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Sunday, December 30, 2012

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed spending time with friends and family. After a brief respite, (enough to catch your breath and rest a bit), its time to get ready for the New Year's Eve/Day celebration. Regardless of where you will be spending it be it,  in the lovely city of Paris, France or at home watching the ball drop at New York Times Square, I hope you have a wonderful celebration.  If you decide to imbibe in more than the usual toast or two, take care to drive responsibly or have a designated driver.

If your interested, scroll down to read a bit about how other countries celebrate the New Year.

Source via Pinterest ~Originally pinned by Photo Idea Light by Hansol Kim

National celebrations

New York City's Times Square is the best location for the New Year's celebrations in the United States with the famous ball drop.

In the United Kingdom there are many celebrations across the towns and cities, particularly in Scotland.
In London, England, thousands gather along the Embankment on the River Thames to watch the fireworks around the London Eye. The New Year officially starts when Big Ben strikes twelve.

In Scotland, there are many special customs associated with the New Year. These are a part of the Scottish celebration Hogmanay, the Scots name for New Year's Eve. The famous street party in Princes Street in Edinburgh is one example.
In Wales, Calennig is celebrated, with celebrations attracting thousands of people in the capital, Cardiff.

In Greece and Cyprus, families and relatives switch off the lights at midnight, then celebrate by cutting the "vassilopita" (Basil's pie) which usually contains one coin or equivalent. Whoever wins expects luck for the whole year. After the pie, a traditional game of cards called "triantaena" (31) follows.

In Nassau, Bahamas, the Junkanoo parade takes place.

In the Philippines, fireworks, booming sound system as well as make a lot of noise with the belief that the noises would scare evil spirits away, preventing them from bringing bad luck to the coming new year. The tables are laden with food for the Media Noche or midnight meal, and there is a basket of 12 different round fruits to symbolize prosperity in each of the coming year's 12 months. Public new year parties like those in New York and Sydney are also available to the people and very well attended.

In Russia and the other 14 former republics of the Soviet Union, the celebration of Novi God is greeted by fireworks and drinking champagne. The New Year is considered a family celebration, with lavish food and gifts. In Moscow, the president of Russia counts down the final seconds of the "old year", as it is traditionally called in Russia. The Kremlin's landmark Spassky Clock Tower chimes in the new year and then the anthem starts. It is customary to make a wish while the Clock chimes. Old New Year is celebrated on January 14 (equivalent to January 1 in the "old style" Julian calendar. It isn't the official holiday, but only after Old New Year do people take decorations and Christmas trees (firs) away.
In Davos, Switzerland, the final match of the Spengler Cup ice hockey Tournament is usually held on this day by tradition.

In the United States, it is traditional to spend this occasion together with loved ones. A toast is made to the new year, with kisses, fireworks and parties among the customs. It is popular to make a New Year's resolution, although that is optional. In the country's most famous New Year celebration in New York City, the 11,875-pound (5,386-kg), 12-foot-diameter (3.7-m) Times Square Ball located high above One Times Square is lowered starting at 11:59 p.m., with a countdown from sixty seconds until one second, when it reaches the bottom of its tower. The arrival of the new year is announced at the stroke of midnight with fireworks, music and a live celebration that is broadcast worldwide.

In France,[6] people concern much attention to the weather that day. They regard the weather as the prediction of that year: wind blowing east, fruit will yield; wind blowing west, fish and livestock will be bumper; wind blowing south, there will be good weather all year round and wind blowing north, there will be crop failure. People would like to toast for the new year and drink till January 3. They think that they can't gain a beautiful year if they don't drink up all the wine left last year.

In Spain, you should have 12 grapes at hand when the clock strikes 12 at midnight. For each stroke you should eat one grape. If you manage to consume all grapes within the period of the strikes, it means good luck in the new year.

Source via ~ Wikipedia

New York Times 2007
Source via Google Images
I love the color in this photo!

Beautifully played!

