Christine Lovatt

Christmas is a celebration for everyone, and probably the best-known religious festival in the world, whether you’re a Christian or not. Around the world, there are very few places that don’t have some Christmas activities. In China, although it’s not a public holiday, the major cities have Christmas trees and lights in shopping centres, while in African countries the emphasis is less commercial, centred more on church and family visits.

The site of the very first Christmas, the little town of Bethlehem, is now situated in Palestine and every year at Christmastime, many locals, tourists and pilgrims visit Bethlehem. The Church of the Nativity, in Manger Square, is said to be the place where Jesus was born and a huge tree in front of the church is decorated with thousands of lights and baubles. Some parts of the world seem a little confused about the various Christmas rituals, with an American community recently praying to Santa for world peace.

In parts of Austria, an evil hairy beast called Krampus accompanies St Nicholas on his visits and threatens to kidnap naughty children and deliver them to hell, while in Norway, women hide their mops and brooms on Christmas Eve, because of the traditional belief that witches come searching for brooms to steal, using them to fly off into the night. The men then fire guns into the sky to frighten them away. Many more strange and wacky customs abound around this time.

One of our favourite customs is the annual display in London’s Trafalgar Square of the huge Christmas tree donated each year by the city of Oslo, Norway, as a token of gratitude for British support to Norway during WWII. It is traditionally a time of joy and peace, remembering the birth of Jesus. Families get together, sometimes it’s the only time all year that they can do so, and happy memories are created with good food, good times and lots of goodwill.

I would like to wish all our puzzlers a very Happy Christmas from all of us here at Lovatts. Merry Kisimusi! (As they say in Zimbabwe.)