How do they celebrate Christmas in Greenland?

starChristmas trees have to be imported, mostly from Denmark, because trees don’t grow that far north. Every village puts a tree on the nearest hilltop so that everybody can see it, and then people decorate their own Christmas trees on 23rd December. Most houses also have an illuminated star in their windows. It doesn’t get light in the winter in this part of the world, so these stars look especially festive in the darkness.

Greenland is believed to be where Santa lives, and so children write him letters which are delivered to the post office in the capital city, Nuuk. Santa gets around by sleigh in Greenland, but he doesn’t need his flying reindeer here so it is pulled by dogs instead.

white parkaThere are church services on Christmas Eve, and the people usually wear either their national costumes, or the famous ‘white parkas’ to show that this is a festive occasion.

On Christmas Day, the men look after the women and serve their meals – even stirring their coffee for them! Traditional foods eaten at Christmas are mattak (whale skin with blubber), kiviak (the raw flesh of little auks, which is wrapped in seal skin and left to decompose), fish and stew dishes.

If you want to wish someone a happy Christmas you would say “Juullimi Ukiortaassamilu Pilluarit.”

New Year is celebrated twice in Greenland – once at 8pm when 1st January arrives in Denmark, and again at midnight. On both occasions fireworks are set off, sometimes accompanied by the Northern Lights!

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How do they celebrate Christmas in South Africa?

This is a guest post from my lovely husband, Ian.

Christmas in South Africa is celebrated in different ways, as you would expect from a country with such cultural diversity.  The main differences are between white “European” and black “African” celebrations.  However, what they all have in common is the fact that Christmas is a holiday in the summer, as South Africa is in the Southern hemisphere.  It is one of the main holiday seasons for local people, and children have a month of school holiday.  This means that the only snow is on Christmas cards, with normal Christmas weather being hot and sunny.

santaWhite South Africans celebrate in ways that are familiar to us in Britain, reflecting the fact that the country was a British colony for many years.  People decorate their houses with fir trees, colourful lights and decorations.  They might even use cotton wool around their windows – this is as close as they can get to a “white Christmas”!  The most distinctive decorations are the beautiful South African flowers, which are in full bloom at this time of year and give a fantastic colourful look to the festive season.  Children hang their stockings up, hoping to get gifts from Father Christmas.

As in Britain, Christmas is a time for getting together with family and friends for meals and parties.  Christmas dinner is often roast turkey or beef, with mince pies and plum pudding to follow.  While the food is familiar, the difference is that most people eat Christmas dinner outside in the sunshine, and many even have a “braai”, or barbecue, a much-loved part of South African culture.  Many people make the most of the summer weather by heading into the countryside for picnics, swimming in lakes, family sports or visits to game reserves in some areas.  Some families even like to go camping over Christmas.

In rural African communities, celebrations are a mixture of Western and local traditions.  Church services and family celebrations are more important than the more commercial aspects of the festivities.  In small villages, the whole community gets together to celebrate, and the women join forces to brew beer and prepare food for everyone.  Traditionally, though, the men cook the meat to show that they have provided for their families.  Singing and dancing are a very important part of the festivities.  Boxing Day is when gifts are normally exchanged, and tend to be practical items rather than luxury goods – household products for adults, school books or clothes for children.

No matter what cultural tradition South Africans come from, Christmas is a special occasion, and an opportunity to spend enjoyable days with family and friends, making the most of the wonderful summer weather and beautiful countryside.

Ian works as a Blue Badge Tourist Guide and as a German to English translator. Even though I could be accused of being biased, I have to say that he is excellent at both! If you don’t believe me, book a place on his Tolkien coach tour in January and see for yourself!

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