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.

A Multicultural Calendar

December 15 through January 6 > PUERTO RICO: NAVIDADES. Traditional Christmas season begins mid-December and ends on Three Kings Day. Elaborate nativity scenes, carolers, special Christmas foods and trees from Canada and the United States. Gifts given on Christmas Day and on Three Kings Day.

December 26 through January 1 > KWANZAA. American black family observance created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga in recognition of traditional African harvest festivals. Seven-day festival stresses unity of the black family, with a harvest feast (karamu) on the first day and a day of meditation on the final one. “Kwanzaa” means “first fruit” in Swahili.

January 1 > GREECE and CYPRUS: SAINT BASIL’S DAY. Saint Basil’s or Saint Vassily’s feast day observed by Eastern Orthodox Churches. Special traditions in Greece and Cyprus, include serving Saint Basil cakes, called Vasilopitta, each of which contains a coin. Feast day observed on January 14 by Orthodox Churches using the Julian calendar such as the Russian Church.

January 1 > NEW YEAR’S DAY > ANNIVERSARY OF THE OPENING OF ELLIS ISLAND. Opened on this date in 1892. Over the years, more than 20 million immigrants were processed through the stations. Island was also used as a point of deportation as well. In 1932 alone, 20,000 people were deported from there. Closed November 12, 1954 and declared a national park in 1956. Reopened as a museum in 1990.

January 1 > HAITI: INDEPENDENCE DAY. National holiday commemorating the proclamation of independence in 1804. Haiti, occupying the western third of the island Hispaniola (second largest of the West Indies), was a Spanish colony from its discovery by Columbus in 1492 until 1697. Then it was a French colony until independence was declared in 1804.

January 6 > GREECE and CYPRUS: THEOPHANY of the Eastern Orthodox Church is observed in Churches using the Gregorian calendar (January 19 in Churches using the Julian calendar). This feast day celebrates the manifestation of the divinity of Jesus at the time of His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.

January 6 through February 20 > CARNIVAL SEASON. Secular festival preceding Lent. Time of merrymaking and feasting before the austere days of Lenten fasting and penitence (40 weekdays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday). Depending on local custom, the season may start anytime between November 11 and Shrove Tuesday. Celebrations often include theatrical aspects such as masks, costumes and songs. Observed traditionally in Roman Catholic countries from Epiphany through Shrove Tuesday.

January 6 > EPIPHANY OR TWELFTH DAY. Known also as Old Christmas Day and Twelfthtide. On the twelfth day after Christmas, Christians celebrate the visit of the Magi, the first Gentile recognition of Christ. Epiphany of Our Lord, one of the oldest Christian feasts, is observed in Roman Catholic Churches in the United States on a Sunday between January 2 and January 8.

January 6 > ITALY: LA BEFANA. Epiphany festival in which the “Befana,” a kindly witch, bestows gifts on children, toys and candy for those who have been good, or a lump of coal or a pebble for those who have been naughty. Festival begins on the night of January 5 and continues with fairs, parades and other activities.

January 6 > THREE KINGS DAY. Major festival of the Christian Church observed in many parts of the world with gifts, feasting, last lighting of Christmas lights and burning of Christmas greens. Twelfth and last day of the Feast of the Nativity. Commemorates the visit of the Three Wise Neb (Kings or Magi) to Bethlehem.


January 8 > GREECE: MIDWIFE’S DAY OR WOMEN’S DAY. Honors midwives and all women. On this day, women stop their housework while the men do all the chores and look after the children.

January 17 > MEXICO: BLESSING OF THE ANIMALS AT THE CATHEDRAL. Church of San Antonio at Mexico City or Xochimilco provides best sights of chicken, cows and household pets gaily decorated with flowers. (Saint’s Day for San Antonio Abad, patron Saint of domestic animals.)

January 17 > POLAND: LIBERATION DAY. Celebration of 1945 liberation of the city of Warsaw from Nazi oppression on this day by Soviet troops. Special ceremonies at the Monument to the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw’s Victory Square (which had been called Adolf Hitler Platz during the German occupation).

January 17 > SAINT ANTHONY’S DAY. Feast day honoring Egyptian hermit who became the first Christian monk and who established communities of hermits; patron Saint of domestic animals and Patriarch of all monks. Lived about AD 251-354.

January 20 > FIRST OF MUHARRAM. Islamic New Year.

January 29 > ASHURA: TENTH DAY. For Shia Muslims, commemorates death of Muhammad’s grandson at the Battle of Karbala. A time of fasting, reflection and meditation. Jews of Medina fasted on the tenth day in remembrance if their salvation from Pharoah.

February 14 > VALENTINE’S DAY.

February 18 > CHINESE NEW YEAR.


February 21 > ASH WEDNESDAY.


A world record > SMS messages to hit all-time highs

Posted On December 29, 2006

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Airwide Solutions announced expectations of an all-time peak in SMS volumes during the upcoming New Year’s celebrations.