Wishing you a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!  See you in the New Year!  ♥

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Maurice Ravel, French Classical Composer-House-Museum

Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel (March 7, 1875 - December 28, 1937) Was born in France near the Spanish border, to Swiss and Basque parents. His father's engineering work soon brought the family to Paris, and the young man entered the Paris Conservatory at age 14. He enrolled as a pianist but switched to composition under Gabriel Fauré and André Gedalge. Ravel was less radical a composer than Claude Debussy but rebellious in his own way. Where Debussy could write pieces to please the Conservatory masters and win a Prix de Rome, Ravel refused to be bound by the school's composition rules. His failure to win prizes did not endear him to his masters, even though he wrote successful pieces early on, including his Violin Sonata (1897) and Shéhérazade (1898). Given those successes, his failure to win the Prix de Rome in 1905 led to a public scandal and a change in the Conservatory directorship.

Soon after that debacle, Ravel entered a period of great productivity, producing works like L'Heure Espagñole and Rapsodie Espagñole (1907), Valse Nobles et Sentimentales (1911), major piano pieces, and Daphnis et Chloé for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1912. Around this time, he met Igor Stravinsky and joined a group of radical composers known as Les Apaches. In 1906, he started but did not finish Wien, an orchestral homage to Johann Strauss.

Wien would turn into La Valse fourteen years later. In the interim, World War I brought his composing to a near halt. Ravel tried to enlist but was turned down for physical reasons and ended up a military transport driver. In 1916 he started to feel the urgings to compose when dysentery sent him to Paris to recover. Soon after, his mother died. Ravel's mother was the closest human contact Ravel had – he never married – and with her loss came devastation and more musical inactivity. He wrote little during this period: most notably, Trois Poemes de Mallarmé (1913), Trois Chansons (1915), and Le Tombeau de Couperin (1917).

It was when Diaghilev asked him for another ballet after the war that Ravel's compositional juices returned. He completed Wien, called it a "choreographic poem," and changed the title to La Valse. Diaghilev called the result a "masterpiece" but added that, "it's not a ballet…it's the portrait of a ballet…." He thought it undanceable and refused to stage it. Ravel never spoke to him again. The ballet was not performed until Ida Rubenstein staged it in 1929 at the Paris Opera. After La Valse came L'Enfant et les Sortilèges (1925), a concert tour of the United States in 1928, and in the same year, Bolero. The Piano Concerto in G Major and the Piano Concerto for Left Hand came out in 1930 and 1931. Ravel's last years were slowed by Pick's disease, which may have been exacerbated by an automobile accident in 1932 (though he complained of memory problems and insomnia years earlier). He started some projects but produced only a few works. Brain surgery in 1937 was unsuccessful, and he died a year later.

Ravel was private, meticulous and precise as a person. Like Debussy, he was considered feline in manner, though he was more birdlike in appearance. Few caught him composing, though many saw him orchestrate, and his study rarely showed signs of a work in progress. As contemporaries, Ravel and Debussy influenced and respected each other, but their relationship suffered at the hands of critics eager to denigrate Ravel in favor of Debussy. From around 1900 until his death, Debussy was considered France's greatest living composer. Ravel assumed the mantle only after Debussy's death. Today, Debussy and Ravel are often thought of together, but they were very different composers. Ravel employed Impressionist techniques in works like Daphnis et Chloé, Ma Mère l'Oye, and La Valse, but he was really an objectivist and a Classicist. Unlike Debussy, he wrote cleanly shaped melodies, etched textures, distinct rhythms, and firm structures. He used conventional tonality and rarely if ever the whole tone scale. A fabulous orchestrator, Ravel employed the full battery of instruments, but placed every note, chord, and instrument like a jeweler working with clear pristine colors. (His orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition is one of his most famous "works.") Effects sound with polish and glitter; nothing is wasted. His search for novel colors often led to setting instruments in odd ranges or roles. ~ Roger Hecht.
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Photos of his home in Montfort l' Amaury
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Home of Maurice Ravel ~ Montfort l' Amaury

Beautiful composition!  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas

Sending all of you a warm hug and seasons greetings with warm wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a grand New Year.

