ESTEFANIA BLANCO CAMPOS – Employee Contact Centre Quality Analyst
VENEZUELA – Feliz Navidad!
Here in Poland me, my brother and my “friendmily” gather together, cook a simpler but equally tasty version of our traditional dishes – we dance and sing until the arrival of the Baby Jesus. The most valuable thing we have learned from our family is that the essence of Christmas is the time spent with the people you love. My favorite thing to have during Christmas time in Poland is Grzane Wino (lubie to!). Also, the City Center really looks like a fairy-tale with all the lights, decorations and little markets! That’s why I wrap myself like a burrito and head to the center almost every day!
In Venezuela, Christmas is nearly a month-long, only starting when you listen to the first Venezuelan Gaita (music) early in December. Christmas ornaments are usually everywhere – Hey! We are speaking about THE EVENT. On the 16th we usually put a Christmas tree at home, a nativity scene and lights all over the house. On the 24th we sing, dance and speak while we wait for the birth of the Baby Jesus. Then at midnight, we sit and eat all the delicious food and deserts while Baby Jesus sneaks in and brings all the presents for the kids!
Oh, speaking of food! In Venezuela – Hallaca is life, Hallaca is everything. This is a typical dish for Christmas (and for the whole December, actually). Slaves of Spaniards started cooking Hallacas with leftovers during colonial times. Hallaca is a corn flour dough mixed with 3 types of meat stew (Yes! – we eat meat at Christmas) and a variety of veggies. It is wrapped in a banana leaf, and then boiled for a while. It’s the epitome of multiculturalism in Venezuela and you will hear everyone in the streets saying “The best Hallacas are made by my mom!”, although I do believe my mom’s are the very best! Oh, and the traditional drink for Christmas time is Ponche Crema, which is similar to Baileys but it’s Venezuelan.
ALEJANDRO RODRIGUEZ ALCALA – PL Internal Engagement Projects Manager
MEXICO (Mazatlan) – Feliz Navidad!
Christmas in Mexico is a bit different to the Christmas in Poland. To start with, our Christmas dinner doesn’t necessarily have to involve 12 dishes as is the tradition here. Our main dish for that night is turkey; however, we also make pasta, sea food, beans, tacos, and different desserts.
Have I mentioned home decorations? We take it to the next level! In my hometown there is an unofficial contest for who decorates their house the best. Not all houses go completely over-the-top but it’s quite common to run into ones that do. And from December 16th to Christmas Eve, children often perform the ‘Posada’ processions, and the outside of houses are decorated with evergreens, moss and paper lanterns. Each night a different house holds the Posada party. One game that is often played at these parties is piñata, which is a decorated clay or papier-mâché jar filled with sweets and hung from the ceiling or tree branch and is then smashed!
It’s also quite cold in my home town – Mazatlan cold. Our temperature goes all the way down to +13/+15 degrees (insane, right?); but we all manage to survive. But not everything is different, we also have some similarities! Just as in Poland, Christmas is a time to spend with your family and close ones. The art of preparing the Christmas tree and decorating your home is also there, as it’s the main stage for exchanging of presents, and last but not least – LOTS AND LOTS OF FOOD!
MAURO SOCCI – Senior Operations Manager
ITALY – Buon Natale!
First and most importantly: in Italy Santa Claus does not come on the 6th of December – I guess this is a time management problem as he may not be able to do everything in one night. In Italy he arrives on the night between the 24th and the 25th of December. I must say that the 25th of December is the most important day during Christmas time for most of the families in Italy. This is when we gather together, we seat and eat!
While there is a lot of eating involved both in Poland and Italy, the food is very different. Italy is known for pasta – of course, and what would Christmas be without a good plate of pasta? ???? This can vary from one region to another, sometimes even from family to family. In mine, Christmas is remembered for “Cappelletti” – not to be confused with Emilian “Tortellini” or Polish “Uszka”. They may look similar, but the stuffing is very different, as well as the taste. Cappelletti originate from my region (Romagna, from Emilia-Romagna). The stuffing is made from cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano and Caciotta, with a bit of nutmeg, but the cheese can change depending on who prepares them. They can be served “in brodo” (in broth) or “al ragu” (in meat sauce) – we generally eat them both.
All over Italy you will see presepe (nativity scenes) which include not only Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three kings, a few sheep and maybe a shepherd but also village people, fishermen, wandering dogs, a baker, farmers etc. In other words it takes a village to populate an Italian presepe. And, of course, Befana (an old crone), who was too busy to stop what she was doing and help the 3 wisemen. Later she changed her mind and gathered up some gifts and set off in search of the Christ Child. To this day the Befana is still looking for the Christ Child and flies on her broom to every house with a child leaving gifts on the Epiphany.
When celebrating Christmas in Poland, we mostly follow the Polish traditions but I have been able to add a bit of Italy here and there… For example, another important thing during Italian Christmas is Panettone – a cake that can be found only during this period of the year. I generally prefer its different version, which is called Pandoro, but I wouldn’t mind eating them both if they happened to be in front of me. ???? There is obviously a lot more and it would take pages to describe it, but to make it simple, Christmas in Italy is about time spent with the family and the people that we love, while eating a lot of good food. My experience in Poland is that it is very much the same. ????