Christmas celebrated in many forms


Ashley Brehm, Reporter

Christmas is celebrated in many areas of the world, but not all celebrations are the same, and they even differ from one family in Newville to the next. Many of the teachers and students within the Big Spring School district have different traditions they use to celebrate the holiday with their families.

Sometimes the traditions begin on Christmas Eve instead of on Christmas Day.  Bethany Pagze, English teacher, said, “My grandfather used to take a group of us Christmas caroling around downtown Shippensburg at midnight on Christmas Eve.”

Similarly, Ronna Stover, physical education teacher, begins her celebrations on Christmas Eve. “We never wrap presents until Christmas Eve. Also, when our children were young, we always read, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ just before going to bed on Christmas Eve after putting out cookies and milk for Santa.” said Stover.

Some celebrate over the course of several days, or bring in traditions from the countries where their ancestors were from. Michelle Paris, high school aide, celebrates The Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian based tradition, also known as The Vigil.

“Feast of the Seven Fishes is a day of abstinence of red meat in preparation for the birth of Christ.” said Paris.

In old time Italy, it was a major fishing community. Many Italians would fish during the day, and then prepare seven fish based meals based on what they caught during the day. Although, it’s not limited to just seven fish. Some people do nine, and others do twelve. The people who do twelve usually mean it as a representation of the twelve apostles that were Jesus’ core group of people.

They would originally prepare Shmelts, which are fish that are similar to sardines, as an appetizer, shrimp, clams, and some sort of pasta dish. Oysters, Baccala (highly salted cod), are made for the feast as well. Once the meal is finished, they usually end with a simple dessert, like a fruit dish or Torrones, which are italian nugget cookies.

“Then you head off, as a family, to Midnight Mass.” Paris said.

Midnight Mass is a Christmas Eve liturgical tradition in the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, and the Lutheran Churches. The Mass is the central act of worship in the catholic church.

On Christmas Day, Paris and her family eat a big Italian breakfast and open gifts. The traditional Italian Christmas feast would usually have ham or beef.

“I started being hands on with this at about twelve.” said Paris.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes was originally meant to be for fasting; that’s why there are light fish meals are served. There are no restrictions on what one should eat, other than red meats.

Paris said, “Make it about family, and base it around that. If it gets people together, then wonderful.”

Art teacher, Judith Mislitski knows traditions from another part of the world, Iceland. 

“At Christmas dinner in Iceland, there is a hidden almond in someone’s individual serving of rice pudding, the person with the almond gets the gift in the center of the table.” said Mislitski.

Many people are also learning more about these traditions from Google’s Santa countdown.  According to their site, in Iceland, they  have a traditions where families give gifts of warm clothing to loved ones. According to their legend, there is a frightening Christmas Cat who gobbles up anyone not equipped for the cold winter weather. Families work together to make sure no one gets eaten.

In New Zealand, Christmas is in the summer. Families gather around a barbecue. Meals include roast lamb, which is sometimes cooked in a hangi. A hangi is an underground pit or Earth oven. Dessert include pavlova, which is meringue covered in fresh fruit, like strawberries or kiwis.

Christmas is celebrated in many ways around the world, but one thing many have in common, is that it’s time spent with family and friends.