Colorful seasoning > Greece vs Brazil

Each culture celebrates the holidays differently. But you don’t have to go to another country to find a family welcoming the New Year with their own tradition.

For some it begins on Christmas Eve. For others the party lasts 10 days, and doesn’t start until February. But the feeling of excitement that comes with the holidays transcends all cultures.

“If there’s Latin in your blood, there’s going to be a lot of family and a lot of food,” said Albert DePaoli, an Italian Woburn resident. DePaoli said Italians and other Latin cultures get the whole family together and eat for Christmas.

“It really starts on Christmas Eve,” DePaoli said. “Usually, there’s a meal based with fish. Fish is the center of attention, or it has been, traditionally. Then on Christmas there’s anything and everything.”

A church service is carefully fit into Christmas Eve, either at 4:30, 7:30 or midnight, DePaoli said. Church on Christmas Eve is a common tradition. Hugo Moraes, owner of the downtown restaurant A Taste of Brazil, said because Catholicism is important in Brazil, there are church services throughout the day on Christmas Eve.

“In Brazil, [Christmas] is very big,” Moraes said. Moraes said Christmas is similar to the way it is celebrated in the United States. Brazilians have a Santa Claus tradition, and children go to bed early and discover the next morning that he has brought them gifts in the night. “Our Christmas is like here,” Moraes said. “Santa in the mall and the same food.”

Moraes said Brazilians will traditionally eat similar foods as Americans. Turkey, stuffing, rice, pork loin and fruitcake are all offered in a Brazilian Christmas celebration.

The Greek Orthodox Church focuses on the holy aspect of Christmas. The Rev. Dr. Peter G. Rizos, pastor of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on Montvale Avenue, noted that Christmas is a high holy day.

“It is a festive occasion, preceded traditionally by a 40-day period of fasting,” Rizos said. “Christmas is a very special family occasion, when people get together with their loved ones to exchange gifts, and also to make donations to various charities as an expression of the Lord’s love for the world.”

DePaoli agreed that Christmas is a time for family. Everyone in the family meets at the same place every year, and everyone brings something different, which is part of why there is always so much food.

“Everybody’s usually at the same house, one traditional place everybody meets,” DePaoli said. “For 10 to 20 years, that will be the meeting place. Then people get older and a new place [is established] for the next generation.”

For Brazilians living in America, however, it’s a little different. Moraes said there are many who have family still living in Brazil, and whom they may not see for the holidays. But that doesn’t stop them from celebrating. Groups of friends will gather at one house, Moraes said, each of them bringing something different to eat.

DePaoli’s family is the same. There is always something different because everyone in the family wants to be unique.

“Usually, certain people get earmarked for certain things,” he said. “Someone will make the absolute best stuffed mushrooms, so you want them to bring those. “Someone else makes a killer cookie, so they’re the ones that are gong to bring the Christmas cookies.”

For the Greek Orthodox Church, the celebration doesn’t end with Christmas, however.

“In the Orthodox church, the celebration of Christmas is in conjunction with the feast day of Epiphany,” Rizos said. “[Epiphany] commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river by St. John the Baptist.”

Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6, is a fast-free, celebratory time, Rizos explained.

Traditions are significant to people, and carrying them on from generation to generation is the most important.

“At one time being proud of your heritage wasn’t a good thing,” DePaoli said. “There are some benefits in the traditions of old. The more pride you take in them the longer they’ll last.”

New Year’s > Just a week after Christmas comes New Year’s. Though it’s another momentous holiday, for the people just finishing Christmas celebrations, New Year’s is not as big. DePaoli said he and his family will order Chinese food, and sometimes go to a movie. At midnight, he will watch the ball drop in New York, and go to bed. But in Brazil, the New Year is celebrated with a little more gusto.

“For New Year’s, we have a big meal early,” Moraes said. “Then you go to restaurants and clubs. After midnight, we have champagne.”

Some people, Moraes said, are very superstitious on New Year’s Eve. Some will dress in all white, with the hopes of having a peaceful new year. Others will wear red for luck in love, or yellow for money. Some people take it very seriously, he said, dressing right down to their underwear in one color.

For the Chinese culture, the holiday season doesn’t start until late January or February. The Chinese New Year is what they celebrate; Christmas and New Year’s are just another day. Howard Wong, an employee of Oriental Chinese Restaurant downtown, said the Chinese New Year celebration lasts 10 days, with a party every night.

“We pray to gods and ancestors,” Wong said. “And people wear a new coat, or get a new haircut.”

Each night there is an envelope with money inside for single, unmarried family members. The Chinese New Year is their culture’s biggest holiday, and family members from all over come back to their parent’s house to celebrate.