Ho Ho Ho
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas in Argentina

Feliz Navidad!  (Merry Christmas)

This is the fifth installment of my Christmas series tradition.  This is the traditions of Argentina.

Christmas in Argentina
Source via 
Celebrating Christmas in Argentina has to do a lot with tradition and Catholic roots that still persist until today. Catholic influences are everywhere even though Argentina is a country influenced by immigrants, especially Italians and Germans who emigrated there after the Second World War.  When thinking of celebrating "la Navidad" in Argentina prepare yourself for blue skies, worm temperatures and a delightful breeze.

"Pólvora" at Midnight:  A Buenos Aires Christmas
In Buenos Aires especially, the scent of orange blossoms, jasmine, and honeysuckle is in the air, and lots of beautifully-colored flowers are everywhere at Christmas time.

Letter To Santa:
During Christmas in Argentina, children write a letter to Santa. I found this to be a unique tradition since in the majority of Latin American countries children write to el nino Dios or baby Jesus instead. I guess this stems from their European influence where writing to Santa is fairly common.

Letter to el nino dios ( Baby Jesus)
Source via ~ HM LaPlata

During the night of the 24th of December families gather at the grand parents home, including brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, etc. All to celebrate "La Navidad."

It is also common to see young people in their 20s, go out at midnight and come back home in early morning.

Foods for Celebrating Christmas in Argentina:

The families previously agree on the Christmas menu that traditionally requires each participant to bring a dish, a beverage or any part of the "cena de Navidad" - Christmas dinner.-

Since Christmas in Argentina happens during the summer time the climate calls for a Christmas menu with cold salads, beverages and dishes that make you feel refreshed.

Russian Salad
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The favorite cold salads are the Woldorf and the Russian. The main dish can be sweet and sour pig, chicken Provencal style, and "pesheto" or tongue, but the most traditional dish is grilled meat or "parrillada Argentina" as they call it.

Vitel Thone
Source via!__english
BBQ Meats
The "sidra" used in Argentina for Christmas has a very similar complexion to that of Spain. Argentineans also drink champagne.

Sidra (
Source via ~
The best time to drink "sidra" is right after being poured because it has this "sparkling" characteristic you don't want to loose.

In Argentina Christmas also includes delightful desserts like "turrones" - a type of candy- and "pan dulce" or sweet bread called "panetone" which has crystallized fruits and nuts, especially almonds.

Turrones (Nougat candy)
Source via ~ Google

Source via ~ Google Images

Celebrating Christmas in Argentina Must Include "Pólvora" and Presents!

At midnight on the 24 of December you can hear the explosions from the fireworks going on everywhere. "Quemar pólvora" - lighting fireworks, hugging and kissing family and friends, and opening presents that were placed under the Christmas tree is a must at midnight.

Quemar Polvora (Fireworks)
Source via ~

"Quemando Globos."  Another beautiful tradition is to light "globos." They are paper decorations you light inside and they take off into the sky. Argentinians do  it at night.
Globos (Paper Decorations)
Source via ~ Tony & Rosi
Today very few families go to church to share in the midnight mass. Even though Christmas is one of the top holidays in Argentina, it has become more of a commercial holiday than a religious one.

The old tradition was to hand make the presents but as Argentineans became more affluent they started to incorporate imported gifts. Argentina entered an economic recession in 2002 forcing many people to go back to their old traditions of low expenses and hand made presents at Christmas time.

Hispanic Christmas Decorations in Argentina:

In Argentina Christmas is an important holiday and this is evident in the decorations that every home displays. Wreaths in green, gold, red and white along Christmas trees decorate the living rooms.

Christmas Wreath

Pesebre ( Creche)

Papa Noel

Thanks so much for stopping by! It looks like I might have time for at least one more tradition before Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas In Greece

Sheri of  Red Rose Alley has asked me to do a Christmas tradition series on Greece.  I also have a very special and dear friend who is from Greece but now lives in Norway.  This post is for Demie of Paraphernalia and Sheri of Red Rose Alley. I hope you enjoy this!

