• midnight_mass_in_europe.jpg
    Many Polish people celebrate Christmas with the midnight mass service, called pasterka.
  • sp-cooked-pig.jpg
    Traditionally, the people of Cuba use the Cajachina to cook the pig.
  • spring-festival-in-china.jpg
    The Spring Festival is widely celebrated in China.

Wesleyan Students Celebrate Christmas Traditions from Around the World

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Why travel to different countries for Christmas when you can experience all kinds of unique Christmas traditions right here in the Wesleyan community?

The first stop is in Cuba. The Cuban festivities begin with the Parrandas which is a festival including many floats and huge fireworks. Many Cubans also attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, better known as “Noche Buena” in Cuba. Another important aspect of Christmas in Cuba is the food. Gabby Hernandez, who is of Cuban descent, said that on the Noche Buena, “We have the whole family go to my grandparents where my dad, uncle and grandpa cook a pig in something called a Cajachina, which is basically a big grill.” She said that they also have a family dinner with rice, black beans and bread.

The next stop is in China. According to junior Richard He, because the Chinese government does not encourage religion, Christmas is not a widely-celebrated holiday in China. He said, “My family did not do that many things during Christmas. My parents always bought me presents. Since we do not have school holidays during Christmas, we had to stay at school and study for the final. If Christmas day was on weekend, we went shopping as a family.” He said that in China, there are two New Year celebrations. The first is on Jan. 1st which follows the Western calendar. The second Chinese New Year which is in late January is called the Spring Festival.

The last stop is in Poland. One of the main Christmas traditions in Poland is the sharing of the oplatek, a thin wafer, during the Christmas Eve dinner called the Wigilia. The breaking and sharing of the oplatek symbolizes peace and prosperity to the family. In Poland, Christmas Eve is the most important day of the year because it is the day waiting for and celebrating Jesus. On this day, the women in the house start cooking for the Wigilia early in the day, while the men and children decorate the tree, the choinka, and set the table. High school English teacher, Monica Tarnawski, who is Polish American said, “Wigilia is especially important in our family, both for preparing the meal and enjoying time together. There are always twelve dishes to symbolize the twelve apostles. Examples are pierogi, fish, salad, and vegetables; no meat is consumed during this meal.” The family can only start eating the meal once the first star of the night, the gwiazdka, can be seen. Before eating, the family prays and shares the oplatek. After the meal, the family exchanges gifts and sings Christmas carols, koledy, under the tree. Then, the family goes to Midnight Mass, called pasterka.

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