Holidays Across the Ocean

Elisa Jiménez, Staff Writer

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Christmas is a cultural celebration among a lot of people around the world. Even if the motive is the same, each country has different traditions and customs to celebrate this holiday.
This has been my first Christmas out of my country and I have lived the American Christmas experience and how it can be different from Christmas in Spain.

The United States has many ways to celebrate Christmas because of its multiculturalism and thanks to the globalization, just as the United States has some Spanish customs, Spain has adopted some American traditions.

Both countries share the tradition of decorating the main streets with seasonal lights and Christmas Trees, but in general in the United States people also decorate the exterior of their houses with many lights and some of them put figures with Christmas motives, like Santa Claus or reindeer, in their yards, what sometimes become a beautiful display.

The main Christmas ornament in Spain is the called “Belén” which is a nativity scene that represents the birth of Jesus, it can be made with a lot of different materials and people also make living representations of it. There are also a lot of free exhibitions with very big and beautiful scenes where people can go and look at them. Some people in the US are adopting this Spanish-Italian tradition and they add the nativity scene in their homes for Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, Spanish families get together and have a big dinner, they usually eat exquisite delicacies, like seafood or cold cuts, before the main dish that can be roast suckling pig, lamb or turkey among other meats or fish like sea bream or hake. And for dessert, it is very common to enjoy typical Spanish sweets such as nougat, marzipan, and polvorones. After that, all the members spend the time together singing Christmas carols. In addition, it is a tradition that this night the King of Spain issued a speech for all Spaniards, which is broadcast on television. And then, at 12:00 AM, most of the people attend the church for the called “Misa del Gallo” which means “mass of the rooster” in English.

On the other hand, Christmas Eve in the US is not celebrated as it is in Spain. In this spiritual day many families, particularly those with children, hang up stockings on the fireplace or the end of their bed. Everyone goes to bed and they wait, very excited, for Santa Claus to bring them gifts while they are sleeping.

On Christmas Day in America, children and adults wake up very excited and look for the presents that Santa Claus left for them under the Christmas Tree or next to the fireplace. Family and friends spend time together doing family activities, like singing the typical Christmas Carols, and they exchange more presents. On this family day, people organize a special meal, that in general consists of turkey or ham and a lot of other festive foods. Due to the great variety of ethnicities in the country, the Christmas food can be very different in each home.

The Christmas Tree and, above all, Santa Claus are recent things that arrived not long ago to the Spanish culture. Although they are mostly part of the American tradition, some Spanish families have included this custom in their homes, but the most of them don’t celebrate the arrival of Santa Claus the 25th or they just exchange a little detail that day. On this day Spanish families get together again and they organize a meal at noon with food similar to those on Christmas Eve.

In Spain, on January 5th people order in the bakery the called “Roscón de Reyes” which is a Spanish Christmas sweet that they will eat for breakfast the next day. Also this day people go to see the Three Wise Men, who are the ones who bring the gifts in the Spanish homes, at the different parades that are organized in towns. On January 6th it is typical to eat the “Roscón de Reyes” with hot chocolate and then the family members open the presents that the Three Wise Men left them during the night.

These are just some of the main customs in the different countries. The United States and Spain share some traditions and some others are different, and although Christmas can be celebrated in many different ways depending on each country and each culture, in this time of the year families and friends get together and spend time with each other no matter what part of the world is.

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