Category Archives: Holidays and Traditions

From Holidays Around the World to Public Participation Successes

We’re taking down the decorations. We’re zapping the holiday music from the iPad. For sure, we’re hiding the scale – at least until May.

In December, the Collaborative Services’ blog took a trip around the world – in the spirit of the Big Guy at the north pole – to see how holiday celebrations are observed by other cultures. Our nation is becoming more diverse. It’s enriching to learn how other citizens of the world live.

For instance, we learned that in Spain you gobble 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Credit: Noble Pig

Credit: Noble Pig

We learned that, for refugees, holding on to holiday customs is vitally important to their well-being and in helping them make the transition to a strange new land. After all, they lost everything else. Holiday tradition is something that can’t be taken away.

Credit: Jenelle Eli/USCRI

Credit: Jenelle Eli/USCRI

And, in my house, we learned that a puppy as a Christmas present really lights up a 7-year-old’s eyes. (We also bet that kind of reaction spans many cultures too!)

As always, we thank our contributors and have one more very special thank-you to add:

Robert Carr, a former State Department employee who shared with us his experiences celebrating winter holidays in the many foreign lands where he has lived.

As we enter the new year, we look forward to continuing this award-winning blog as a venue for exploring a host of fascinating topics that help us better understand the world we live in and assist us in learning how to communicate with each other.

Collaborative Services is first and foremost a public involvement firm that seeks to unite people and communities and give them a voice in their growth and development. Innovations are coming fast and furious and we see ourselves as the bridge between those seeking to implement them and the many different locales in which they will be placed.

Credit: Fregonese Associates

Credit: Fregonese Associates

This  month, we will explore a vital part of our mission: public participation. We will look at the importance of engaging citizens and community groups to make projects – no matter how complicated or controversial – realities. We will look at key strategies, such as communication plans and stakeholder outreach methods and the new technologies available that can enhance those efforts.

We’re excited about 2013 and invite you to continue to visit the blog and, like us, learn and enjoy.

Mike Stetz, Alex Roth and Liz Faris
Collaborative Services Blog Team

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When Home is Far Away at the Holidays

For many folks, the end of the holiday season tends to produce a mixture of sadness and relief.  We’ll miss family bonding, the great food, the good cheer. We won’t miss the daily bombardment of Christmas commercials and the inability to escape the chords of Auld Lang Syne.

If you’re an American who cringes at the excesses of holiday-season commercialism, however, you might be surprised to learn that other countries can be every bit as over-the-top as we are.

Bouche de Noel is a traditional French dessert at Christmas(Credit: InternationalRecipes.net)

Bouche de Noel is a traditional French dessert at Christmas
(Credit: InternationalRecipes.net)

Last month, we saw the holidays through the eyes of refugees new to our country. Today, we see the holidays from the reverse angle as Americans abroad in other places in the world.

Today we see the holidays through the eyes of Robert Carr, a U.S. citizen who has spent much of his life abroad. As a longtime State Department employee, he’s served in eight nations over his career, including some, such as Saudi Arabia, that don’t celebrate holidays such as Christmas. Unlike Mr. Carr, many Americans don’t travel abroad. Indeed, only 30 percent of us have passports.

Credit: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Credit: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Living abroad can bring a host of challenges. There are different languages, foods, cultural traditions, and a little bit of homesickness, no doubt. But there is also the excitement that comes with living in a land that is new to you and learning more about what the world has to offer.

Exciting, yes, but unfortunately it can be dangerous, too. As we learned earlier this year, State Department work can be deadly. An attack on the consulate in Libya left four dead, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Mr. Carr endured at least one close call in his time as a foreign service officer. His first assignment with the State Department was in the embassy in Baghdad, Iraq in 1966. This was before the rule of the Saddam Hussein. As he puts it, “There was a different thug in charge.”

He was doing interviews for U.S. visas at the time. “My tour came to an abrupt end at the time of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war when the Iraqis broke relations with the U.S. and we had 48 hours to get out,” he said. “We drove in a convoy to Iran where we spent many weeks waiting for new assignments.”

