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When home for Christmas

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Credit: Photo: Sheila Fitzgerald

Credit: Photo: Sheila Fitzgerald

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CHRISTMAS customs and traditions differ extensively from country to country and continent to continent, but celebrating the festive season as a family seems to be a common theme everywhere, with a strong impetus also placed on the religious aspects of the holdiay.

The Corkman called to Drishane Castle in Millstreet this Christmas, where asylum seekers from different parts of the world shared their memories of Christmas in their own places.

Anaclet Wanzio, who has been in Ireland since August 31 last, comes from Manzini which is a big town in Swaziland, Africa. He brought one of his young sons with him while the other members of his family remain in Manzini. This Christmas, Anaclet said he will miss his family, relatives and friends. He explained how Christmas in Manzini is "children's heaven" when everything possible is obtained for the little ones, like new clothes, shoes, and presents.

Anaclet, who worked as a laboratory technician in Swaziland's capital city Mbabane, explained how all the offices and businesses close down around December 20 for approximately three weeks. In the days before Christmas, each year, Anaclet and his brothers buy and slaughter a cow which is then prepared for the big feast on Christmas day.

On Christmas Eve, the main focus is on the religious aspect, with the whole family attending Masses which usually goes on for about two hours. There is praying, dancing, and singing, with some families even going to several different churches on that special evening.

On the morning of the 25th, people also go to church, and then the children sing in public and go to visit their friends, and afterwards there is a big family get together for the Christmas feast.

Daria, a young woman who was born in Germany but brought up in Russia, and who was a university lecturer back home, came in Ireland on January 17, 2011. When she arrived, the country was in the grip of one of the most severe winters ever recorded. However, from her perspective, there was no cold!

Speaking to the Corkman she said; "I was wearing a t shirt in January and February; people were looking at me in amazement, but before I left Moscow it was much colder than that, temperatures in Russia have been known to drop below -40; however, we have warm clothes, special clothing for the extreme cold.

"There are trucks and tractors assigned to keep the roads clear of ice and snow, and the houses are well heated with gas, oil, and nuclear energy. We don't really have homes like in Ireland, almost all the people live in blocks of flats in the big cities and towns, in some very rural areas there would be houses all right but most people prefer to live in apartments in the large urban centres."

Regarding Christmas in Russia, Daria's family, which is Catholic, celebrate on the 25th like here in Ireland. However, she explained how members of the Greek Orthodox religion have a different date for their Christmas celebrations.

Russian Cuisine is the order of the day with salads, chicken, a type of porridge made from rice, and lots of snacks make up the festive fare.

Khatiga Matanda is 81 years old and is a native of Zimbabwe. She has been living in Drishane since 2008. She recalls the festive season in Zimbabwe as being very family oriented with relatives and friends visiting each other.

On Christmas Day, a large number of people who worked in the asbestos mines would get together at the football grounds to dance and sing. She says "It was very beautiful, every year we used to look forward to go and watch them.

"In our family we would cook Indian food, my father was born in India and was a Muslim, my mother was African.

"The food would be prepared on Christmas Eve and stored in special baskets covered with cloth, and after we returned from the football grounds on Christmas Day, we would eat".

She recalled meeting King George VI , the Queen Mother, and the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret when they visited the country in the early 1940s. "They gave us commemorative cups with their photographs. I remember standing right beside them, the princesses were very beautiful. It was the first time ever I had ever seen a king or queen.

"One of the mines was named after the King following the visit".

Khatiga saw snow for the first time after coming to Drishane in 2008, and was shocked at the extreme cold. She remarked how it was "very beautiful" to look out at but not so nice to have to walk in!

She has settled in extremely well in Drishane, and goes to the local club in Millstreet every Tuesday where she knits and takes part in all the activities on offer.

Kamila Issac was born in Somalia but grew up in Kenya. Christmas is a "big family celebration" there, she says. Chapati is the main dish which is a type of naan bread, which is served with rice.