Thursday, December 16, 2010

A "Bulgarican" Christmas - A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Christmas Celebrations

This year's holiday post is a cross-cultural comparison of Christmas celebrations.

Unfortunately, Christmas in the States nowadays is associated with lots of shopping, too much to do and too little time to do it, and obligatory gatherings, such as the work holiday party, and the visiting of relatives with which you have little in common.

Especially in these difficult financial times, families overextend themselves with buying more presents than they can afford.

This time of year would be so much more fun if people got together and sang, danced, and played music instead. Holidays are about family and friends having fun, not worrying about who to buy for and "can we afford it?"

The canned music coming from the loudspeakers in stores and malls is enough to make me want to jump off the nearest bridge. There is only so much of "Let it Snow" and "Frosty the Snowman" that I can take. By the way, I hate winter and I hate snow even more. Sometimes I feel like Oscar the Grouch this time of year.

Now, lets see how people who actually know how to have fun celebrate the holidays.

I come from a culture that loves to celebrate Christmas with lots of music and dancing. My family originates from Puerto Rico, where holiday partying can get quite lively. There is a tradition of musicians, singers and their friends going from door to door, eating and drinking at each home, called parranda.

The celebrations last for about two weeks, from Christmas Eve until Epiphany (January 6th), which is the day the Three Wise Men, who followed a star rising in the East (they were astrologers) found the baby Jesus and came bearing him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Here are some wild and crazy Puerto Ricans in action during Christmastime. Back in the day, the parranderos used to go to every house in the neighborhood, unfortunately due to the crime situation in Puerto Rico nowadays, the party is usual held in someone's home, with family and close friends.

This is group of musicians from Mayaguez having a song fest outdoors in the plaza. What I love about these songs is that they're lively, upbeat, and yes, you can dance to them. Not to mention that the weather in Puerto Rico in January, when this was taken, is a comfortable 75 degrees. With the weather we've been having I've contemplated selling my soul to spend the holidays in the tropics....

By the way, my step-grandfather was a musician, played the guitar, and went on parranda every Christmas. My grandmother, unfortunately, never joined him. She missed out on all the fun.

This video from the Universe of YouTube shows Bulgarians in Tampa, Florida, having a blast at Christmastime, doing one of their favorite dances, the rachenitsa. There is a sizeable Hispanic population in Tampa, and if they had crashed this celebration while doing their parranda, they would have fit right in!

For more on cross-cultural connections between Puerto Rico and Bulgaria read:

Here's another Bulgarian Christmas celebration, complete with falling "snow" amd folk dancers strutting their stuff. The stamping of the feet and the ringing of cowbells is supposed to drive out evil spirits, and the army of bagpipe players certainly helps :)

Wherever Bulgarians are at Christmastime, there is bound to be a party going on. This one takes place in St. Louis. This is a family affair, and the kids get to dance too!

I would like to wish everyone a stress free holiday, with lots of music and dancing. Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, and Весела Коледа!

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  1. This is a great post! I love the parranda videos! It looks so much fun! I have a question, I've always wondered what it is to spend Christmas without snow?! Obviously it's not less joyous at all :)

    I actually haven't done any Christmas shopping at all yet! I completely forgot!!!
    In the recent years (now that my brother and I aren't kids anymore) in my family, we usually give each other small, rather symbolic gifts. On one hand, this is because we usually don't wait until Christmas if we want to buy ourselves something nice hehehe.. but on the other hand, it's because we celebrate being together more than anything else. That's why we usually buy the tree and the presents very late (one year, we got both on Dec 24th!). But we always prepare all the typical dishes for the family dinner, and then spend the 25th with our extended family! It's a family holiday, right, not a shopping spree! :)

    Feliz Navidad y Chestita Koleda!

  2. so true, Zikata, the traditional dishes and the extended family time are the best things about Christmas. I like the idea about the small gifts, nothing expensive.

    I'm tempted to make pernil and pasteles with Shopska Salad and banitsa :)

    Thanks for the lovely comment, Puerto Ricans and Bulgarians have the best Christmas celebrations and music!