This is part of my Christmas Memory Challenge, a goal I set for myself to recall 25 things I love about Christmas. You can also check out Shannon's memories here.
Tucked away in one of my dad's boxes of Christmas decorations is an old book called Christmas Around the World which I first discovered when I eight. The book is nothing special, just a simple children's book about old traditions from around the world. Even when it was first printed in the 70's, I get the feeling a lot of these traditions were out of date. Not saying that all were (or even that they are all now), but it seemed to focus more on traditions which were apart of the countryside culture. I find it hard to believe that someone in London in the 70's was holding onto last year's yule log to start the fire for this year's log... assuming the flat even had a working fireplace.
Still, as a child, I didn't realise this. All I saw was all the ways that people different than myself celebrated Christmas and I loved it. I learned that our tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree is from Germany, poinsettias come from Mexico, and my dad is not the only person in the world (because he was out of my friend's parents) who puts a red candle in the window. I'd pour over the every year looking for new information about holiday traditions from places I had only ever seen on our gigantic map.
My obsession with this book eventually turned into a fascination with other cultures and how they celebrate holidays. Not just Christmas, but any sizable holiday. And not just the big community parts of the celebration, but the quiet things people do in their own homes. I think it also goes a long way to explain why I love the traditions of Christmas more than the actual idea of Christmas (we're celebrating the birthday of a guy who was born [probably] in September in December so it would line up with Saturnalia and entice the Romans to Christianity, and we celebrate by beating people up so they can't take the last X-Box priced at 60% off. Yeah, great idea).