Mr. Carr retired in 1992, but still has temporary assignments for the State Department, primarily doing visa interviews.  He now lives in Western North Carolina, near Asheville.

We welcome his thoughts on experiencing the holidays in many different lands over the years:
– – –

Serving in the State Department took you to many different nations over the years. Is there any particular winter holiday celebration that a nation observes that stands out from the others?
Other than the absence of any celebration in most Moslem countries, celebrations I have observed were not much different than here.  There was considerable commercialism in the European cities in which I have lived, and some differences in the type of decorations one sees, but nothing that a person raised in America would find radically different.  In Paris, I thought the decorations had a bit more style than one sees here, but this should not be a surprise.

Christmas decorations in Paris, France(Credit: Flickr user ~pauline sirks ~)

Christmas decorations in Paris, France
(Credit: Flickr user ~pauline sirks ~)

Which one was the most similar to what we celebrate here?
Most European countries have similar celebrations.  After all, we imported most of our Christmas traditions from there.  One sees trees, lights, Santas (or St. Nick), etc.  There are some local traditions that take place within individual families, but I didn’t observe any of these.

Which was the most different? And how so?
Again, in Moslem countries there is generally no celebration, and Christmas is pretty much like any other day.  There are some exceptions in countries like Egypt, where there are Christian populations, but their celebrations are much more subdued and largely confined to Christian neighborhoods.

Credit: Redlands Primary School

Christmas decorations in Egypt.
(Credit: Redlands Primary School)

Our nation puts so much emphasis on the holiday season. We celebrate it through movies, music, food, parties. How did it feel for you, as an American, to celebrate the holidays in a foreign land?
We celebrated Christmas in our families and within the foreign (mostly U.S.) community, and these celebrations were quite similar to celebrations here.  Of course, in every country one might not be able to get all the things one is accustomed to here, but often some group would make an effort to import things to make Christmas a bit more like home – frozen turkeys, for example.  When I lived in Kuwait in the 1970s, Christmas cards were hard to find.

Our culture, rightly or wrongly, is sometimes criticized for over-commercializing Christmas. Did the holiday season seem more authentic in other nations? Which ones?
No, commercialism is everywhere.  There are perhaps different styles of advertising and display, but anyone dropped in the middle of a shopping neighborhood in Paris or Brussels (the two cities where I lived in Europe) would immediately recognize that it was the Christmas season.

Oddly, in Saudi Arabia, the local merchants quickly figured out what Christmas was all about and had the shops and malls decorated for the season.  Eventually, however, the Saudi religious police put a stop to any show of Christmas decorations.

Credit: Open Places

Credit: Open Places

You also served in nations with the State Department that don’t celebrate December holidays. So what was it like on days like December 25th in Saudi Arabia? Just another day?
Just another day, although the Embassy was closed and we had the day off.  Only a worldly and well-traveled Saudi could have told you that it was Christmas Day.

Even though Americans like to think of ourselves as being worldly, the majority of U.S. citizens have never lived outside of the state in which they were born. How important do you think is to experience other cultures?
Well, obviously, I think that’s very important – otherwise we’d be even a more insular nation than we are now.  Most Americans have no idea how America is viewed from abroad, and many might be surprised that things about ourselves we take for granted are not viewed in a similar way from overseas.

So where’s the best place to celebrate the holidays? In an exotic, fascinating locale – the sort of place that James Bond finds himself? Or home, such as George Bailey, from “It’s a Wonderful Life?”
There’s no real way to answer that.  I have always liked the new and different, so being abroad at Christmas time was interesting to me, even though the differences were often subtle rather than dramatic.  Most folks, however, think being home for the holidays is all-important (more than a few movies have been made with this theme).

Credit: USA Today

It’s a Wonderful Life
(Credit: USA Today)

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Thank you Mr. Carr for your time. We hope you had a wonderful holiday – no matter where you spent it!

Mike Stetz, Senior Writer
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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It’s a New Year – At Least Here

Happy New Year!

That’s right, January 1 marks the beginning of yet another year and the start of millions upon millions of new diets. But January 1st is not the only time that New Year’s is marked throughout the world.  Other nations and cultures celebrate it on different dates and in varying fashions.

