May 24, 2015 07:03 UTC

As It Is

Christmas Traditions Old and New

Small US Towns Big on Christmas Spiriti
X
12/17/2013
Christmas in the United States is traditionally a time of gift-giving and family gathering. But there is also pageantry, sleigh bells, trees with lights and Santa Claus.
Middleburg,Virginia, has a variety of Christmas traditions.

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story

Hello and welcome to As It Is from VOA Learning English.

I'm Mario Ritter. People around the world are celebrating Christmas day. Christians mark the birth of Jesus Christ on this holiday. There are many traditions surrounding Christmas, both ancient and modern. First, we hear about Christmas in two very different places: Middleburg, a small town in the state of Virginia and Xitan, China, which has come to be known as “Christmas village.”  

Christmas in Middleburg, Virginia
 
Christmas in the United States is traditionally a time of gift-giving and family gatherings.  But there are also performances, trees with lights and, of course, Santa Clause, the big man in a red suit. Small towns across the country have their own traditions.  June Simms has this report by VOA’s Arash Arabasadi about a town in Virginia.
 
Middleburg is a town in an area known for its horses. Visitors can see horses pulling carriages with bells as people sing traditional Christmas songs.
 
“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”
 
For more than 50 years, Middleburg has organized a yearly Christmas parade. 
 
Hunting on horseback is another tradition.  Men and women ride horses through the woods and fields. They follow hunting dogs as they search for a wild fox.  But first, these hunters ride in the yearly parade, wearing their bright red hunting clothes and hats.
 
“Before we strike off here, I want to thank all of you for being here, and wish you all a very, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Middleburg Hunt.”

John Hale of Middleburg says many city people visit his town.
 
“We have a lot of people from an urban area that come visit, but it incorporates a lot of the old traditions.”

The nighttime hay ride is one such tradition. Small groups gather under the moonlight on an open wagon filled with hay. The passengers sing as farm horses pull the wagon slowly across the fields. There are some newer traditions, too.  Like motorcycle events and even Mexican cowboys.
 
Trey Matheu works at the nearby Salamander Resort & Spa. He says a visit to Middleburg is a chance to slow down for a day.
 
“We live in a very fast-paced world.  Middleburg is a little bit different.”

He says Middleburg can be a calming, peaceful place without tension.
 
“Middleburg is an opportunity to take a step back, to take a deep breath, and understand that even though life is moving on at a very fast pace, there’s really an opportunity … where you’re allowed to step off for a little bit.”
 
Parade organizers say more than 13,000 people attend even in below-freezing weather. But if you ask, you will hear many different reasons why people come to watch the parade.
 
“I come here because I’m from a small town.  I like how everybody comes together.”
 
“I live right down that street; right there.  And that’s my dog.”
 
Dogs are not the only ones getting special treatment on this day.  Horses do, too. At the Salamander Resort Sheryl Jordan carefully prepares horses for the parade.
 
“They got baths this morning.  They got their long, shaggy hair trimmed off of their face, because certainly before we take our babies out into the public eye we want them looking their best.”
 
Middleburg looks its best at Christmastime. That may be why so many people return each year.
 
I’m June Simms

Xitan: China's Christmas Village
 
Christmas is a major event worldwide.  In China, for example, there is a “Christmas Village,” with many signs of the holiday.  This year, however, there is no public celebration of the holiday.
 
The village of Xitan, in Zhejiang province, has no snow.  It looks far different than the colder, snow-covered lands of Northern Europe and North America.
 
But last year, the village shipped around $100 million in colorful ornaments and decorations to places as far away as Europe, the United States and Brazil.
 
Christmas is Big Business for Xitan, China's 'Christmas Village'i
X
12/20/2013
In China’s “Christmas Village,” there are many signs of the annual holiday, but this year -- no public celebrations. VOA’s Bill Ide visited the place where Christmas ornaments remain big business, even though the holiday itself has been a source of controversy.
Wang Lianming is the head of one of Xitan's earliest Christmas decoration companies, Ruian D-Bright Arts and Crafts.  He is also the local Communist Party chief.  He says that although overseas buyers are still the village’s main customers, that is changing.
 
He says that Christmas was once a completely foreign holiday.  But, in recent years, he says, celebrations of Christmas have grown and so has sales of ornaments.
 
Before D-Bright started producing hand-made Christmas ornaments, they made Disco Balls.  They still do.  Like many other factories here, the company is expanding to make products for other Western holidays, even Halloween.
 
In Xitan, there are 40 larger factories and about 200 smaller workshops.  Some employees travel from far away to work in the village.
 
Xitan is home to a large number of Christians.  But some people there say that it is their skills with arts and crafts, not their religious beliefs, which have made ornaments such an important industry.
 
Christmas has been celebrated more openly in the past.  In a Youtube video from 2011, police broke up one holiday event when some people said it had turned too religious in nature.  Local Christians say officials cancelled an approved event.
 
Village Communist Party Chief Wang Lianming says the celebration was stopped because of religious issues.  He adds that it is not right to turn a cultural event into a religious one.
 
