Midday Fix: Holiday traditions around the world

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Marcie Wolbeck, Local Development Director for Cultural Care Au Pair

For more information:

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Food/Traditions:

Brazil
“Rabanada,” a dish that will remind Americans or the British of French Toast, is thick slices of day-old bread, dipped in a mixture of milk and beaten eggs, fried in butter and deliciously covered in thick syrup made from port, honey and cinnamon. Although it is a tasty favorite all year round, rabanada is a ‘must have’ on the Brazilian Christmas meal table. 7 grapes on a stick for good luck in the new year in Brazil.

Mexico
No Mexican holiday party is complete without a hearty pot of hot ¡Ponche Navideño! This warm, spiced Christmas punch is made by simmering typical Mexican fruits with cane sugar and spices until the heavenly aroma permeates the home. Ponche is typically served in Mexico on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) and during the posadas, the 9 day Celebration leading up to Christmas. During these days of celebration, a steaming pot of Ponche is always kept hot and ready for guests.
Papel picado ("perforated paper", literally "pecked paper") is a decorative craft made out of paper cut into beautiful and elaborate designs. It is considered a Mexican folk art. The designs are commonly cut from colored tissue paper using a guide or template and small chisels, creating as many as forty banners at a time. Papel picado can also be made by folding tissue paper and using small, sharp scissors. Common themes include birds, floral designs, and skeletons. They are commonly displayed for both secular and religious occasions, such as Easter, Christmas, the Day of the Dead, as well as during weddings, quinceañeras, baptisms, and christenings. In Mexico, papel picado is especially incorporated into altars during the Day of the Dead.
Few people realize that the poinsettia, the most recognized flower of Christmas, is a native plant of Mexico and Guatemala. Its association with Christmas began in the 16th century where, according to legend, a poor young girl had no gift for the celebration of the birth of Christ. An angel guided the girl to pick weeds and place them in front of the church. These weeds bloomed into the vivid red flowers we know now as poinsettias. Today, they are a common symbol of the season.
The pinata originated in China, but became popular in Mexico as a religious instructional tool. It's a brightly-colored paper mache figure filled with candy and treats. During a celebration, the pinata is hung from a tree. Participants are blindfolded and given a stick to hit the pinata. When it breaks open, the contents spill out for all to grab and enjoy. During the Christmas season, the pinata can add a festive feel to the decor.

Germany
St. Nicholas Day dessert typically includes Christmas Stollen, considered one of the best Christmas pastries in the world! The most famous Stollen, which can be found at many supermarkets, is called Dresdner Stollen. This tasty version bursts with nuts and fruit and is sure to change your mind about the term “fruitcake.” Stollen is shaped with tapered ends and a ridge down the center, symbolizing the Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes.

Austria
They don’t light the Christmas Tree until Christmas Eve (they use real candles and candy on the tree as well as ornaments made from Gingerbread cookies) Christmas in Austria really starts around 4.00pm on Christmas Eve ('Heilige Abend') when the tree is lit for the first time and people come to sing carols around the tree. The most famous carol is Silent Night ('Stille Nacht'), which was written in Austria in 1818. We will have a little table top tree to show off the traditional decorations.

Sweden

Feast of St. Lucia, adventsljusstake and the tradition of Tomten.  Saffron buns and Jansson's Temptation are popular dishes.