Credit: GAMERFITNATION

Credit: GAMERFITNATION

For instance, in Burma, the New Year takes place in the middle of April. In Ethiopia, New Year’s is celebrated on a day when America mourns: September 11. It just so  happens that’s the time when the rainy season ends.

This month, the Collaborative Services blog has been exploring the world of holidays. The range in how people celebrate big moments shows just how diverse our nation has grown. And big moments don’t come much bigger than New Year’s Day, the origins of which date back some 4,000 years.

But let’s start at home first. Do you know why we celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1st? Our ritual actually dates back to Roman times, with the advent of the Julian calendar. Before the Julian calendar was created by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, the Romans relied on a 10-month calendar that caused all sorts of confusion because of its inaccuracies.

Apparently, in between conquering the world, Caesar had some spare time, so he decided to fix the thing. The Julian calendar expanded the year to 12 months and introduced leap years.

And Caesar thought that January 1 would be a great time to mark the new year because the month is named after the Roman god Janus, which has two faces, one looking forward and one looking backward. Fitting, no? But the first New Year’s celebration under Caesar was actually quite horrific: He ordered an attack on Jewish revolutionaries in Galilee.

Credit: Zen Gardner

Credit: Zen Gardner

In the United States, like much of the world, we today celebrate New Year’s Day by the Gregorian calendar. That calendar is named after Pope Gregory XIII, who ordered slight changes to the Julian calendar because it was just a wee bit off and days ended up missing since its introduction centuries before. In 1582, to fix it, the Pope advanced the calendar by 10 days and made other more subtle improvements.

For a fascinating look at the history of New Year’s check out this article.

As said, many nations don’t do what we do, which is watch a big ball drop from Times Square, shoot fireworks, wear silly hats and hopefully make sure designated drivers are available.

Credit: Vocus PRW Holdings, LLC.

Credit: Vocus PRW Holdings, LLC.

One of the more well-known New Year’s traditions is the one celebrated by the Chinese. Even though China recognizes the Gregorian calendar and January 1 as the start of the new year officially, it holds on to its very cool – and longstanding – tradition of a the new year coinciding with the lunar cycle and the naming of the new year after a particular animal, such as a rat or a tiger. This story explains the history of the holiday.

Credit: ABC News

Credit: ABC News

In 2013, it will be the year of the snake, so Voldemort must be thrilled. (Oops, he’s dead.) To see which animal represents the year of your birth, click here.

There are some rather unusual traditions when it comes to New Year’s around the globe. In Spain for, instance, you’re supposed to stuff 12 grapes in your mouth when the clock strikes midnight. In some South American nations, you’re supposed to wear special colorful underwear. Here are some other rather off-the-wall traditions.

Some nations remain committed to celebrating New Year’s at the time of year that most symbolizes rebirth, the spring, when the world awakens from a long, cold, dark winter.

Credit: davincipoppalalag

Credit: davincipoppalalag

For instance, in Iran and Pakistan, the new year is known as “Nowruz” or the “New Day,” and it’s celebrated in March as a time of renewal.

So for many cultures, January 1st is just another day. No hangovers, no resolutions, no big deal. Imagine no Rose Bowl

No!!!!!!

Before we end this  year and move on to the next we would like to thank our contributors for taking the time to share their experiences and insights on holiday traditions from around the world. We would like to acknowledge:

Debbie Petruzzelli, Public Relations Manager for Balboa Park, who plays an essential role in the planning and execution of the annual December Nights festival.

Jenelle Eli, Communications and Development Officer for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, who provided insight into the refugee experience at the holidays and the importance of maintaining cultural holiday traditions.

Regardless of how you celebrate it, from Collaborative Services, we wish you all a Happy New Year! See you in 2013.

Mike Stetz, Senior Writer
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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Holiday Fusion: A Lesson from Refugees Around the World

It’s always wonderful to be home for the holidays. Indeed, holiday songs romanticize how sweet and touching such moments can be. “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me. Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree…”

Credit: Telegraph Media Group Limited

Credit: Telegraph Media Group Limited

But imagine being not just home for the holidays – but being in a strange land as well. In this topsy-turvy world, that’s a reality for many. Famine, war, civil unrest, genocide – all cause people to flee their homelands. The survivors end up in refugee camps where they can stay for years. Some are then relocated to new nations, where they have to learn new languages, adapt to cultures and develop new job skills.