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Epiphany covers the twelve days of Christmas, from Christmas Day through New Year to Epiphany on January 6th. Christmas in Crete & Greece 'XRISTOUYENNA' - in Greek it literally means Christ's birth. Christmas is the second most important religious holiday in Greece, after Easter. It is usually celebrated with quiet church services, family gatherings and Name Day parties.

Christmas in Greece is celebrated on December 25th, but presents are usually given to children on January 1st, St. Basil's Day (Agios Vassilis). In Greece St Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, and December 6th is St. Nicholas Day. In centuries of Greek folklore, Nicholas was seen as "The Lord of the Sea' while in modern Greece he is still easily among the most recognisable saints and December 6 finds many cities celebrating their patron saint. He is also the patron saint of Greece.

St. Nickolas (Patron Saint of Sailers
Source via ~ Google Images
Decorated Boat
In the past there used to be present giving on this day and boats were decorated instead of Christmas trees. The decorated boats are still seen in some places, but have mainly given way to the western tradition of the Christmas tree. St. Basil's (Agios Vassilis) name has been given to Father Christmas. St Vassilis Day is celebrated on January 1st, therefore the Greek Agios Vassilis, or 'Father Christmas', is associated with New Year's Day and this is when Greek children receive their Christmas presents. Christmas is becoming more commercialised in Greece and the shops are full of tinsel and trimmings from November onwards.

St Basil (Agios Vassilis) Name given to Father Christmas
Source via ~  Google Images
A week or two before Christmas most Cretans decorate Christmas trees in their homes and many also have an impressive array of lights hung outside on balconies and in gardens. The town streets and villages are also well decorated with Christmas lights. On Christmas Eve children go from house to house singing carols, the 'Kalanda' (see below).

 Christmas Day is usually spent with family and the traditional Christmas dinner may be roast lamb, pork or turkey without the trimmings! Fricasse - lamb cooked with egg and lemon sauce - is another traditional Christmas meal in Greece. Loaves of 'christopsomo' ('Christ bread' - large sweet loaves) are usually found on the Christmas table, along with Christmas biscuits, 'melomakarana' (sweet honey covered biscuits) and kourabiedes (icing sugar-coated biscuits).

Fricasse (Lamb Cooked With Egg and Lemon Sauce)
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Christopsomos ( Greek Christmas Bread)
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Melomakaranona  ( Sweet Honey Covered Biscuits)
Source via ~ //
Kourabides ( Icing Sugar Coated Biscuits)

 December 25th is also the Name Day of Christos, Christina and Chrysoula, so many people are attending, or hosting, Name Day parties on Christmas Day evening. Other Christmas and New Year Name Days 26th December - Manolis, Manos, Manolia. 27th December - Stephanos, Stephania 1st January - Vassilis, Vaso 7th January - Yiannis, Yianna X_MAS The 'Xmas' abbreviation of Christmas is said to come from the Greek 'Xristos' or Christos.

 The Kalanda The Kalanda, or Christmas Carols, are traditionally sung on just three days over the Christmas period: on Christmas Eve, New Years Eve and the Eve of Epiphany. Groups of children go from house to house singing the appropriate Carol for the day (there are 3 different songs for each 3 days), usually accompanied by metal triangles (trigono). They will ask the house owner 'na to poume?' (literally 'shall we sing it?') before starting to sing; this is in case there has been a recent death in the household, as those in mourning do not celebrate Christmas. The children are rewarded with sweets or coins from the householder. 

New Year in Crete and Greece 'PROTOXRONIA' New Year's Day, January 1st, is a Bank Holiday in Greece. The day of Saint Basil or Agios Vassilis and Father Christmas. The 'Podariko' - First footing. It's considered lucky for a child to be the first person to step over your doorstep on New Years Day. The child should bring a plant called the 'skylokremmyda' (which looks like an onion with shoots) to leave on the doorstep, then step into the house right foot first. The child is rewarded by the householder with a gift of money for the New Year.

