This week we headed to our local gardens to check out their annual Christmas and Holiday Traditions from Around the World exhibit. If you happen to be in the Grand Rapids area, it is well worth the trip to Fredrick Meijer Gardens. And, I’ll be honest, I had a 3-year old with me, so it took us far less that 2 hours.
Whenever I’m with my kids, I try to remember to give them a “job”; otherwise, they tend to find their own “jobs” that don’t always jive with what I had in mind. Today, the task was to find all of the displays from their 5 nationalities. All information shared comes from the information signs provided by Fredrick Meijer Gardens. There was considerably more information than I am sharing, so head on over and check it out.
Italy– The most important symbol of Christmas in Italy is the Nativity scene. A presepio is a 3-dminesional nativity scene, and Meijer garden’s presepio was created by Francesa Niccacci in the maiolica tradition.
The Netherlands– Santa Claus is known as Sinterklass in the Netherlands. Gifts are exchanged on St. Nicholas’ Eve on December 5 while Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are reserved for church and a family meal in the evening. December 26 is called Second Christmas Day and is a holiday of relaxation.
India– Diwali is a five-day Hindu celebration, also referred to as the Festival of Lights. Occurring between mid-Ocotber and mid-November, it includes fireworks, lights, and special worship (puja). Diwali’s true meaning is rejoicing in the inner light. It is often celebrated with rangoli; the one pictured above appears to be made of colored sand.
England– Kissing under mistletoe is an English tradition. It is thought to date back to ancient times when the plant was a symbol of peace and indicated that enemies must maintain a truce until the next day if they met under it. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe remains an indication of friendship and goodwill. Another English tradition, began in the 1840s by Tom Smith, is opening Christmas crackers, which are cardboard tubes holding small gifts or trinkets.
Spain- In Spain, it is not Santa but the Three Wiseman who come bearing gifts. On January 5, the Eve of the Epiphany, children fill their shoes with straw, and the Three Wiseman come by, leaving gifts in the children’s shoes. Christmas is a very religious holiday and the most noticeable decoration is the Nacimiento, or Nativity scene.
What a great way to spend the morning! Looking at Holiday displays and learning about different cultural customs is quickly becoming a tradition in our family.