Credit: Women News Network

Credit: Women News Network

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) has been helping refugees make the transition to the United States for more than a century now. Founded in 1911, it is a national, nonprofit, non-governmental, nonsectarian, nonpartisan refugee resettlement and advocacy organization.

Its challenges only loom larger today. Because of the unrest in Syria, the number of worldwide refugees is predicted to be the highest so far this century. The estimated number: Some 42 million.

Part of USCRI’s mission is to help refugees achieve the American Dream: Find a home, land a job, get an education, raise their children safely, pursue happiness. It can be a daunting process, given the pain and suffering that these refugees have endured. But the agency has a long and distinguished history, helping people from all parts of the world, including Europe, Latin American, Asia, and Africa. It rallies communities, neighborhoods, and volunteers to help these people make this most difficult of transitions.

Credit: The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

Credit: The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

As a nation, we have a wonderful history of being a refuge for people who have had to leave their homeland due to civil wars and dangers they faced in confronting political wrongs. America as a safe harbor is a gift that keeps giving. It’s that reason, we are highlighting this month our diversity and how that expands the ways we celebrate. As we learn in the interview below with Jenelle Eli,
 Communications and Development Officer for USCRI, keeping holiday traditions is a vital part of this healing and transition process. These people have lost everything – but not the joyous fashions in which they celebrate their most important cultural moments.

Her fascinating insight continues below:

– – –

What is the process one goes though when they immigrate to the United States? What role does USCRI play in this process? When does your organization’s involvement begin and end?
Refugees are people who have fled their home countries due to persecution. Many have lived through war, genocide, trafficking, and gang violence before spending decades in refugee camps. Some refugees have the opportunity to rebuild their lives in a “third country” – that’s when USCRI and the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement steps in.

USCRI welcomes refugees to the United States, in every sense of the word. Our case managers and volunteers find and prepare apartments for refugees, stock their cupboards and refrigerators with culturally-appropriate food, and meet refugees as soon as they step off the plane. When refugees arrive at the airport, they are equal parts excited and disoriented – tired, hungry, and delighted that someone who speaks their language is waiting for them at the gate. They are often handed gloves and a winter jacket to wear because it’s snowing outside – something that is quite perplexing for a refugee from the hot climate of Burma!

For years after their arrival, we provide refugees with the tools and opportunities they need to become self-sufficient members of their new communities. We teach them English, enroll their children in school, and help them find their first jobs. Just as important as providing these basic services is our role in helping refugees to navigate the complexities of American culture, while respecting differences and encouraging them to maintain the cultural traditions that are important to them.

Credit:

Credit: Jenelle Eli/USCRI

Your organization has helped untold numbers of refugees from around the world settle in the United States. We can only imagine the challenges they face, from gaining employment to having housing. But how important is maintaining cultural traditions, such as holiday celebrations?

Most refugees have spent decades in a state of transition. They’ve lost their homes, their family members, and every possession they’ve ever owned. Cultural traditions are the constant – the one thing that no oppressor could take away from them. Change is inevitable, but holiday celebrations are valuable tokens of home that are passed from generation to generation. A much-needed reminder of home, holiday celebrations come with all the tastes, smells, and sounds of their birthplace.

Given all the challenges, is maintaining holiday traditions something people new to our nation might not have the time or wherewithal to focus on?

Recently-arrived refugees learn something new every minute: how to change a light bulb, where to catch the bus on their way to work, and how to keep up with their child’s new obsession with Dora the Explorer. Luckily, when refugees arrive in the United States, they settle down near others from similar cultures and traditions. This proximity – both geographic and emotional – enables refugees to maintain holiday traditions together. Just like at home, some families and individuals take charge of organizing the celebrations and everyone contributes to the food, entertainment, and soul of the holiday.

