Christ­mas cheer around the world

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - —STORY BY IN­QUIRER RE­SEARCH

Much an­tic­i­pated as the most joy­ous sea­son for kids and kids at heart, Christ­mas is cel­e­brated by dif­fer­ent cul­tures in dif­fer­ent ways: some more col­or­ful or aus­tere than the oth­ers. In most homes in the Philip­pines, the fes­tive spirit is sym­bol­ized by the “parol” (lantern). Greece marks the oc­ca­sion with Christ­mas ships, while Ukraine sets the hol­i­day mood with cob­webbed Christ­mas trees, among oth­ers.

Christ­mas is per­haps the most joy­ous sea­son that is si­mul­ta­ne­ously cel­e­brated in al­most all parts of the world. The Philip­pines is said to have the long­est ob­ser­vance of the Christ­mas sea­son, which be­gins in Septem­ber—the so­called start of the “ber months” —and ex­tends up to the Feast of the Three Kings cel­e­brated on the first Sun­day of Jan­uary.

Dif­fer­ent cul­tures, how­ever, have di­verse ways of cel­e­brat­ing this fes­tive hol­i­day sea­son —some aus­tere and solemn, oth­ers brighter and more col­or­ful. Most Filipino homes, for in­stance, would have the quin­tes­sen­tial parol (the tra­di­tional lantern) that has long been an iconic sym­bol of Christ­mas in the Philip­pines.

Other coun­tries have unique ways of cel­e­brat­ing the sea­son: Christ­mas ships in Greece, the cob­webbed Christ­mas trees in Ukraine and pa­per bas­kets hung around homes in Nor­way. Here are some unique Christ­mas tra­di­tions and struc­tures in dif­fer­ent parts of the world.


Rothenburg ob der Tauber, one of the most at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tions in Ger­many, is also con­sid­ered as this coun­try’s Christ­mas cap­i­tal. One rea­son is its unique Christ­mas Mu­seum, which show­cases more than 30,000 tra­di­tional Ger­man Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions. The mu­seum is open all year round.

This ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plains how Christ­mas was once cel­e­brated in Ger­many, and how cer­tain cus­toms de­vel­oped in var­i­ous re­gions of the coun­try.

There are also in­sights into the crafts­men’s tra­di­tions that ac­com­pany the spe­cific form of Ger­man Christ­mas decor— wood carv­ings and mouth­blown glass. The mu­seum fur­ther fea­tures 150 his­tor­i­cal Fa­ther Christ­mas fig­ures, some­thing par­tic­u­larly spe­cial and in­ter­est­ing for peo­ple of all ages.

For many mu­seum vis­i­tors, go­ing to the all year-round “Christ­mas-vil­lage” store at Käthe Wohlfahrt is a fixed com­po­nent of a visit to Rothenburg. This Christ­mas shop­ping par­adise is lo­cated di­rectly be­low the mu­seum rooms, where over 12,000 items for the Christ­mas tree or a fes­tively dec­o­rated ta­ble can be found.


The Rock­e­feller Cen­ter is known as one of New York City’s most iconic at­trac­tions. This art deco com­plex, com­posed of 19 grand build­ings, is mas­sive in size—stretch­ing from Fifth to Sixth Av­enues and from 48th to 51st Streets.

For over eight decades, the Christ­mas tree at Rock­e­feller Cen­ter and the hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions adorn­ing it have stood as a hol­i­day bea­con for New York­ers and vis­i­tors alike. More than half a mil­lion peo­ple pass by the tree ev­ery day, mak­ing Rock­e­feller Cen­ter the epi­cen­ter of New York City’s hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions.

Each year, the Rock­e­feller Cen­ter re­ceives tree sub­mis­sions from fam­i­lies in hopes that their tree may bring joy in the hol­i­day sea­son. A Nor­way spruce that is in its later life cy­cle is usu­ally se­lected and a young one is planted in its place. The leg­endary Christ­mas tree is then dec­o­rated with thou­sands of multi-col­ored LED lights and is topped with a star con­tain­ing Swarovski crystals.

The 2019 tree will be lit for the first time on Dec. 4. Each year, thou­sands crowd the side­walks for the event and mil­lions watch the live broad­cast. On Christ­mas Day, the lights shine for a full 24 hours. The tree will re­main lit and on dis­play through early 2020. Once the hol­i­days end, the tree will be do­nated to Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity, where it is re­cy­cled and used as lum­ber in their build­ing projects.


The city of Honolulu in Hawaii kicks off its month-long Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion called Honolulu City Lights with the light­ing of its 50-foot Christ­mas tree and the dis­play of wreaths, sculp­tures and the famed Shaka Santa and his wife, Mrs. Claus, also known as Tutu Mele.

The 21-foot Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele sit bare­foot by the foun­tain in front of Honolulu Hale, Honolulu’s city hall. Stand­ing a few feet next to them is the Christ­mas tree first lighted in 1985. It was orig­i­nally adorned with wooden white doves, gold balls and was il­lu­mi­nated by flood lights.

From the light­ing of the Christ­mas tree, more el­e­ments were added to the dis­play such as the “cor­ri­dor of lights,” gnomes, bears and Ru­dolph the Red­nosed Rein­deer. In 1990, the elec­tric light pa­rade, where buses, fire, po­lice and emer­gency ve­hi­cles are fes­tooned with lights and fes­tive decor, was in­tro­duced.


Found in the of­fi­cial home­town of Santa Claus, Ro­vaniemi, cap­i­tal of La­p­land in Fin­land, is the world-fa­mous Christ­mas vil­lage where peo­ple can visit him in the Santa Claus Of­fice all year round and watch his elves work.

Lo­cated in the Arc­tic Cir­cle, the Santa Claus Vil­lage is home to sev­eral com­pa­nies pro­vid­ing dif­fer­ent ac­com­mo­da­tions and ser­vices to tourists, in­clud­ing rein­deer rides and glass igloos and log cab­ins de­signed for view­ing the North­ern Lights.

When Eleanor Roo­sevelt vis­ited the place in 1950 to wit­ness its re­build­ing process af­ter the World War II de­struc­tion, Ro­vaniemi of­fi­cials rushed to build a cabin eight kilo­me­ters north of the city. The cabin marked the birth of the Santa Claus Vil­lage.

At present, the vil­lage is one of the most pop­u­lar Santa Claus des­ti­na­tions in world, with more than 500,000 vis­i­tors from around the world ev­ery year.


Start­ing mid-novem­ber to Jan­uary, the small town of Valkenburg in the Nether­lands transforms into “Ker­st­stad Valkenburg,” a Christ­mas town. Dur­ing this time, Christ­mas mar­kets are held in the caves, and a Christ­mas pa­rade roams through­out the town.

Apart from the subter­ranean mar­kets, the town also of­fers sev­eral ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing join­ing a tobog­gan run and a culi­nary walk­ing tour.

The Mu­nic­i­pal Cave (Ge­meen­te­grot) of Valkenburg is the largest un­der­ground Christ­mas mar­ket in Eu­rope while the Vel­vet Cave (Fluwee­len­grot) stretch through the cen­turies-old cor­ri­dors un­der­neath the ru­ined cas­tle of Valkenburg.

In De­cem­ber 2017, the Christ­mas town was awarded the “Eu­ro­pean City of Christ­mas 2018” in the cat­e­gory “mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties up to 100,000 in­hab­i­tants” in Madrid.

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