Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Peace on Earth - Happy New Year 2009

Children of the world

Christmas in Greece - New Year’s Eve: Ayios Vasilis

Maria Verivaki
Writes from Hania, Crete, Greece
View her website: On day in Hania

New Year's Cake: the Greek Vasilopita welcoming the New Year with good wishes

The more I know about the world, the more difficult I find it to live through an over-commercialised Christmas. While many children around the world are waiting for their presents, there will be many children that won't be getting any, because of the troubled times we live in. The economic crisis has put hard-working people out of a job, so many parents won't have money to spare for the toys their children see advertised on TV. Some countries are living through war times, so their children may not have any parents, while the children themselves may be having trouble staying alive. And some people are grieving for the loss of a loved one - Greece has lived through this tragedy so well just this past month. There will be no celebration in those houses.

Luckily, for us in Crete, Christmastime is a family-centred celebration which doesn't involve ham and turkey. Many people do cook turkey on Christmas Day and/or New Year's Day, but it is a tradition imported from other cultures. Santa Claus doesn't come to Greece on Christmas Day, either. Saint Nick is celebrated early in December (the 6th), while Christmas comes at the end of December. The task of distributing presents to children rests on one of the three most significant religious teachers in the Greek Orthodox Church, 'Αϊ Βασίλη (Ai-Vasili), St Basil, who is celebrated on the 1st of January, the first day of the new year, as he is believed to be closer to Christmas Day than Saint Nicholas. So children in Greece wake up on New Year's Day to find their presents under the tree. Even the Greek Christmas carols reflect this. St Basil was bishop of Kaisarea, and all Greek children know the Greek Christmas carol that goes "Agios Vasilis is coming... from Caesarea."

Most Greeks put up their Christmas tree some time in December, and take it down the day after Epiphany, the 6th of January, as that is the date when the Christmas holidays are considered officially over.

Most Greeks put up their Christmas tree some time in December, and take it down the day after Epiphany, the 6th of January, as that is the date when the Christmas holidays are considered officially over.

St Basil instead of St Nicholas dressed as Santa Claus in Greece may also have to do with the fact that the Greek Orthodox church used to follow the Julian calendar to work out the dates for Easter, but when it started to follow the Georgian calendar, some dates for some festivals (Christmas being among them) changed course slightly. There is a difference of fourteen days between the Julian and the Georgian Calendar, the latter celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December. In the present-day Eastern Orthodox church, a group of people still follow the Julian calendar to work out festival dates, which dictates that Christmas falls on the 6th of January, making St Basil a likely candidate as the bearer of Christmas gifts for children. So the Greek Orthodox Christians meet the Old Calendarists (as the followers of the 6th-of-January Christmas are known) half-way on Santa Claus. Yet, even though it uses the Georgian calendar throughout the year, it is the Julian calendar that is used in all Christian Orthodox churches to work out the date for Easter, which is considered the most important festival in the Greek world (Christian Orthodox Easter always falls in April or May, never March).

Ευτυχώς, για μας στην Κρήτη, τα Χριστούγεννα είναι μια οικογενειακή γιορτή η οποία δεν συνεπάγεται και ζαμπόν γαλοπούλας. Πολλοί άνθρωποι μαγειρεύουν γαλοπούλα για τα Χριστούγεννα ή/και την Πρωτοχρονιά, αλλά είναι μια συνήθεια που εισάχθηκε από άλλους πολιτισμούς, όπως και ο Άγιος Βασίλης, που δεν έρχεται την ημέρα των Χριστουγέννων. Τα παιδιά στην Ελλάδα ξυπνούν την Πρωτοχρονιά αναζητώντας τα δώρα τους κάτω από το Χριστουγεννιάτικο δέντρο.

Μαρία Βεριβάκη
Γράφει από τα Χανιά Κρήτης
Δείτε την ιστοσελίδα της: One day in Hania

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"North America's largest Foodbank Fundraiser" - Canada

Fida Wild
Writes from Canada
View her website: Wild Wanderings

A couple of nights ago the brightly decorated Canadian Pacific Holiday train passed through our community. It has become a much loved and awaited event of lights and entertainment for all ages. And even though it was beastly cold, everyone was cheering and having fun!

What began in 1999 with a few communities and only a handful of lights on a freight train has grown to North America’s largest food bank fundraiser. Everything collected at the event stays in the community to help those less fortunate.
Since its launch in 1999, the Holiday Train program has raised more than CAD 2.3 million and 506 tons of food for North American food banks.

Today, the CPR Holiday train is a 14-car freight train, which includes a boxcar converted into a special stage featuring this year Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member Tracey Brown and Canadian Country Music Awards winner Johnny Reid.

It’s decorated with over 8,000 LED Christmas lights and other decorations to shine a bright light on the serious issue of hunger in communities.

Hundreds of CPR employees volunteer for the special fundraising journey every year - many taking their vacations to work on each train.
Η μεγαλύτερη φιλανθρωπική εκδήλωση στη Βόρεια Αμερική

Πριν λίγες μέρες το με φώτα διακοσμημένα το τρένο Canadian Pacific Holiday πέρασε μέσα από την πόλη μας. Το τρένο με τα διακοσμημένα φώτα έχει γίνει πολύ αγαπητό και κάτι που το αναμένει ο κόσμος απ’ όλες τις ηλικίες για να ψυχαγωγηθεί. Παρόλο λοιπόν, που υπήρχε τσουχτερό κρύο, όλοι ήσαν χαρούμενοι και το διασκέδαζαν!

Αυτό που άρχισε το 1999 με μερικές κοινότητες και μια εμπορική αμαξοστοιχία με λίγα φώτα για, αναπτύχθηκε στη μεγαλύτερη εκδήλωση συγκέντρωσης τροφίμων στη Βόρεια Αμερική. Όλα όσα συγκεντρώνονται, παραμένουν στην κάθε κοινότητα, για να βοηθήσουν αυτούς που έχουν ανάγκη, αυτούς που είναι λιγότερο τυχεροί.

Από την έναρξή του προγράμματος ‘Γιορταστικό Τρένο’ (Holiday Train) το 1999, έχουν συγκεντρωθεί πάνω από 2,3 εκατ. Καναδέζικα δολάρια και 506 τόνοι τροφίμων με το σύστημα αυτό.

Σήμερα, το ‘Γιορτινό Τρένο’ (Holiday Train) αποτελείται από 14 εμπορικά βαγόνια. Η εμπορική αυτή αμαξοστοιχία, περιλαμβάνει κι ένα κλειστό φορτηγό βαγόνι, που έχει μετατραπεί σε ένα ειδικό χώρο, όπου φέτος παρουσιάζει Καναδέζικη παραδοσιακή μουσική, με γνωστούς καλλιτέχνες όπως τον φετινό νικητή του διαγωνισμού παραδοσιακού τραγουδιού Johnny Reid.
Είναι διακοσμημένο με περισσότερο από 8000 πολύχρωμες λαμπίτσες και άλλα χριστουγεννιάτικα διακοσμητικά παιχνίδια, για να φωτίζει με το δυνατό του φως το σοβαρό πρόβλημα της πείνας σε κοινότητες.

Κάθε χρόνο, εκατοντάδες εθελοντές εργάζονται για την ειδική αυτή διαδρομή συλλογής χρημάτων και πολλοί παίρνουν άδεια για να εργαστούν για τον ωραίο αυτό σκοπό.
Fida Wild
Γράφει από τον Καναδά
Δείτε την ιστοσελίδα της : Wild Wanderings