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December 02, 1958 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1958-12-02

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Celebration Centers on Family

Latin. Americans
Enjoy Balmy Yule

S~ ~ 7

Make I
one of

By CAROLE SCHEMM Christmas has also been frowned
"We struggle against religion," upon.
Nickolay Lenin said shortly after In the old days the Upenski
the Bolshevik revolution in 1917- Cathedral in Kiev and the St.
but the celebration of Christmas Petersburg Cathedral in Moscow
were the centers of Christmas
in Russia has continued despite activity. Pilgrimages were taken
the struggle. to Kiev and Moscow to pay homage
The Russians under the tsars to St. Nicholas, patron saint of
had observed the Christian holiday most of Russia.
because the church and state were A blessing, given the pilgrims by!
the heads of the two cathedrals,
dbreetny united. Under Cem-was similar to the blessing given
nism religion has been de-em- the Roman Catholics by the Pope.
phasized as much as possible. Koutia Traditional
Family activities began on the
day before Christmas when the
mother prepared her evening meal
of wheaten cakes, Koutia, and
baked fish. Fish was served be-
cause it was the first symbol of
E Christianity. In the afternoon the
children decorated the Christmas
D ' tree with candy, cakes, fruit and
OTHER. candles.
In a traditional ceremony before
the evening meal, the family burn-
his a very merry ed incense and crossed themselves
t&to prepare for the Holy Season. No
'is iehi loud noises were allowed 'during
was. Give him "the meal, but in some sections of
the country the peasants believed
o1 11many that the first to sneeze should be
given a present of a calf of lamb.
pln l esFly S No drinking was permitted ex-
cept for a toast in which the father,
asked God's blessing on each mem-
r d accessories. ber of the family, beginning with
the oldest and ending with the
models. youngest.
ing in traditional festive costumes,
After careful bathing and dress-

. ' }
' , ti,
't ° i ".

blessing at the cathedrals, such as the Cathedral of St. Basil in
Moscow, remains one of the most important parts of the observ-
ance of Christmas in Russia despite the Communist de-emphasis

on religion.
the Russian peasants went to
village churches for the Christmas
Eve service.
During the service the many
pagan spirits from the past were
forgotten because this was the eve
of the Christ Child's birth. Many
devout believers lit candles be-
fore the ikon of St. Nicholas be-
fore returning home to assure a
blessed season.
At home enough food had to be
gathered to last the animals for
the twelve days of the Christmas
season, and likewise enough fire-
place wood for the house. It was
a sin to work during the Christ-
mas season. This was a time to
spend with one's family and

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Russians believed that if they
opened their homes, the doors of
heaven would open at midnight of
these Holy Eves so men could see
the glory of God's home.
Young people paraded through
the streets during the twelve Holy
Days and sang songs which may
have been of a religious nature.
Secular songs and chants from
their pagan background were also
among the favorites. Songs were
sung at parties where traveling
mummers entertained with danc-
ing and plays.
However, when Communism dis-
played its antagonistic attitude
toward Christianity and these
celebrations, the people were
forced to have a less conspicuous
Christmas service. Much of the
pageantry has been dropped.
Churches Reopened
Religion is now a private mat-
ter in Russia, but because of the
great demand by the people, the
churches have been reopened. The
Russian Christian of today is one
who has been able to withstand
the pressure from his government
to forsake Christ.
The blessing at the cathedrals
is still the main point of Russian
worship. The families have main-
tained their observances.
Friends still gather and sing the
old Christmas songs. But -the
atmosphere is very different. Now
Russians wish each other "S
Rozhdestvom Khristovym" (a
Merry Christmas) in a land that
refuses to recognize Christ.

The weather is balmy and
strains of "White Christmas"
sound out of place.
In spite of this, Christmas cus-
toms in the United States and
.Latin America are basically alike.,
The spirit of joy and worship. mid-
night mass, a traditional Christ-
mas dinner, the nacimiento, or
creche, and toys for the children
are traditions on both sides of the
equator. Even the old United
States customs of late store hours
and Christmas bonuses are strong.
i Begin Festivities
Festivities begin nine days be-
fore Christmas in several Latin
American countries. In Venezuela
the Misas de Aguinaldo start on
December 16. Every boy takes his
girl friend to mass at about 5:00
a.m., Rafael Perez of Caracas,
Venezuela, said. Afterwards, they
go roller skating and buy coffee
and a pancake - like food from
small concessions, much as we
buy hot dogs and peanuts at a
football game.
In Mexico, the Posadas begin
on December 16. The Posadas com-
memorate. the journey of Mary
and Joseph to Bethlehem and
their search for a place to stay,
Susana Sotres of Mexico City ex-
plained. Groups of nine families
hold one every night before Christ-
Bear Lighted Candles
Bearing lighted candles, the
people go from house to house
asking for shelter for Mary and
Joseph whose statues they carry.
At the last stop they are invited
to enter the house and the hearts
of the family. Everyone goes in
to praya before the nacimineto.
Afterwards, there is a party.
The children break a gaily-dec-
orated pinata, and scramble for
the candy. "Traditions are getting
lost in Mexico City," Mrs. Sotres
said. "It is very large and very
busy," she continued, "but the
tradition of the posadas is alive."
Celebrate on Eve
The main celebration of Christ-
mas in the United States is De-
cember 25, but in Latin America
it is concentrated on .Christmas
Eve. This is a very special time,
to be spent with the family and
close friends in waiting for the
coming of Christmas.
The Christmas dinner, la cena
de Navidad, is eaten about 11:00
p.m. In Venezuela the dinner con-
sists of turkey, baked ham dec-
orated with pineapple and hayaca,
the traditional holiday food, Perez
Creche Decorates Homes
The nacimiento or creche is a
very important part of Christmas
decorations in all Latin American
homes. The nativity scenes gro '
larger and more elaborate each
year. Sometimes they depict an

most a whole room. Mrs. Perez
The Christmas tree is beautifully
decorated and there are toys for
the children brought, not by Santa
Claus, but by El Nino Jesus,
Many people go to midnight
mass. Misa del Gallo. Gallo means
rooster, and the mass is called this
because it begins at the hour when
the cock begins to crow.
Holiday Parties
During the holidays, there are
many parties and dinces. Since
it is summer. there are picnics and
fireworks, especially in Brazil. In
Argentina, with its quiet and more
religious Christmas, the main fes-
tivities and the exchanging of gifts
are on New Year's.
Latin Amtrican children con-
sider themselves lucky; they have


.. from Latin America

two chances to receive Christias
presents. The second is January 6,
El Dia de los Reyes, Magos. This
Day of the Magi is an especially
important feature of the Christ.
mas celebration in Colombia, Ecu-
ador and Peru.
The night before, the children
set out some hay and water for
the camels of the Magi and leave
their shoes by their bed, in hope
that the kings will bring trinkets
and candy. "And the children are
always sick the day after," Mrs.
Sotres added.

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