Volumes typically increase each year, but this year Airwide predicts higher than average increases in SMS volumes, particularly in countries with developing mobile networks, such as Eastern Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia. In addition to this, a number of Airwide’s operator customers are making improvements in their messaging infrastructure specifically for the coming festive peaks.

This year, the race is on around the world to reach the 200 million SMS message milestone. The U.K. is the most likely contender, with Airwide anticipating New Year celebration SMS volumes to easily exceed 200 million, up from 165 million last year. However, Poland’s fast growing mobile penetration and high number of expatriates now living in Western Europe contribute to expectations of 200 million text messages, up from 147 million last year. Despite the main celebration in China being during Chinese New Year later in the year, Airwide expects SMS volumes for the 31st December to 1st January celebrations in Beijing and Shanghai to each reach the same figure of 200 million.

On a more modest level, but still topping previous growth, Australia could reach 30 million SMS messages as this year the country is poised to exceed the 100 percent mobile penetration mark. Similarly, Airwide is expecting a high of 50 million messages in Ireland and over 65 million in Switzerland. While text messaging has not historically been as popular as in other regions, the U.S. is now seeing dramatic growth, and the country could see a high of 125 million messages over the coming New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Dennis Magaya, Executive Head: Customer Services & Applications at South African operator Cell C, says: “We are expecting record high message peaks this year as increasing numbers of people send greetings by SMS when they are out celebrating. We have made the appropriate investments in our messaging infrastructure accordingly and are confident that we will be able to handle the anticipated peak in traffic and continue to deliver a reliable service to our subscribers during the festive season.”

“Dramatic peaks in messaging traffic are becoming more frequent and more pronounced, not only due to the continued increase in popularity of SMS and other messaging types, but also because of increases in A2P and P2A traffic.” says Jay Seaton, CMO of Airwide Solutions. “While increased traffic provides great revenue potential for operators, it also presents the challenges of ensuring that the underlying infrastructure does not become congested while subscribers send these time-sensitive messages, and that the operators’ networks and subscribers are protected from mobile fraud, spam and other security threats.”

Despite the impressive festive peaks in SMS volumes everywhere, the largest peak will no doubt be in the Philippines, where a typical day sees over 400 million messages sent.

Reitz Home Museum dresses up

Reitz Home Museum dresses up to reflect world of holiday traditions

Evansville’s Reitz Home Museum, built in 1871, has long ruled as the stately queen of the grand dowagers in the city’s Historic District, and Victorian Christmas tours through the house have been a tradition for 26 years.

According to executive director Tess Grimm, during the holiday season thousands of people pass through the glowing stained-glass doors of this well-preserved Victorian home to get a glimpse of what Christmas may have been like for the Reitz family that lived there in the late 1800s. But this year visitors are in for a surprise, because Grimm has put a new twist on the tradition.

“Celebrations Around the Globe” is this year’s theme, and Tri-State residents will learn how cultures around the world celebrate Christmas and other holidays that are an integral part of their heritage. Each room will represent the traditions of a specific country, and as a result, the Reitz Home will be a mosaic of celebrations that includes Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Chinese New Year as well as examples of various European Christmas traditions.

Grimm wanted to include Evansville’s growing international community in Reitz Home holiday festivities, so she invited some of its members to assist local decorators with the home’s holiday transformation and encouraged them to incorporate some of their native countries’ traditions.

When Bushra Saqib, a Pakistani-born Muslim, was asked to help decorate Christina’s Bedroom, she was delighted at the opportunity to share some of her customs with the community. She says in an age when Muslims are increasingly associated with terrorism, she was pleased to have the chance to “present the beautiful side of Islam.”

For Muslims, Eid ul-Fitr is the most celebrated holiday of the year. It marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, and the beginning of a joyous three-day feast. Wearing new clothes at Eid is a time-honored tradition, and Saqib is organizing a display of festive, hand-embroidered dresses that are often worn for the occasion.

(Read More)

Light up the new year in Singapore

Holidaymakers who love a good party should join the Chinese New Year celebrations at the Light-Up festival in Singapore.

The festival stretches across January and February and sees the streets of Chinatown decorated with a plethora of lights and displays to mark the beginning of the lunar new year.

With 2007 designated as the year of the pig, expect to see the animal given visual prominence in many of the celebrations, which include the Chingay parade, which consists of a huge procession of colourful floats, bands and performers, as well as the traditional dance of the lion and dragon.

Visitors to Singapore will also be able to enjoy a special street bazaar selling a range of traditional festive foods, jewellery and souvenirs, while on the outskirts of Chinatown, shoppers can also peruse and buy flowers and plants that are used in Chinese New Year celebrations.

At night, revellers watch a number of cultural performances in Kreta Ayer Square and on the eve of the first day of the new year, a massive street party counts down to a spectacular fireworks display.

Related Links > Singapore’s Chinese new year website