A Star That Flow Glows Every One Hundred Years Christmas – Unique Celebrations & Traditions in Alaska, Africa & Australia!

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Christmas – Unique Celebrations & Traditions in Alaska, Africa & Australia!

Christmas is celebrated in many countries around the world. There are three countries, Alaska, Africa and Australia, all located in different regions of the world and each with their own unique traditions and celebrations. Here are some of their fascinating traditions and celebrations.

Alaska – “Carrying the Star” is a traditional Christmas procession. Young and old carry ornate tinsel-trimmed eight-pointed wheels, usually as large as umbrellas. They are highlighted with a central image of an angel or nativity scene. They are carried for three nights on snowy roads from January 7. The stars represent the angels who announced the birth of Christ. Families cherish stars with love. Some are over a hundred years old!

Africa – There are approximately 350 million Christians in Africa who celebrate Christmas. The liturgical celebration of Christ’s birth is more emphasized than the giving of gifts. Although the most common gift (if nothing else) is new clothing to be worn for church service. People in many countries in Africa, such as the Central African Republic (CAR), Uganda, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, believe that going to church on Christmas Day is essential, even if they never attend throughout the year. An annual Christmas pageant as well as groups of carolers singing Christmas carols in villages are now part of the festivities.

Churches in Africa start preparing for Christmas months in advance. No one escapes the Yuletide spirit as it is said that the whole country seems to be preparing for the birth of baby Jesus with great joyous and active community preparations! The streets are alive with music as well as radio, television and everywhere you look! People irrespective of religious persuasion happily visit their friends and relatives in the spirit of community celebration. It is common to see brightly colored and decorated trucks, cars and buses as well as creative festive displays in homes, schools, churches and neighborhoods often made of colorful crepe papers. Africa is colorful and alive with happy celebrations! An ancient and spectacular masquerade locally called “Agugu” now plays a prominent role in Christmas celebrations. Usually held after the service on Christmas Eve is a joyous procession of dance and music led by a local band of dancing masqueraders (usually young boys dressed in fancy and colorful costumes) and Christmas festivities. People parade with large elaborate lanterns called “funnels” usually shaped like houses or boats.

In Ghana, a Christmas meal is not complete without fufu (a thick flour-like meal) and okra soup, and in Liberia, rice, beef and biscuits are the order of the day. Zimbabweans make sure to have plenty of bread, jam and tea to go with their prized goat meat which is their traditional Christmas roast. On the west coast of Africa, most households have oil palm for Christmas trees.

Austria – Saint Nicholas is widely revered and appears on his feast day on December 6. In Austria this holiday is different from Christmas. He appears in his traditional attire with a flowing robe and high bishop’s miter, carrying a shepherd’s staff and a thick book. It is believed that the good and bad deeds of children are recorded in his book! There was once a tradition of holding elaborate ceremonies on Christmas Eve where both St. Nicholas and the dreaded Ruprecht (the demonic creature, who wears a cloak, has glowing eyes and a red tongue) appear on Christmas Eve. Children gather together and sing hymns to welcome the saint. Then one by one the children join the saint at a family table where he examines their lesson books and asks them to repeat the prayer he has recited. It ends with the boys kissing his bishop’s ring and he tells them to put their shoes outside and look at them when the clock strikes ten! Ruprech is standing at the door watching the children’s every move! Before St. Nicholas leaves he blesses the children as he sprinkles them with holy water and then quietly and swiftly departs. The excited children then rush to put their shoes outside their house. Ten children run out to find boots full of apples and nuts!

Austria is a predominantly Catholic country known for being the land of musical voices and the home of Mozart, Strauss and Schubert. The “Advent Concert Series” in Innsbruck is included in the Christmas celebrations. It features groups of family singers and instrumentalists similar to the famous “Trap Family” in “The Sound of Music”. Another famous Christmas festival is in Salzburg where the “Salburger Adventsingen” is the most popular ticket for the season. It is an advance music and folklore program that started more than half a century ago. They receive over 100,000 requests every year for the 30,000 tickets available for entry. Fish carp is served for traditional Christmas dinner.

Austria is famous for its miniature crutch figures. Almost all families have a crèche with miniature figures of the Holy Family and often some animals are included. Many creeks are hundreds of years old, a precious heirloom handed down from one generation to the next!

Epiphany celebrations in Austria – On Epiphany Day (which commemorates the three wise men of the East who were looking for the newborn Jesus) boys and girls dress in oriental costumes and sing traditional songs. They go from house to house and receive small gifts including money gifts. They carry a lantern known as the “Bright Star of Bethlehem” to guide them on their way. It is popular to see people write the initials of the wise men “CMB” (Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar) on the inside of their doors!

Austria’s Fun Krampus Day Tradition – December 5th is known as Krampus Day in Salzburg. Krampus is believed to be an evil spirit. He is usually dressed in hideous fur, wears deer antlers, a mask with a long red tongue and bulging red eyes, and carries a birchwood rod. He runs through the streets with a loud racket, wielding huge cowbells and rattling chains as he screams in horror at the audience. Thousands of people, including many children, throng the streets to witness the medieval event. With much laughter and joy, whenever children and adults see Krampus, they throw snowballs at this terrifying figure. The town hosts a “Krampus Run” every year with fun and lots of teasing, jostling and laughter. It is said that the purpose of Krampus is to remind children to be good!

In recent times some communities have required Krampus actors to wear numbers so they can be recognized under their masks if they lose control. Some have been known to get carried away after downing a few too many schnapps or beers. A prominent Austrian child psychiatrist is arguing for a ban on Krampus. He suggests that he is “a jolly old horror” for children. However there are some known cases of “Krampus Trauma”!

Australia – Christmas falls in the middle of summer and the heat can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s common for people to have outdoor barbecues for the main Christmas feast, and often parks and beaches come alive for family feasts. It’s not unusual to see a Christmas Day BBQ in tights, shorts, beer in hand and Santa hat on (usually the father of the family) which is almost always followed by Australia’s most beloved desert “Pavlova”. This name is light and delicate like the famous Russian dancer Anna Pavlova.

Australian Carols by Candlelight – The Australian Christmas Eve Carol Service was started in 1937 by radio announcer Norman Banks. Every year in Melbourne, famous artists gather to sing in “Carols by Candlelight”. A hugely popular annual event televised across the country. Carols are performed on stage to a large audience where thousands of people attend outside by lighting candles.

Beach Visits on Christmas Day in Australia – Up to 40,000 people visit Bondi Beach on Christmas Day in Sydney! It’s the middle of summer in Australia and barbeque lunches and swimming on the beach while waiting for Santa to arrive on the boat on Christmas Day are popular!

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