“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, so the song goes.

Christmas: Catholic vs Protestant.
author   by DAZZLES IN GREEN   2018

I come from Eastern Europe, from a Catholic country where Christmas was a time to celebrate family and traditions.

Catholic and Protestant traditions are quite different. First of all, we do not decorate our homes, display Christmas lights, or set up trees before Christmas. Secondly, we do not celebrate Santa Claus. Thirdly, Christmas lasts until January 6th, the Three Kings Day. After that, it’s Carnival, the time for parties and fun.

Before Christmas, we have a period of preparation for the arrival of Christ. This period, called Advent, starts four Sundays before Christmas. It is a time of fast, a time of contemplation. The word Advent comes from the Latin advenio, meaning "to come to," which in Catholic tradition refers to the coming of Christ. Advent should be marked by prayer, fasting, and good works, not by indulgence, partying or shopping.

Advent is the time when we prepare our souls to receive Christ worthily. The only break from fast was the arrival of St. Nicolas on December 6th with sweets for children. In those days, St. Nicolas would visit children only and leave small gifts. Larger gifts were delivered by an Angel on December 24th.

December 24th, still a strict fast, was marked by a family gathering followed by an elaborated, animal-product-free dinner, although fish was allowed. Even desserts had to be vegan. Food was absolutely delicious.  

December 25th and 26th, both paid holidays, were full of festive spirit, big diners and guests. We did not go shopping on those days. Stores were closed, so the store clerks could celebrate too. We visited with relatives and friends. The fact that Christmas feast has been preceded by a time of fasting made those festive diners even more joyful.

Children were involved in craft making all December. We were elbow-plunged in decorations, crafting tree and candle garlands and stars, and vignettes on tabletops. It was great to be a child.

Tree decorating was done in the morning of December 24th. Around 6 pm we sat down to a supper and that was the time when all the lights went up in every home, in the whole city, and in the whole country. It was magnificent. It was great to be a child.

In Protestant America, Christmas is the celebration of Santa Claus. The four weeks before Christmas is the greatest shopping season on Earth. Trees are decorated, parties are attended, cakes are eaten and alcohol flows. On December 24th holiday dinners come plastic-wrapped. On December 25th, everyone is in the shopping mall.

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Dazzles in Green is an educator, journalist, environmentalist, vegetarian and avid cyclist. She holds a master's degree in anthropology.


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