Two Different Christmases

Pacific Northwest

We often have wet Christmases in the Pacific Northwest

Many places in North America get snow for Christmas. Here in the Great Northwet, as I call it, we’re much more likely to get rain. If snow falls around here, it’s more likely to fall at Thanksgiving, knocking out power just as people are about to put their turkey in the oven. This year we didn’t have snow for Thanksgiving and it looks like we might get a bit of sunshine for Christmas. If we want see the cold, white stuff, we’d have to leave the lowlands and head for the mountains. We have plenty of mountains and they have more than enough snow. Average annual snowfall at Mt. Rainier is 671 inches; 1704 centimeters. That’s fifty-five feet. How does that jingle your bells?

Latvia

Christmas Market in Dom Cathedral Square. Riga, Latvia

Like so many places, Latvia doesn’t get as much snow as it used to, even though it’s at almost 57° latitude north–ten degrees farther north than Washington state.

The first written record of a decorated Christmas tree is in Rīga, Latvia in 1510. Men of the local merchants’ guild decorated the tree with artificial roses and danced around it before setting it on fire. The rose is considered to be a symbol of the Virgin Mary. I don’t know why they set fire to the poor tree, maybe because celebrations around both solstices are ancient fire festivals. Or maybe the guys were just cold.

Traditionally, Latvia’s version of Santa Claus arrived on Christmas Eve. He didn’t slide down the chimney but knocked politely at the door, and waited to be admitted. Of course, the Latvian Santa also bore a bag of gifts. Children did not get their presents automatically, just because they were good kids. Gifts had to be earned by reciting a verse or singing a song.

This is my own translation of the verse I had to recite for Santa in order to get my present. Not just at home, in front of family and friends, but at a children’s Christmas party held in a church’s social hall, in front of an audience of family and friends. Of course, even if a child flubbed his or her lines, a gift was forthcoming anyway.

 "White snow falls on pine boughs.
 The clock chimes a gentle song.
 Lights twinkle in the village.
 My heart beats happily along.” 
It’s been years since we’ve had this much snow in my town.

No matter how you celebrate, Christmas is magical.

6 thoughts on “Two Different Christmases”

  1. Wasn’t that the most miserable thing ever, Aijina! I was a very shy child, so it was sheer torture for me. I might enjoy it, too. Next year make your grandkids do it. Just for the family. Wouldn’t they adore that? LOL! Thank you. Happy New year!

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  2. Oh Dacite, I remember having to recite in front of an audience. I hated that and was absolutely terrified! Adults, though, loved watching all of us little kids. Now I would love that, too! Thanks for the sweet reminders about the good old days! 🙂 Happy Holidays! Stay safe!

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  3. Wonderful photos and text, Dace! I enjoyed reading your reflections on the similarities and differences between Latvian and Pacific Northwesterm USA Christmases. Have a merry and a happy! (:

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing. I thoroughly enjoyed this article and the photos are lovely. There are many ways to celebrate Christmas but the best thing is the love that sets the season apart from all others. Merry Christmas, all!

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