 Vassilopita - St Basil's Cake/ New Year's cake. The vassilopita is a simple sponge cake and is baked in nearly every Greek household at New Year. A coin wrapped in foil (flouri) is placed in the cake before it's baked. The cake is ceremoniously cut by the head of the household and whoever gets the slice containing the 'flouri' is said to have good luck for all of the forthcoming year.

Vassilopita ( Sponge Cake)
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Flouri Vassilopita ( Hidden in the sponge cake before it is  baked)

 Gambling Traditionally Greeks spend the days during Christmas and New Year gambling. New Year's Eve is THE main gambling time - after seeing in the New Year many will try out their luck until well into the early hours. Even houses and cars have been lost over a card game or the throw of the zaria (dice)! In all the cafeneons across the land around Christmas you will find the men sitting around card tables. It is actually illegal to gamble in unlicensed places but this doesn't stop the owners or the customers! The cafeneon owners actually charge for the tables by the hour and will go around collecting a few Euros off each player every hour. The most popular card games are 21 (similar to black jack, but with a kitty in the middle), 31 (similar to black jack but each player tries to get 31 instead of 21, and 'thanasi' (rummy). 'Zaria' or dice is played with two dice by 2 players in turn and there are set winning and losing combinations (win 6 and 6, 6 and 5, lose 1 and 1, 1 and 3 etc.). Betting takes place before the throw of the dice and there is also side betting around the table .

Cafeneon  (Cafe)

 Epiphany in Crete and Greece Theofania or Ta Fota 6th January In the morning or the afternoon of the Eve of 'Ta Fota' (i.e. 5th January), village priests do the rounds of village homes to sprinkle holy water and bless the houses and all those who live there - called the "ayiasmos" . The Feast of Epiphany, or The Solomn Blessing of the Waters, commemorates Christ's baptism in the River Jordan. On January 6th waterside ceremonies are held across Greece and Crete at harbours, lakes and rivers. Boats gather to mark the ceremony and a Holy cross is thrown into the sea or river by the priest. Swimmers dive into the chilly waters to retrieve it. It is a great honour and a blessing for the one who retrieves the cross first. 

Source via ~

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas in Poland

Continuing our series of Christmases around the world, this one is on Christmas Tradition in Poland.

Mesotych Swiat....Happy Holidays in Polish

Polish Christmas Ornament
Wigilia -- The Vigil

For Poles, Christmas Eve is a night of magic when animals are said to talk and people have the power to predict the future. It’s a time for families to gather and reconcile any differences, and to remember loved ones who have gone before them.

Wigilia (vee-GEEL-yah), which literally means "vigil," or waiting for the birth of Baby Jesus, is considered more important than Christmas Day itself.
How Poles Decorate

Preparations begin early on Christmas Eve. Years ago, it was traditional for country families to cut boughs of evergreen from the forest to be tucked behind holy pictures in the home or above the entryway. A fir tree top was hung upside down from a beam in the ceiling. The children and women of the household decorated the boughs with red apples, nuts and ornaments made of paper and bread.

City families decorate with lights, apples, nuts, candies, and hand-blown glass, crystal and paper ornaments. Hung from the ceiling are pajaki, spider-web-like decorations, and dozynki, colorful harvest wreaths decorated with flowers and stars. In Krakow, there are szopki (SHOP-kee) -– miniature Krakowian puppet theaters. These elaborate creations are made of tin foil and entered into competition each year on the square of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Krakow.
The Table Is Prepared

Spider-web-like Decoration

Szopki (Shop-kee) Miniature Krakowian Puppet Theater
Source via ~ Pinterest  ~ Originally pinned by Joanne Simplecrea
Straw or hay, a reminder of Christ’s birth in a stable, is placed under a white linen tablecloth, which symbolizes Mary’s veil, which became the Babe’s swaddling cloth. The mother of the family places a lighted candle in the window to welcome the Christ Child. The eldest woman of the house places the blessed Communion-like wafers –- oplatki (oh-PWAHT-kee) -– on the finest plate she owns. Today, in a concession to tradition, many people place straw and evergreen sprigs on a serving platter covered with a fine white napkin on which the oplatki rest.

