Have you ever wondered how other people spend the exact same day in other parts of the Globe? No matter if it’s Christmas – which is a great example to compare anyway – or just a casual day. What is the first thing somebody up there does after waking up in the morning and what he or she thinks about before bedtime? I decided to consult my international friends (names are changed). Below are the results.
Ivalu (27), Greenland
She wakes up before 7am being kissed in the nose by her 5-year old son Minik. It is the second Christmas they spend without Minik’s dad. She wants to make this time special for her little boy, the same way her parents made it special for her. Even though they were alcoholics and not every day was a happy day at their place, Christmas was always a time of joy for the whole family. Her mom made small presents for every day of December and hid them all over the house. Together with her brother, they could find a candy or a toy under the stairs or in a kitchen drawer. At midnight of 23rd of December, they went to the graveyard to light a candle for the deceased relatives and sing Christmas psalms. The sky was full of stars and the graveyard full of snow.
– After that we went home to drink hot chocolate and open presents – says Ivalu – On Christmas Eve we ate mattak – raw whale skin with a strip of blubber inside (it’s so delicious!), duck and pork with potatoes, caramelized potatoes, red cabbage and gravy. And for dessert we had rice pudding with cherry sauce where we could find a whole almond. The one who found the almond, got a present.
– How do you say Merry Christmas in your native language?
– Merry Christmas: Juullimi Pilluarit, Merry Christmas to all: Juullimi Pilluaritsi. Oh… I remember the sight of hundreds of candles glowing in the snow in a serene cemetery… It was surprisingly uplifting. I miss Greenland like crazy.
Ana (35), New Zealand
She is a Kiwi, born and raised in Wellington. Her standard breakfast is a toast with (too sweet) jam. The last thing she sees before falling asleep on the Christmas Eve night is a vertical hole in her bedroom wall – the result of a recent earthquake. Although it is a common phenomenon in the country, she complains again about the insurance money coming up so late. She prepares Christmas Day barbecue for her friends she invited to her beach house on the east shore of the North Island called a bach.
It is the middle of summer holidays so they all wear shorts and jandals (short for Japanese sandals). She can’t wait to try the cod marinated in soy sauce, wasabi and grated ginger. For dessert they have a hot fruit pudding with custard, pavlova and whipped cream, meringues and fruit salad. She welcomes her Maori friends at the door: – Meri Kirihimete! – they say – Merry Christmas!
Munkhtsetseg (20), Mongolia
Her name means eternal flower in Mongolian. She is a nomad living in a ger (also known as yurt) surrounded by a whole family of several generations. They change the place at least 4 times a year, depending on where their sheep prefer to live. In winter they stay in between the heels in a place that is not windy and wait until Spring.
– Time flies very slowly and peacefully when you are a nomad. You follow the animals and eat the animals and their milk. You know, Mongolia’s people depend largely on meat and milk in particular. We have cattle, yaks, camels, horses, goats and sheep. When you kill an animal, every tiny part of it is used. We dry meat for the future, we make reindeer furs and woolen clothes. We use milk to make alcoholic beverages called airag and arkhi. Animal bones are used by children as toys. Your Christmas is not present here – she says sewing a traditional coat called deel – I wake up and it’s very cold. I prepare salted milk tea for the whole family. We usually eat meat for breakfast. You know, they say you can just stand there and look at the mountains for hours… It is true! But we don’t even use a watch anyway.
Anasa (32), Kenya
Her name means joy and that’s what she thinks about Christmas. It is all about family gatherings and food. It is a big party. She lives with her three children in a tiny house without bathroom. She is one of four wifes of 74-year-old Odon. Polygamous marriages are very common in Kenya.
– We live in a community. Each wife has her own house and lives with her children. All wifes like and support each other. Our husband treats us well, he respects us. He is a good father. He has 11 children and 2 grandchildren.
– Krismasi Njema means Merry Christmas in Swahili. When children wake up on Christmas morning, we eat donuts called mandazi and drink tea. We decorate the living room with crepe paper and balloons. We make little tufts of snow from cotton and put them on a Chirstmas tree. For dinner we have nyama choma (grilled goat or beef). We also eat chapatti with chutney.
– What about Santa Claus?
– Being together is our Christmas. There is no gift giving! Family is the gift.
Kasia (31), Poland
It is 6 in the morning when she finishes her duty at the hospital and drives home after 24 hours of work. She takes one-hour power nap, snacks a musli bar and recalls all the stuff to do taking the shower. She has to be careful before her mom does the quality test. She decorates the table with candles and embroidered napkins for 15 people. She puts a bundle of hay under the tablecloth – it symbolizes the manger, a place of birth of Jesus Christ. Even though Kasia is an atheist, she loves the trashy decorations and respects the beliefs of her Catholic family.
– We wait until the first star appears in the sky and then we break Opłatek (a Christmas wafer) wishing each other all the good things. I don’t like this unomfortable 15 minutes of the evening so much! It is the most intimate moment for me: everyone comes to hug me and wish me a husband and a child. Am I so old? Come on!
– You see! [we laugh] During the special Feast called Wigilia we usually have 12 dishes on the Christmas table symbolizing 12 Apostoles. Following thetradition, we don’t eat meat that day. Talking and laughing, we happily indulge in beethroot soup with mushroom dumplings, split peas and cabbage, fried carp, millet with mushroom sauce and poppy seed cake. My favorite one is makiełki: sweet pasta with poppy seeds, nuts, raisins and honey.
As you know, one of the Polish customs is that there is always one empty plate left for the unexpected guest in need who can knock your door any time. The unexpected guest who knocked my door last year was my girlfriend. She wasn’t supposed to be here. I told her not to come as I was so afraid. When she kissed me, the whole family freezed in silence. Suddenly my grandpa stood up with a piece of Christmas waffle and wished us good luck. It was a hell of a coming out, wasn’t it?