Christmas in Belarus and Kaliady
Traditionally, Belarusians celebrated Christmas as a part of Kaliady – a two week long pagan holiday of winter solstice. However, today most Belarusians celebrate New Year's Eve as their main winter holiday.
Christmas in Belarus is celebrated actually twice since it's a Catholic and an Orthodox country, on the 25th of December and on the 7th of January respectively.
The day before Christmas is called Kućcia, from the name of the ritual barley (ячмень) dish. That evening, a family would have a certain number of other dishes on the table, all of them Lenten in character - in other words, dishes without meat. When sitting at the table, the family's eldest member called upon the spirits of their family ancestors as well as the god of frost to join their celebration and give good favour to their household.
The most joyful aspect of Kaliady for kids was taking them to the streets for a loud, ruckus (шум) stroll (прогулка) around their town or village, wearing handmade costumes and masks, singing ritual songs, wishing the families health and a good harvest (урожай) in the coming year. In return, they would ask for a gift of food, drink and/or money.
The traditional Kaliady celebration exists in some villages even now and enthusiasts are trying to revive it in nation's cities.
The interesting blending of the old and the new makes Christmas in Belarus a unique event. The most symbolic factor categorizing Christmas in Belarus is Kolyady or Christmas carols.
Simultaneously, a visit to the church or the cathedral is an important ceremony reinforcing the religious aspect of Christmas in Belarus.
Christmas in Great Britain
Christmas Day, December 25, is probably the most popular holiday in Great Britain. It is a family holiday. Traditionally all relatives and friends give each other presents. So, before Christmas all the department stores and shops are crowded, everybody is choosing a present.
In general, people get prepared for this holiday very carefully. They decorate their houses in the traditional way. Christmas trees are set up in houses, in the streets and churches. They are always decorated with fairy lights, angels and small toys. In addition, little packets with nuts, candies and special biscuits are hung on the tree. Presents are put around the tree and artificial «frost» is scattered (рассеянный) over the branches.
The Germans are believed to be the first to use the Christmas tree in their celebrations and Martin Luther was the first to place a star on the top of the tree. This star represents the star appeared over the stable in which Christ was born.
In Great Britain, the Christmas tree became popular while Queen Victoria ruled the country.
Besides the Christmas tree, holly(остролист) and mistletoe (омела белая) are used to decorate the house. Branches of holly are put up behind pictures and mistletoe is hung over doors, so the young people have a chance to kiss the girls under it, plucking (сбор ягод) each time a red berry from the mistletoe. It is said that the girl who was not kissed under it at Christmas would not get married that year.
On the eve of Christmas children hang their stockings, so that Santa Claus could put presents into them: oranges, sweets, nuts and if the child didn't behave properly Santa Claus can put there a piece of coal as punishment.
Santa Claus got his name from a man known as St. Nicolas, who lived in the fourth century. He gave his wealth to the poor and often to children. After he died, the Dutch brought this legend to colonial America. Soon the Dutch name Sinter Klaus became Santa Claus.
Carol singing is an essential part of Christmas. No church or school is without its carol service. Carols may be traditional or with some variations that express different feelings. Carols were used for the first time during Christmas in the fifteenth century.
Usually children come around in the evening to the front doors and start singing carols and people who live in these houses give children candies, nuts, pies and so on, to thank them for carol singing.
A typical Christmas lunch includes turkey with cranberry sauce and pudding. Every young woman in each household helps to stir the Christmas pudding, if she wishes to be married that year. Usually a coin or two are hidden inside the pudding and part of the fun is to see who finds it.
After the lunch they go to the sitting room to listen to the Christmas speech of the Queen, shown on TV.
So, Christmas is a merry family holiday for all the people of Great Britain. Christmas comes but once a year.
New Year in the UK
Many people in the UK stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve, 31 December, so that they can celebrate the start of the New Year. People see in the New Year with their friends and family. Sometimes one can be invited to someone’s New Year Eve houseparty. Many pubs and clubs have special events.
A few minutes before midnight, Britain people traditionally watch Big Ben (the clock in the Houses of Parliament), and celebrate after it strikes for the 12th time: this is shown on television. It’s a tradition to join hands at midnight and sing Auld Lang Syne, written by the Scottish poet Robert Burns.
In London, people often gather in the area around Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Paliament Square from about 9pm until the early hours of the morning. They listen to Big Ben and watch a 10-minute firework display at the London Eye starting at midnight. The fireworks are also shown live on large screens in Trafalgar Square, and on BBC1 TV channel.
In Scotland and in the north of England people follow the custom of the First Foot. People try to be the first ones and knock at their friend’s houses after midnight. In many places the first-footer is allowed to be a resident of the house, but they must not be in the house when the clock strikes midnight. The First Foot is traditionally a tall, dark-haired man. In some places a woman or fair-haired man are thought as unlucky. The First Foot usually brings several gifts, including a coin, bread, salt, coal, or a drink (usually whisky) for good luck.
On New Year’s Day people make New Year’s Resolutions (promise to start doing something good in the new year).
Popular resolutions include to improve:
health: lose weight, exercise more, eat better, give up smoking;
finances: make more money, save money;
career: get a better job;
education: care about studies, get better grades, get a better education, learn something new (such as a foreign language or music);
self: become more organized, lessen stress, be less grumpy, manage time, be more independent.
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