Although most of our project sites are located in countries where Christianity is practiced, there are many different traditions that are celebrated during this time of year.
In the first week of December, Costa Ricans celebrate Festival de las Luces in San Jose. This is the beginning of a month-long celebration for Christmas that goes off with a bang! Firework displays, live concerts, and other light displays illustrate the celebration of Christ's birth.
While Christmas is celebrated for three months in the Dominican Republic, Nochebuena is one of the most special days. Nochebuena means Christmas Eve, and this is when families come together to eat a huge meal full of traditional delicacies. Neighbors bring dishes to each other and everyone sits on porches while they shoot of fireworks until midnight mass. After the fun of Nochebuena, recovery occurs on Christmas Day!
On November 3rd, citizens in Ecuador celebrate the Pas del Nino parade, or Passing of the Child. This is a colorful parade, and mixes the religious and profane. It is a festival of thansgiving and pays homage to Catholicism as well as indigenous traditions. It lasts over eights ours, and features many different floats and cars decorated with flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Participants include bands, dancers, street performers, stilt-walkers and various Biblical characters, while Jesus is carried through towns and villages.
Queen of the Peace is the patron saint of El Salvador, and they celebrate her on November 21st. Huge festivals take place, rivaling that of Mardi Gras in New Orleans! The largest celebrations are held in San Miguel. Music is such an integral part of this festival that 45 bands can be found performing throughout the celebration.
Although neither Hinduism and Buddhism don't have any particular celebrations during this time of the year, Christianity and Islam do! Christians celebrate Christmas in much of the same way that others do throughout the world, while Muslims celebrate Mawlid-al-Nabi. Mawlid-al-Nabi commemorates the Prophet Muhammed's birthday with recollections of Muhammed's life and significance. (http://www.infoplease.com/spot/islamicholidays.html)
La Griteria is a very boisterous holiday that celebrates the conception of the Virgin Mary. On December 7th, cathedrals and churches ask the question, "Who causes so much happiness?" and the response is, "The conception is Mary." Cities and towns begin exploding fireworks. Mary is thanked for the miracles, and people decorate altars in their neighborhoods and homes to do so.
Christmas traditions in Peru date back to 1535. The main focal point of Christmas decorations in Peruvian homes is the Nativity manger. Also known as a pesebre, the Nativity scenes are usually intricately carved out of pottery, wood, or huamanga stone. Cusco holds a bustling Christmas market called Santuaranticuy that is centered on the tradition of building a pesebre and embellishing it in as many ways as possible.
Senakulo is a well-known tradition of Filipino Christians during Holy Week. Senakulo is the dramatization of his life and sufferings, and are most commonly performed in the streets of the barangays or at the compound of the churches themselves. Historically, people would dress up in well-made costumes, depicting roman soldiers and officials. Today, the presentation of Senakulo can be done digitally with projectors so more people can see actors' performances. (http://www.festivals-holidays.com/mahal-na-araw-holy-week-philippines/#more-389)
Uganda was originally a commonwealth of Great Britain, and therefore observes Boxing Day. This is celebrated December 26th or 27th, and was originally a day for servants to receive a Christmas box from their employer to recognize their good service throughout the year.