Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Travel the World: Christmas Part Four

We begin our journey today by visiting Brazil. Christmas in Brazil comes at the beginning of summer. In fact, Christmas is during their summer vacation. But the warm temperatures don't keep Santa--a.k.a. Papai Noel--from wearing his typical red suit, black boots, white beard, and jolly smile. Papai Noel may ride in a helicopter instead of a sleigh and reindeer, but he visits children nonetheless on Christmas Eve leaving presents wherever he goes. There are several things unique about Christmastime in Brazil. Pre-Christmas activities include shopping, visiting various places to see Papai Noel, buying and decorating Christmas trees, setting up the family's nativity scene or presepio. Special meals and church services are also a part of the culture. The big meal, or feast, is typically served an hour or two before Midnight Mass, or Mass of the Rooster, or else it is served following the service. Some people even opt to enjoy Mass from the convenience of their homes by watching the Vatican Mass on TV. A part of this special holiday meal is the traditional treat rabanada. It is just one of many special treats or desserts shared during the Holidays. Because the weather is so nice out, sometimes Papai Noel hides Christmas gifts outside much like an Easter Egg hunt. But this is just one of his options in delivering gifts. Because most people were up late, Christmas is usually a day of rest and relaxation. Many celebrate by going to the beach. Or by having a barbecue or picnic. Christmas is a day for spending time with one's family. But the celebrations are just beginning. They have many activities to awaken the New Year in style. There are parties, and a special international race, and so much more packed into just a few days. January 6th, Three Kings Day, is the final day of the Holiday celebrations. However, preparations at this point are already being made to prepare for their big Carnival in February. So Christmas in many ways is just the start of party season.

The other country of the day is also a continent. Australia. Christmas in Australia. For some reason, I was disappointed in this title in the World Book series. I'm not exactly sure why. It was informative, but not lively. The book sometimes seemed a bit too specific. The whole book was spent jumping from region to region, city to city. I was able to gather some basic information of course: Christmas is in the summer season; school lets out a week or so before Christmas; most holiday activities are held outdoors; sporting events are an important part of the holiday celebrations; they prefer their turkey cold rather than hot. But while most of the other books in the series focused on the religious aspects of the holidays--advent, church services, nativity scenes, the birth of Christ, Three Kings Day, etc. This one barely mentioned a spiritual side at all. It was all about surfing and swimming and drinking lemonade. Maybe I was a little Christmased out though, so give this one a chance if you've got easy access to it in your local library.

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