Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Travel the World: Christmas Part One

Today is the very first in a five part series on Christmas celebrations around the world. Most of the 'featured' books are books from a series published by World Book in the 1990s.

Christmas in France (1996)

In this title, the reader learns about Christmas (Noel) customs both past and present. Highlights include reflections on Christmas Eve mass and the accompanying "reveillon", the importance of the creche or manger scene including descriptions of clay santons. The book covers it all from decorations to music to the Christmas Eve visit of Pere Noel to the New Years day celebration where adults finally exchange gifts or etrennes. The book is full of facts and photographs. While I'm not sure many would pick up this book 'just for the fun of it,' I'm sure it comes in useful for school assignments and such. Overall, it had plenty of I-didn't-know-that facts to keep it interesting. My favorite part? The last section entitled "Christmas the French Way" which included recipes, crafts, and songs. (Though the chances of me ever voluntarily consuming Roast Goose with Prune and Pate stuffing OR Baked Red Cabbage is so minute it could be said to not exist at all.) One of the more amusing things, and I don't know how well it will show up that it shows that toddlers can be terrified of Santa in any culture. The boy looks like he's terrified! Here is a typical spread:

I won't always be doing this. I would imagine that each book is fairly laid out the same. But I wanted you to get a 'feel' for what the series is like.

Christmas in Spain (1996)

Christmas in Spain is a real treat of a book. It offers much for readers young and old. (I'm not necessarily saying Christmas in France was a bad read, but, comparing the two...well, it's easy to see that Christmas in Spain is well written and well organized. There is a big difference between the two titles when it comes down to it.) This book is just a fascinating read. Text, photos, recipes, and crafts. What more could you ask for really? Did you know that in Spain it is all about the Three Kings? That the 'big' day of the year is Epiphany, January 6th? That children will write letters to the Three Kings and everything? That they go to malls and shopping centers to stand in line to chat with The Three Kings? And oh the food, the descriptions of the foods--from turron to churros to roscon, to flan and marzipan--they're wonderful. And the songs and dances. Who knew there was such a thing as the Dance of the Sixes or that people get together to dance the sardana in large groups? This book recounts traditions and customs old and new and reports on the variances between provinces. And there is even a glossary of Spanish terms related to the holidays! Overall, this one is just too fun to miss. In case you're curious, the recipes in the back of this one sound much more kid-friendly. (Medias Lunas de Nueces [nut crescents], Pastel de Navidad [Christmas nut cups], Chocolate a la Espanola [Spanish style hot chocolate], and Almendrados [almond cookies] just to name a few.)


soleil said...

i spent a christmas in france a few years ago. they leave their shoes under the tree and in the morning your presents are under your shoe. of course i didn't know about this and was very bewildered when my shoe was requested for on christmas eve.

i am excited to read the rest of your 'christmas in. . .'
series. i love this kind of stuff.

Melissa said...

I'd never heard of these before I got married, but my husband's mother collected a bunch of them through the 70s and 80s. He loved them as a kid. One Christmas, she gave us the entire collection, because Hubby was the only one who actually read them. We've added to them over the years, a book here and a book there. I don't think we have Spain, though. My favorite is either Christmas in the early Americas or Austria, but they're all lovely.

Becky said...


The ones I've read so far are great. I checked them out of the library. I don't think they have the whole set though. And they didn't have Austria. I would love to eventually track them all down. I am really getting fascinated reading all of this stuff.