Every month, Rich Simons answers readers’ most perplexing questions.
In school we have been studying the customs of other countries. Do you know anything about what other countries do at Christmas time? - k.w.
Photo illustration Art Olson.
Dear k.w., I’ve got something here for you, but it may not be what your teacher is looking for. Be that as it may, I shall begin: A little known facet of my upbringing is that I was raised to a large extent in a small village nestled in the jungle of a distant South American land. My father, who was a sort of missionary, believed that his children should always learn something of the habits and customs of the countries we lived in. Accordingly, one Christmas Eve he took me and my two brothers forth to observe the festivities of the inhabitants of our village. The venue was not difficult to locate. From the area around the churchyard, rockets screamed skyward. At a distance of about a mile, the sounds of the festivities could be heard clearly.
Inside the church, nuns puttered about handing out sparklers, already lit. If the village had a fire chief, he was clearly vacationing in some other locale.
Since we are talking about a South American country, I think we can assume that the ritual was fundamentally Christian. At the front of the church there was an altar, where an elderly gentleman in colorful robes moved about. The local Boy Scout troop marched down the aisle, drums marking their cadence, pounding away, ratta tat tat, ratta tat tat. At the moment that the priest elevated something above the altar, the bugles came into full cry and at almost the same time a basket containing an effigy of the baby Jesus came gliding down on a wire from the choir loft (alas, no choir) and Christmas had begun! Outside the church artillery sounded, triumphantly announcing the arrival of the Christ. Oh, joyous day! Inside the church, young men with guitars began to lead the congregation in song. Strum, thumpa, strum, thumpa and so on. When we left, dancing had begun and the party was in full swing.
I hope that this reminiscence of mine has been of interest to you, and maybe your teacher.