By the courtesy of the US Army and my own wanderlust I’ve had the opportunity to experience Christmas in many countries, mostly in Europe. Fellow Army vets and other pals have also had foreign Christmas experiences and have clued me in about places I’ve never been. Even here in America, the folk and regional Christmas celebrations have been myriad.
In Germany it’s much more formal, much more traditional. I had the chance to attend Christmas services at the beautiful Muenster church in Neu-Ulm, Germany in the early 80s. Unfortunately for the assembled congregants, I attended this service with a fellow soldier who was an Aussie and had an absurdist sense of humor as I have. We took one look at the printed handout for the service and one of the manger associated post modern items on the cover of the program looked to us like a portable hair dryer. We immediately dubbed this the “Holy Hair Dryer of Antioch.” This caused us much mirth, but not the Hun. Such was NATO allied relations on that Christmas eve.
In Pennsylvania the character of Belsnickel is apparent and is redolent of the German character of some places in the state. Thus, it is totally creepy.
Christmas in the UK is an amazing time. It’s positively Dickensian. Places like Covent Garden are so beautiful they are spellbinding and out in the English and Scottish countryside the look is reminiscent of an England and Scotland of centuries ago. It brings one back to basics.
In France the feeling is medieval. The holiday services at Chartres or Reims make you automatically genuflect out of sheer respect for the solemnity and the spectacle. The tour and sampling at the Piper Heidseck factory did not hurt in this regard.
I’m told Christmas in South and Central America is a simple yet beautiful thing. The emphasis is on the innocence of the baby Jesus and on the maternal love of Mary. Joseph is mostly cut out of the picture. Dads like me cry foul.
No matter where you go the joy and holiness of the holiday abounds triumphant. Even in non-Christian lands, for Christians, there is a notion of reverence and hope. Not much more you can ask from the holiday.