When you travel to as many incredible global destinations as we do, you learn a lot about common customs across cultures. One thing is certain: no matter where in the world we’re from, we all find happiness in gathering with our loved ones to feast, sing, dance, and create meaningful memories.
As we celebrate another festive holiday season, we thought we’d check in with some Azamara crew members to hear about the Christmas traditions they look forward to every year. Jamal Fabien, Margarita Navas, Kateryna Ozerova, and Myra Liza Tizon told us about some of their favorite features of Christmastime in Trinidad, Colombia, Ukraine, and the Philippines. We hope you enjoy this roundup of international festive fun!
Preparing For The Big Day
There’s nothing quite like the countdown to Christmas. From writing wish lists to opening advent calendars and decorating the tree, there’s so much excitement in anticipating the big day.
The season kicks off especially early in the Philippines, where Guest Relations Officer Myra Liza Tizon says Christmas music starts getting regular radio play at the beginning of September. Families also begin displaying their holiday decor and put special care into illuminating their homes with lights and lanterns for several months of yuletide cheer.
For Photo Manager Margarita Navas, the appearance of Christmas trees, fairy lights, and el pesebre (the nativity scene) on December 1 marks the beginning of the holiday season in Colombia. Children write letters to Baby Jesus, who brings presents on Christmas Eve. Then the festivities really kick into gear on December 7, also called Día de las Velitas (Day of the Little Candles), when houses and streets are lit up by lanterns and the night sky bursts with fireworks.
In Ukraine, you say “Z Rizdvom Khrystovym!” (Merry Christmas) on January 7, which is when Christmas is observed in the Orthodox Christian faith. Kateryna Ozerova says festivities begin on Christmas Eve (January 6) and last until the Feast of the Epiphany (January 19), making for 12 days of Christmas celebrations.
Food Glorious Food
Delectable dinners, warming beverages, and specialty desserts — Christmas is a time to indulge in festive treats. (Christmas pudding, anyone?) Chef Jamal Fabien tells us the traditional holiday food in Trinidad is “beyond amazing”. It includes pastelles made from polenta steamed in a banana leaf and stuffed with meat, raisins, capers, and olives. Trinidadians also toast with glasses of sorrel, a sweet drink brewed with dried hibiscus flowers.
There are many festive treats to be enjoyed in Colombia, including buñuelos (cheese fritters) and natilla (custard). Cena de Navidad (Christmas dinner) is eaten on Christmas Eve, after which presents from friends and family are exchanged. On Christmas Day, loved ones gather for a lively barbeque after children open their presents from Baby Jesus.
In the Philippines, holiday treats like puto bumbong (steamed rice cakes) and bibingka (baked rice cakes) are served to congregants after Simbang Gabi masses. On Christmas Eve, Filipino families gather for the most important meal of the season: Noche Buena, a special celebratory dinner. According to Myra, “It doesn’t matter how much food we have on the table. What matters is that families get a chance to spend Christmas together.”
In Ukraine, families feast on 12 distinct dishes to symbolize the 12 apostles. These dishes are called Bahata Vecherya (Rich Dinner). They include kutia, a sweet pudding made of boiled wheat grains, poppy seeds, honey, and nuts. Each diner must eat at least one spoonful of kutia to symbolize a union with ancestors who are believed to visit their families during the holy Christmas holidays.
The Sounds Of The Season
The holidays just wouldn’t be the same without festive music. In Ukraine, the season is filled with the sounds of carols, called koliadki and schedrivki. Carollers dress in colorful traditional clothes and wander through town singing, putting on vertep performances (Christmas plays), and dropping into festively decorated coffee shops to sing for patrons.
Caroling is also a big part of celebrations in the Philippines, where singers go from house to house to spread joy and good cheer. Children love to take part in this tradition, and households tend to provide the carollers with a small amount of money in exchange for bringing music to their door.
If you spend Christmas Day in Trinidad, you’ll hear the lively sounds of parang, a style of Trinidadian folk music with Spanish origins. Revelers travel through neighborhoods singing parang while eating, drinking, and inviting others to join the fun.
Joyful Gatherings At Sea
The spirit of the season is alive and well on Azamara ships — no matter where in the world we happen to be!
There are many holiday events we look forward to every year, including singing carols with our treasured Azamara guests. Our crew members also flex their creative muscles by designing their perfect home (in miniature, edible form!) at our annual gingerbread house decorating competition. We toast to the season and our year at sea with an all-crew Christmas party, gatherings by division, and an all-crew Christmas dinner. Azamara provides special gifts for all crew members to feel special, and masses are available for those who celebrate. These are just some of the ways we gather together to spread merriment while sailing during the holidays.
Happy Holidays From Azamara
As we wrap up another year, we’d like to wish you a safe and happy holiday season. Thank you for joining us as we returned to sea in 2021!
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