Our nation’s way of celebrating Christmas has to be a bit overwhelming. (Stores start putting out displays after Halloween!) What kind of reaction has your organization seen from people new to our nation when it comes to Christmas?

A common response from refugees is that they love the holiday lights! Despite being of different religions, many of our refugees are enthusiastic about celebrating relatively secular traditions of the holiday season. Recently, a Muslim refugee family from Iraq took a field trip to cut down a Christmas tree with a community volunteer. They drank hot chocolate, picked out a tree, and decorated it together. Refugees are eager to learn about all aspects of American life – taking part in holiday traditions is an interactive way to learn about their new home. USCRI is a secular organization, so we are committed to helping refugees maintain both the religious and non-religious traditions that are important to them.

Credit: KSOO 1140 AM

Credit: KSOO 1140 AM

Of course, many cultures celebrate Christmas or a winter holiday. Is there any particularly celebration that you find to be particularly inspiring? If so, how?

Along with the onset of cold weather, many Bhutanese refugees celebrate Dashain and Diwali. The days-long celebrations include the lighting of candles, singing, dancing, and delicious food. The entire refugee community comes together to revel in the positivity of the future. They welcome neighbors and friends, no matter their religion. Despite facing hardships in the past, it’s inspiring to see the enthusiasm and hope displayed by refugees during their holiday celebrations.

One of the great things about our nation is our ability to absorb people from new lands. It’s a hallmark of our nation. Another hallmark is that people become, well, “Americanized.” Over time and generations, they lose some of their culture. (They shop in malls, eat fast food, speak only English…) Some believe it’s a good thing. Others worry that we lose a bit of what makes us special. What do you think? Does it have to be either/or?

From my experience, the resettled refugees who truly thrive are those who find a balance between their own cultural traditions and this new life in the United States. They pick and choose their favorite aspects of both cultures and are able to create a unique path for themselves and their families. It’s this fusion of customs and backgrounds that makes America such an exciting and awe-inspiring place to make a life.

Credit: Reuters

Credit: Reuters

What traditions have you learned about in your position with USCRI?

I’ve been lucky enough to celebrate holidays with refugees from Burma, Bhutan, Somalia, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and other cultures. What strikes me is each community’s tendency for inclusiveness. They are always eager to share their traditions with people who are interested in learning. My favorite commonality is people’s desire to share unique and delicious food at their holiday celebrations! Refugees relay their history, their hopes, and their openness through cooking and eating – personally, that’s my favorite way to learn about people’s cultural traditions.

– – –

Thank you Ms. Eli for participating and we applaud your organization for doing such valuable work. Learning about the plight of refugees should help all of us appreciate the many gifts we have this holiday season.

Mike Stetz, Senior Writer
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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December Nights: We Are Family

As we noted earlier, this month the Collaborative Services’ blog is exploring how different cultures around the world celebrate the holidays. But we figured we’d start at home because San Diego has a very special festival that kicks off the holiday season with arms wide open.

December Nights in Balboa Park is a weekend celebration of the holidays as well as the city’s many cultures. This year’s event takes place on December 7 and 8. Its popularity has mushroomed. More than 300,000 people will attend this weekend’s event, making it the largest community festival of any kind held in San Diego.

Credit: Balboa Park

Credit: Balboa Park

What’s the appeal?

Well, for one thing: Diversity. From the Santa Lucia Procession – a Swedish tradition to the Colegio Ingles Choir performing “The Story of the Poinsettia” – a Mexican Christmas legend – there is much to experience.

Balboa Park is also home to the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages – representing more than 30 nations – which also take part in the celebration. A whole world of food, dance, and music is present in its International Cottage Christmas Festival, which is a part of the December Nights celebration.

Credit: House of  Sweden

Credit: House of Sweden

The event, which began in 1978, has become an integral part of San Diego’s fabric. Today, we hear from Debbie Petruzzelli, the Public Relations Manager for Balboa Park, who provides insight on the evolution of the iconic celebration and its importance.

– – –
December Nights has become a wonderful San Diego tradition, giving a variety of cultures the chance to share how they celebrate the holidays. How has the event evolved over the years?

