Friday, 24 December 2010

So this is Christmas...

Merry Christmas to all my readers out there! For some of you, it is Christmas morning already, and I have a very excited six year old buzzing around me here on the farm who is jealous of you and eagerly awaiting Santa.

On my travels here I have spent time with people from various parts of the globe, and encountered Christmas traditions I have never heard of. So I thought I'd do a special Noel post sharing with you some of the bizarre (guess they're just bizarre to me) traditions I've experienced.

Santa Lucia with her eyes
on a plate...
 In the first few weeks of my stay I couchsurfed with a gent named Michel from Italy, who told me the story af Santa Lucia, the patron saint for the blind. You can find her face in opticians across the land of Europe, mainly Scandinavia, so this tradition stretches a little further than Italy. Pictures of her show her carrying her own eyes on a plate or in her hands. Pretty harrowing eh?!
But what does this have to do with the festive season I hear you cry?! Santa Lucia's day is celebrated on December 13th, with her bringing gifts to children on the night of December 12th. But she is not alone in her tasks! She arrive in the company of a donkey and her escort, Castaldo, and you you leave coffee, flour and bread. (Not as lucky as Santa and his mince pies! Lucy is just given coffee to keep her going with all her deliveries!)
Like several other traditions, Lucia brings gifts to good children and coal to bad ones. Unlike several other traditions, children must not watch Santa Lucia delivering gifts or she will throw ashes in their eyes, temporarily blinding them. What a way to shut the kids up and send them to bed.
Saint Nikolaus

In Germany, good old Saint Nic is much more a part of their Christmas celebration, as I was told by my friend Katja, who I also stayed with in Vancouver. On the night of December 5th, children put a boot or shoe (called a Nikolaus boot or Nikolaus-Stiefel. Of course, what else!) outside their front door, in which Saint Nikolaus pours presents into. If you've been a bad child, you receive a tree branch, not quite a punishment as the coal others are used to.

Saint Nikolaus is rumoured in some stories to have an accomplice, Knecht Ruprecht, who would threaten to beat children if they misbehaved. Some of these European traditions are a bit brutal for my liking! Although I suspect a few of the more unsavoury parts of these stories may have dissolved into nothing in recent years. You can't so flippantly threaten to beat children nowadays!

As for Canada, my current location, there's not so much to report. Those of you reading from my motherland or America aren't missing out on any fascinating Christmas occurances from the Great White North. However, I am pleased to say I attended one of the most fantastic traditions here in Abbotsford, and that was the Drive-Thru Nativity. Oh yeah, I thought drive-thru Starbucks was a bit extreme, but now people apparently don't even bother to get out of their cars for special festive productions anymore! Only in North America eh?!

A scene from the
Drive-Thru Nativity
 Having said that, it was incredibly enjoyable. Live actors portraying the Christmas story for you whilst you relax in the warm comfort of your own vehicle.
So, for all of you out there feeling a tiny pang of homesickness from being away from home, just remember that you're out here having the time of your life! A Christmas not to be forgotten that's for sure. Festive greetings to my fellow backpackers and all those reading this from home. Have a sweet one!

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