With seven months to go until the Olympics, we thought it was a good time to think about the other contestants and opposing countries. Keeping in the festive spirit we wanted to find out how a few other countries and regions celebrated Christmas, exploring some of the more interesting traditions.
Here are our three favourites….
In Bethlehem, where Jesus is said to have been born, is the site of the Church of the Nativity. On Christmas Eve, there is an annual dramatic procession, led by galloping horsemen and police mounted on Arabian horses. They are followed by a single horseman carrying a cross and sitting across a coal black steed, who is in turn followed by churchmen and government officials.
The procession then enters the church and places an ancient effigy of the Holy Child in the Church, deep in a grotto where visitors also find a silver star marking the site of the birth of Jesus.
Brazil, with its Portuguese roots takes most of its Christmas customs from its original heritage. One of their many interesting traditions in Northern Brazil, is a traditional folk play, ‘Los Pastores’, where the shepherdesses and a gypsy attempt to kidnap the Christ Child.
For Britain, Scandinavia is where the most of our yule log traditions derive. Yuletide, meaning ‘the turning of the sun’ or winter solstice has traditionally been a time of extreme importance in Scandinavia, when fortunes for the coming year were determined and when the dead were thought to walk the earth. For a long time it was even considered dangerous to sleep along on Christmas Eve and the extended family and servants would sleep together on a fresh bed of straw.
The Yule log was traditionally an entire tree, which was brought into the house with great ceremony. The bottom end of the tree would be placed into the hearth while the rest of the tree would extend into the room. The tree would be slowly fed into the fire and the entire process would be carefully times to last the entire Yule season.
For more interesting facts about the Olympics and the worldwide competitors, take a look at our previous monthly updates and stay tuned for our next update, January 27th.