December Nights (originally Christmas on the Prado) was a vision of the Balboa Park museums in 1978. A small group of the museums on “the Prado” wanted a reason to get people to come down to the Park at night to see the holiday decorations. Also the museum stores were hoping for a “shopping event” to boost sales.

Over the years, the event added outdoor entertainment, free museum admission, and expanded the boundaries of the event past El Prado into the rest of the Park. As these features were added, the attendance grew exponentially. What was originally a small, grass-roots event hosted by the cultural organizations had grown into a huge event that required police staffing, traffic control and other expenses.

In 2002, the name of the event was changed to Balboa Park December Nights to more accurately represent the fact that the event had moved far beyond “the Prado” and the increasing multi-cultural aspect.

In 2003, the event was in danger of being cancelled. The Balboa Park museums simply did not have the infrastructure to manage the growing attendance. And cost-recoveries fees for police, traffic control, and insurance were more than the small budget could bear. It was at this point that the City of San Diego took over management and co-hosting of the event. Attendance now is estimated at more than 300,000 over the two days.

How many different cultures are represented in the December Nights celebration?

There are more than 30 nations represented at the International Cottages, including Houses of Israel, Mexico, Colombia, Palestine, Turkey, Iran, India and China. In addition, SWEA (Swedish Women Education Association) perform the traditional Santa Lucia Procession and Swedish food festival in the California Quadrangle adjacent to the Museum of Man. They have been involved with the event for 31 years.

There are also many other cultural performances throughout the Park – from Flamenco dance on the Organ Pavilion Stage and Serbian and Balkan dance troupes on the Palisades Stage – to a choral group from Tijuana and Japanese Anime “Mochi Maids” performance.

The Santa Lucia Procession during December Nights at Balboa Park(Credit: blog.sandiego.org)

The Santa Lucia Procession during December Nights at Balboa Park
(Credit: blog.sandiego.org)

Are more being added as the San Diego region sees new immigration trends, such as the growth in the Asian-American community?

As the organizing and entertainment committees accept applications for entertainment they are committed to including as many cultures as possible. This is reflected in the variety of entertainment. Among some of the cultural performances added in recent years are a group of Estonian dancers who perform the traditional folkorati dance, a children’s choir from Tijuana, Mexico, the Jewish Men’s choir, and Mochi Cafe an organization that creates awareness and appreciation for modern Japanese culture through performances and cultural events.

Why do you think it is important showcase these different kinds of holiday celebrations?

San Diego has such a fantastic amalgamation of different cultures! Where else in San Diego can people take in such an array of cultural variations?

In my 16 years working this event I’m always astounded at the new things I learn each year. It is easy to become insulated in our comfort zone. How wonderful that there is such a place and such an event where the joyousness of these holiday celebrations can be shared.

The U.S. is routinely referred to a melting pot. And it’s not unusual for second and third generation immigrants to lose grasp of some of the traditions of their nations of origin. Many people who take part in December Nights have been able to hold onto these traditions. How do they do it?

When you visit December Nights one of the most telling and obvious things you’ll see is the joy and passion people have for their culture and nations… and how thrilled they are to be able to share it with so many people. Some of the cultural groups, like the Houses of Ireland and Scotland, have been continuing these traditions since 1935. Other more recent Houses, like Colombia and Mexico – Palestine and India – are also continuing those traditions for their young people, and for the people of San Diego.

Traditional Folklorico dance performed at the House of Mexico in Balboa Park(Credit: Diego on a Dime)

Traditional Folklorico dance performed at the House of Mexico in Balboa Park
(Credit: Diego on a Dime)

 
Do you have a favorite cultural holiday celebration besides your own? If so, which one and why?

I’m not Italian by birth, so it’s hard not to love the food and traditions of my adopted culture! What’s not to love about “La Befana” (the Christmas witch) and spaghetti and meatballs on Christmas Day? That said, our neighborhood is heavily influenced by the Vietnamese migrants beginning in the 1980s. Chinese New Year, Dragon Dances, firecrackers and red “good luck” envelopes have been something our family has loved for many years.

OK. Big question: Which cultural holiday celebration has the best food?