The event was meant to be a celebration of how Xitan became well-known, says Wang, and its ability to create and find business opportunities.
 
Thanks to VOA’s Bill Ide for this report.
 
And that’s our program for today. Everyday on As It Is, we report on issues that we believe are of interest to you. You can tell us what you want to hear on a future show. You can also go to our website LearningEnglish.voanews.com and click on “Contact Us.”
 
While you are there you can read, listen to and download our programs. You will also find podcasts, captioned videos and lessons to test your English skills.
 
You can follow us on Facebook, Linkedin, iTunes, Twitter and on our YouTube Chanel, all at VOA Learning English. And don’t forget to listen to VOA World News at the beginning of every hour Universal Time. Thank you for spending some of your time with us today.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Virginia from: La Pampa. Argentina.
12/29/2013 2:17 PM
Thank you very much for share the text with us. That is an example of how the world is connected everywhere. It is very interesting and help me to learn more things about culture and english language.
Happy Holidays!!

Virginia


by: Annabel C. Sanchez from: Argao, Cebu, Philippines
12/25/2013 7:40 AM
Merry Christmas! "Christmas: the Old and the New" centers on how traditional was it celebrated sometime back and how is it spent nowadays! I believe with the onset of digital age makes the glaring difference! Before, I used to send Christmas cards through the snail-mail post but now by virtual cards online. Somehow, I may refer to the same commemoration of the season with true friends standing by me year through but I just find the old way of sending cards very heartfelt. It used to have a personal touch after writing greetings/dedication by hand.. I hope the new celebration of Christmas may not diminish the intention of sending cards.. after all, what matters most is the condition of the heart that gives this Christmas season! It is pervently hoped that whatever way one spends the yulitide season... we concretize the birth of Jesus in His selfless love... that we may love others selflessly, especially the less privilege in as much as Jesus on that First Christmas loves us.

Sincerely,
Annabel C. Sanchez
Argao, Cebu, Philippines


Learn with The News

  • Pin Phunam a contortionist in Phare, The Cambodian Circus

    Video Cambodia Circus Offers a Better Life to Young Performers

    Many young people in Cambodia dream of joining the circus. For some needy and underprivileged youths some are given an opportunity at the Phare Ponleu Selpak school or PPS to learn circus skills that may help change their lives for the better. More

  • Team Grin plans to race to Alaska in this Etchells 22, currently moored in Port Townsend, Washington. (Tom Banse/VOA)

    Audio Sail, Row, Paddle, All The Way To Alaska

    In less than three weeks the first-ever Race to Alaska will be an exciting and challenging journey for anyone brave enough to enter with their non-motorized boat. One can only race by sailing, rowing, paddling, pedaling or a combination of those activities. More

  • Video Learning at the Laundromat

    College students teach mathematics and English to poor, immigrant children at a coin laundry near Washington, DC. At the same time, the students are helping the owner of the business become more profitable. The tutoring is part of the business plan they have created. | As It Is More

  • Audio Islamic State Militants Capture Two Major Cities

    The Islamic State seized control of the Syrian city of Palmyra on Thursday. The fall of Palmyra reportedly left the militants in control of half of Syria. Last Sunday, the militants took control of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province.| In The News More

  • Fiery Cross Reef, Spratly Islands

    Audio China Warns US Spy Plane in South China Sea

    China's navy is reported to have issued eight warning messages to a U.S. military spy plane over several man-made islands. Boats with Rohingya migrants accepted in Indonesian waters. U.S. and Cuba continue talks toward diplomatic ties. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Hold Your Horses!

    Horses are part of the history and romance of the Old American West. These days, they are popular for sport and entertainment. So, it is easy to understand why we Americans use so many horse expressions. Learn some of the most common and try to answer our horse riddle! More

  • Audio Everyday Grammar - Introducing Conditionals

    In everyday conversation, English speakers often talk about things that are not true. Or, they talk about things that only happen if something else happens. Learn how to correctly use these conditional forms in English. If you write to us, we will let you know if it is correct. More

  • Discover Debate

    Audio Successful Debate for New Learners and Large Classes

    Many students of English engage in debate as part of their training. In Part Two of our Successful Debate series, we learn the kinds of debate topics that work well for English learners. An expert shares tips for organizing a debate in a large class and for answering arguments. More

  • Nina Marranca looks at her phone, June 25, 2013.

    Audio Deaf-Blind Woman First to Use Braille Phone

    New technology allows deaf and blind people to use the telephone. The tests are underway in Australia and the U.S. It could help end isolation that people who cannot see or hear say they feel. Learn about this exciting new technology as well as words like "Braille" and "parallel testing." More

  • Video Resounding Earth: Creating Music from Metal

    "The title “Resounding Earth” on the one hand, we are talking about resounding earth. The earth is full of metals that all of mankind has turned into instruments. We are going to play them from all around the world together on one stage." More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner blog
Confessions of an English Learner blog

 

 

 

Tell us About Our Programs