), the large and slightly smaller types of Liliaceae, and the Christmas Bush, Bursaria spinosa, which is a thorny shrub that produces wonderful quantities of white flowers just in time for late December.
Perhaps the best known of all Christmas plants is the Poinsettia, which many people don’t realize comes from Mexico, where it is called Flor de Noche Buena. When you place yours in the drawing room, take a moment to think of Joel Poinsett, the first United States ambassador to Mexico, who imported the plant to the US and started the entire process.
Another Mexican Christmas tradition is Atole, a warm sweet beverage thickened with cornmeal. It sounds so delightful we’ve included the recipe below. Enjoy!
- Milk or water — 5 cups
- Cornmeal or Masa harina — 1/2 cup
- Brown sugar — 1/4 cup
- Cinnamon — 1/2 teaspoon
- Vanilla — 1 teaspoon
- Chocolate shavings – as desired
- Whisk the milk or water, masa harina, sugar and cinnamon in a large saucepan until smooth.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to stir until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and most of the chocolate. Sprinkle remaining chocolate shavings on top. Serve hot in mugs.