Oplatki (Oh-Pwaht-kee)
Blessed Communion Wafer
Source via ~
An extra place is set for any weary stranger who happens to pass by, in the same way Joseph wandered from home to home looking for a place for Mary to give birth, and in memory of those who are departed.
The Star Supper

After sunset, the youngest child is sent to watch for the first star. This is why the wigilia dinner is also known as the Star Supper. Only then are the candles on the table lit and the dinner begun. But not a morsel is eaten before the "breaking of the oplatki."

The eldest family member takes the oplatek wafer, breaks it and shares it with the next eldest with wishes for good health and prosperity, and a kiss on each cheek. Each person then exchanges oplatek with everyone else at the table. It can be a very emotional time as grudges are forgotten and deceased family members are remembered.

Some Poles share a pink-colored oplatki with the household (and barnyard) animals because they were the first to greet the Baby Jesus at midnight. The animals also receive a taste of every course of the meal mixed in with their feed.

Instead of sending Christmas cards to friends and family not present, Poles send oplatki, first tearing off a small corner to show that the donor has broken it with them as a token of affection.
The Wigilia Meal

Wigilia is a meatless meal because, years ago, Roman Catholics fasted for the four weeks of Advent, including Christmas Eve. In the past there were thirteen main dishes (representing the Apostles and Christ), but, these days, many families have replaced this tradition with a twelve-fruit compote for dessert.

12 Fruit Kompot
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The foods are to represent the four corners of the earth -- mushrooms from the forest, grain from the fields, fruit from the orchards, and fish from the lakes and sea.

Meals vary from family to family but usually include a special soup followed by many elegant fish preparations, vegetables, and pierogi.

Typical dishes include barszcz wigilijny z uszkami (Christmas Eve borscht with mushroom uszka dumplings), carp in aspic, herring (sledze), breaded whitefish, meatless cabbage rolls (golabki), and noodles with poppyseed. Desserts might include nuts, tangerines, chocolates, makowiec (poppyseed roll), mazurek (a jam-filled flat pastry), piernik (honey-spice cake), pierniczki (gingerbread cookies), kompot (fruit compote), cognac, liqueurs, mead and krupnik (a honey-spiced vodka). Kutia, a kind of gruel with cracked wheat and honey, is also eaten in some parts of Poland on Christmas Eve.

Wigilijny Zuszkami (Christmas Eve Borscht with Mushroom Uszka Dumplings0
Source via ~  Google Images

Carp in Aspic,
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Noodles and Poppyseeds
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Golabki (Meatless cabbage rolls
Makowiec (Poppy Seed Roll)
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Mazurka ( Jam filled Flat Pastry)
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Piernik (Honey Spice Cake)
Pierniczki (Gingerbread Cookies)
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The Starman Makes an Appearance

At the end of supper, Father Christmas, known as The Starman (very often the parish priest in disguise), accompanied by singing Starboys, pays a visit. He brings rewards to good children from Starland, and scolds the naughty ones, who eventually get their reward, too.

Father Christmas ~ The Starman

Koledy -– carols -– are sung and presents are opened by all. Then the family prepares for Midnight Mass known as Pasterka or Shepherds Mass because they were the first to greet the Baby Jesus.
Christmas Day

Wesolych swiat (veh-SOH-wik SHVYOHNT)! Merry Christmas! Christmas day is spent visiting family and friends. Dinner typically is ham, some type of Polish kielbasa, roast duck or goose, or Hunter’s stew -– bigos. Starboys go caroling from house to house carrying the szopka, a miniature puppet theater that recreates the Nativity story.

This is a lovely tradition rich in history and so far my favorite.  :)  Tune in next week for more traditions.

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