By Janet Stewart, Wood’s Homes Program Manager
Happy Holidays! Joyex Noel! Buone Feste Natalizie! Maligayang Pasko! Feliz Navidad! Sheng dan kuai le! Merry Christmas! Wesolych Swiat! I’Taamomohkatoyiiksistsikomi! Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva i s Novim Godom!
There are as many ways to wish your family, friends and colleagues “Happy Holidays” as there are cultures around the world. Whether it’s leaving cookies out for Santa or decorating a mango tree, the holiday season is full of many different traditions.
At Wood’s Homes, we’re so fortunate to have staff and clients who come to us from various diverse cultures. With Christmas fast-approaching, we asked them to share how their cultures celebrate the holiday season.
Christmas in Poland – Caroline Gray, Wood’s Homes Family Support Counsellor
Polish families have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, at the sight of the first star. During dinner, 12 dishes are served that do not include meat. A seat is always left empty at the table, symbolizing family members who are not present or have passed on, as well as people who are alone during the holidays. If someone was to knock on the door during dinner, he or she would be invited to sit at the table. Wesolych Swiat!
Christmas in Cameroon – Daniel Fonkwe Nkangu, Wood’s Homes Family Support Counsellor
Christmas in Cameroon is a public holiday that is celebrated by people of all different cultures and religions. The main focus of Christmas celebrations in Cameroon is going to church, forgiving and sharing. People decorate their shop fronts, mango trees, churches and homes. It is advisable to shop well in advance of the holiday season, as the markets and shops only sell gifts while supplies last.
Special mass celebrations are held on Christmas Eve in churches and homes, and are attended by children and adults dressed in traditional regalia, suits or dresses. Celebrations begin just after the mass services and, while children return home to sleep, adults go out to celebrate by dancing and drinking until early the next day.
Christmas Day is very special as there is a lot of beef, goat, chicken and sheep to eat, which is not too common. Nativity scenes are played out, carols are sung and, in some cases, dances are performed. The sun is usually very hot at this time of year, and the beaches are full of families enjoying barbeques, traditional Christmas dinners and drinks.
Simbang Gabi in the Philippines – Maria Asper, Wood’s Homes Foster Parent
In Canada, Filipinos celebrate Simbang Gabi in the evenings (rather than the traditional early morning celebration), but continue the custom of sharing food and connecting with loved ones after mass services. They prepare for the coming of Christ by attending nine masses in nine days, and some people believe if you attend all nine masses you will receive the thing you ask for without fail.
In Filipino culture, the celebration of Christmas occurs on Dec. 24 and lasts into the morning of Dec. 25, and includes the Noche Buena or ‘night meal’. Special foods include roast pig or ham, and a fruit salad that is sweetened with coconut, cream and condensed milk. Traditionally fireworks and fire crackers are lit before midnight in celebration. Maligayang Pasko!
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!