Each country has its own traditions at Christmas. Three families share with us how they celebrate Christmas: in Ivory Coast, in Egypt and in Poland. Above, the crib for the children’s Christmas party, Notre-Dame des Vignes, France
Each country has their own traditions for Christmas. In Ivory Coast, Christmas is synonym of sharing, food, and celebration. Most Ivorians gather with friends and family around a good traditional meal: attiéké with chicken and braised fish or kédjénou pépé soupe (a spicy soup), we cannot forget the rice as well as fried banana plantain.
The idea of sharing is rooted in the African culture, especially in Ivory Coast. The celebration is about sharing moments of conviviality around food or even while dancing. Coming from a mixed family, my mother being Ivorian and my dad Dutch, we have mixed traditions.
Christmas is first and foremost going to church with lots of music and happy dances, followed by a good meal with my parents’ close friends.
In Ivory Coast, we can find more and more mixed families, hence the cultures and traditions are mixed and completed with each other. The celebrations are organized differently but what remains unchanged is the Christmas mass and this time of living as a family.
Alexandre Kémédjika & Nadine van Beers
Christmas festivities in Egypt differ from most countries due to the multiplicity of churches: Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants. We celebrate Christmas from December 25 up to January 7; and there are many celebrations for preparing to receive this special child…! These include fasting periods whose durations vary in different churches, as well as participation in Carolling parties, along with spiritual exercises. Then there is the decorating of homes with a Christmas tree and a Christmas nativity scene before we get to Christmas Eve, wherein we get new clothes, participate in the Divine Liturgy, continue with family gatherings for dinner, and receive gifts from Santa Claus.
Some families also write letters to their children, as well as visiting shelters, nursing homes and hospitals to be close to those who are in need of human warmth and comfort. Being with patients and orphans, and presenting them with gifts, is an attempt to bring joy to their hearts during the celebration of the Nativity.
Soheir & Ramy
Christmas begins when the first star appears in the sky. This is 24th of December. Children are waiting impatiently. Christmas tree is already beautifully decorated. The whole family gathers for the Christmas Eve. Everyone is smartly dressed. At the beginning we read a passage from the Bible about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Next, there is time for all to turn to each other to share a wafer (Opłatek) and bless one another, to wish all the best, to thank, to apologize and to present all possible good words.
Than supper begins. It consists of 12 different courses… Usually there is fish since this is fasting meal. We usually serve also mushrooms and cabbage in different forms and also sweets of different sort with poppy seeds, nuts, honey and cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
There is always one empty seat at the table to welcome someone unexpected and in need.
When the meal is finished we sing Christmas carols and we give each other the gifts placed under the Christmas tree. At midnight, we go to Midnight Mass together. For the next two days we celebrate with all our extended family and friends.
Editor’s note: “Opłatek is made from unleavened bread, using white flour and water. It is an ancient tradition in the Catholic Church of Central European countries” (Lithuania, Slovakia, etc). For more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_wafer
Ewa Andrzej Jeremiasz Gosia Ania Kasia and Michał Dolni