The Feast of the Seven Fishes from Italian culture is pretty hard to beat. Otherwise, I’m working my way through the holiday food at the International Cottages. I’m still not done after 16 years. Favorites so far? Lumpia from Philippines; tamales from Mexico; paella from Spain (like the Feast of the Seven Fishes in a bowl); and falafel from Israel.

Credit: http://eatingtheworld.wordpress.com

The Feast of Seven Fishes
(Credit: http://eatingtheworld.wordpress.com)

– – –
Thanks Ms. Petruzelli for taking the time during the busy holiday season to tell us about December Nights, a joyous gift for all San Diegans and our city’s many holiday visitors.

Mike Stetz, Senior Writer
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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Frosty, Santa Claus and La Befana the Christmas Witch: The Holidays are Upon Us

Tis the season to celebrate – not just for us, but for many, many different cultures around the world. And they do so uniquely and with their own special charms.

In Iceland, for instance, the Christmas – or Jól – season starts December 24 and the stakes are high. (And starchy.) Children leave their shoes on windowsills, hoping for presents, but if you’ve been bad, you get a potato.

Credit: Iceland Dreams

Credit: Iceland Dreams

On Bodhi Day, December 8, Buddhists celebrate the time when Siddhartha Guatauma underwent a moment of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya in India. It calls for a day of meditation. Rice and milk also are savored as part of that tradition.

Credit: Deep Spirits

Credit: Deep Spirits

In Israel, eating doughnuts filled with red jelly called soofganiyot and potato pancakes called latke are a big part of Hanukkah. Spinning a four-sided top is another aspect of the tradition. Each side has a Hebrew letter, which together stand for a “great miracle happened here.” In the U.S., the game, called dreidel, even has a national tournament. ESPN does not cover it – not yet anyway.

Our world is shrinking – metaphorically speaking.  Advances in technology and increasing globalization are giving us insights to places that were foreign to us in more ways than one before.  And immigration continues to send streams of people to this nation, where they bring their own rituals and traditions. This month the Collaborative Services blog will explore and celebrate the world of holidays around the globe. It’s fitting, giving the growing diversity of our nation, which is a nation of immigrants, after all.

Credit: Ashford University

Credit: Ashford University

As we learned last month during our look into Elections, our nation will have a different populace come mid-century. For the first time, non-white people will out number whites, creating what’s called a majority-minority population. That’s the case already in San Diego and a number of other cities in the nation.

How will our culture be changed? Will it? Will Black Friday continue to attract hordes of shoppers hoping to land deals on whatever will be the big thing in 2050? Jetpacks maybe? Even flatter flat-screen TVs?

Christmas is widely celebrated in the U.S. It is celebrated as a holiday for some and as a holy day for others.  According to this 2010 Gallup Poll, 95 percent of Americans celebrate it, including 80 percent of non-Christians. Even some atheists celebrate it.

Credit: Health Magazine

Credit: Health Magazine

The holiday is also celebrated in other parts of the world, particularly where the Roman Catholic religion is widely practiced, such as Ireland, Mexico and Italy. It’s even spreading to other nations, such as China, where Christmas displays can be found in stores in December.

Just about every nation has a unique way of celebrating Christmas. In Cuba, there’s a huge street carnival. In Italy it is La Befana, the Christmas witch, who leaves gifts. In Mexico, the Three Wise Men leave presents. To learn more about how nations around the world celebrate the Christmas holiday click here.

These celebrations have deep roots in their respective cultures. But what happens when new immigrants – used to celebrating in their own fashion – come here and the holidays approach? Over time, do they continue with their own traditions or dispense with them or combine theirs with ours? Think of your own holiday celebrations. Do you still incorporate traditions from your family’s cultural heritage and its traditions?

Credit: Squidoo

Credit: Squidoo

This month, we celebrate the range of ways to celebrate the end of one year and beginning of another. We will also talk to an organizer of December Nights, a San Diego celebration that highlights our community’s diversity during the holidays. So here’s hoping you join us as we go on a holiday parade, exploring this most wonderful time of year.

Mike Stetz, Senior Writer
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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