Christmas Overseas

We’ve been enjoying Christmas in Monte Carlo…but where and how else might you take delight in the season?

In Ireland, where, on Christmas morning, as Overseas Retirement Letter Editor-in-chief Lynn Mulvihill, a native of Waterford, explains, “on beaches, piers, and coves around the country, people of all ages gather to take a collective leap into waters of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (maximum). 

”‘Swim’ is a bit of a misnomer,” Lynn continues. “There is no particular distance that you need to cover, nor any agreed-upon duration that you must spend in the water.

”You simply join the crowd of people running toward and then into the water (cheered on by well-wrapped-up spectators), screaming as their bodies hit the ice-cold sea. A quick splash of the arms and legs, then back in to shore to dry off, wrap up, and enjoy a hot drink. 

”Wetsuits have appeared on the scene in recent years, mostly among the kids, but the one unspoken rule for the hardy adults taking part is old-fashioned bathing suits.

”One of the biggest events takes place at ‘The 40 Foot’ in Sandycove, Co. Dublin. Here in Waterford, the brave congregate in Tramore and Stradbally…”

In Catalan, where, as Correspondent Lucy Culpepper explains, you’ll find a surprise in your Nativity:

”Every Dec. 8, the Feast of The Immaculate Conception, a little Christmas log (Tío de Nadal) appears in the homes of the Catalan people. The log, popularly called ‘Caga Tío’ (‘Pooping Log’), has a perky face painted on one end and a jaunty little red hat and is fed and watered from Dec. 8 through Dec. 23. At bedtime, the log is covered up with a red or tartan blanket to keep it cosy. On the 24th, children and adults gather around Tío and, at first, tap him gently with a stick as they sing Tío’s song: 

“Caga Tío, Tío de Nadal, no caguis arengades, 
Que son massa salades, 
Caga turrons! Que son mes bons.” (Christmas Log, Christmas Log, don’t poop sardines, 
They are too salty, 
Poop turrons (nougat)! They are much better.) 

”The pace and force of hitting picks up, ending with each person giving Tío a mighty whack in the hope that he poops some candy underneath his blanket, which, of course, eventually he does. 

”(Don’t be confused by the translation of ‘Tío’ as ‘log’ and not ‘uncle.’ ‘Tío’ is Catalan for log, whereas ‘tío,’ with the accent on the ‘o,’ is ‘uncle’ in Spanish.) 

”Pooping is not a tradition confined to Tío at Christmas. If you look carefully at Catalan nativity scenes, you’ll see a figure (Caganer) with trousers down, squatting, perhaps behind a barn or a bush, to well…poop! Even as the Messiah is born, the Catalans believe that nothing should distract man from giving back nourishment to the ground on which we depend…”

In Nicaragua, where on Christmas Eve (La Nochebuena), in every town, starting about 7 p.m., there is a Posada Mayor. Children dress up as Mary and Joseph and recreate the nativity scene with live animals. The pilgrimage ends in a church, where, at 10 p.m., Mass is said, and the baby is placed in the crib. Then all go home for a midnight  feast of food and presents and visiting from house to house for many hours, sometimes until dawn, all accompanied by fireworks, firecrackers, and noise makers…

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