By: Kaya Derin Ozkan
Christmas, we all celebrate it, and we all love it! The fresh cold air, the presents, and the beautiful decorations. That’s how you celebrate it, right? Going to school with students from over 100 students, Christmas can be quite different. Sure, Christmas in France probably isn’t very different from Christmas in Spain but what about countries like Argentina and Palestine?
Argentina is one of the most European influenced countries in South America. In Argentina, the weather is warm at Christmas. Preparations for Christmas begin very early in December and even in November. Many people in Argentina are Catholic and they also celebrate Advent. Houses are beautifully decorated with lights and wreaths of green, gold, red and white flowers. Red and white garlands are hung on the doors of houses. Christmas trees are also very popular and they are often decorated by 8th December (the feast of the Immaculate Conception – when Catholics celebrate when Jesus was conceived). Some people like to put cotton balls on the Christmas Tree to represent snow! Any tree might be made into a Christmas tree – not just the traditional fir tree! The Nativity scene or ‘pesebre’ is also an important Christmas decoration in Argentina. The pesebre is put near to the Christmas tree. Christmas Cards aren’t common in Argentina and although some people give and receive presents, it’s normally only between close family and friends. It’s a beautiful mixture of the Latino culture and the Christmas spirit.
Palestine, despite the nation being commonly known as a Muslim nation, has a significant Christian population. On Christmas Eve, there is a parade through the town. This is very important to the Christian part of the population. There are bagpipe bands in the parade, which you might not expect! Playing the bagpipes is a tradition left over from when the British army occupied the area between 1920 and 1948. People also dress up as Santa Claus and give out sweets. The streets and main square are decorated with lights. Perhaps the most famous part of Christmas is the Nativity mass in Bethlehem. It is held during the afternoon on Christmas Eve in the Church of the Nativity. The Church is built over the place where it’s traditionally thought that Jesus was born. There’s a small door into the Church called the door of humility. The church was built, by the romans, about 500 years after Jesus was born. The holiest part of the church is the Grotto of the Nativity, which is under the main altar. A silver star marks the place where Jesus was meant to have been born. It had been predicted in the Bible that the Jewish Messiah or Savior (who Palestinian Christians believe Jesus is) would be born in Bethlehem.
Despite all these differences, we all celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Despite all the presents and materialism, Christmas is about being with family and loved ones, and that’s what all these countries have in common – family.