December 20, 2014 18:00 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

  • US Cuba

    Audio Obama Moves to Normalize Relations with Cuba

    President Barack Obama announced a major change in United States’ policy toward Cuba this week. He said he wants Congress to ease more than 50 years of U.S. sanctions against the island nation. And he said the two nations should once again formally recognize one another. More

  • Santa Claus waves at the crowd during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, Nov. 27, 2014.

    Video A Los Angeles Christmas

    The end of December is a time when many Americans are thinking about snow and cold weather. Yet the city of Los Angeles, California is almost always warm and sunny, even during the winter holiday season. Many people like all the holiday decorations and lights seen in and around Los Angeles. More

  • FILE - A man casts a fishing net on the Mekong riverbank in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

    Audio Disagreement Over Mekong River Dam Project

    A two-day meeting in Laos has left government officials and environmental activists deeply divided. The meeting was called to examine plans for a 260 megawatt dam on the Lower Mekong River. The Lao government is prepared to start work on the project. More

  • Mideast Islamic State US

    Audio Top Islamic State Leaders Killed in Airstrikes

    Three top Islamic State leaders were killed in a series of targeted airstrikes in Iraq. U.S. not ruling out White House visit by Cuban President Raul Castro. Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnap over 100 women, children. Putin says Russia’s economy will improve in two years. More

  • the interview

    Video Sony Criticized for Cancelling 'The Interview'

    The company acted after a group of computer hackers attacked the company and threatened to attack movie theaters that show the film. Most people have criticized Sony’s decision to cancel the release. The US says North Korea was behind the cyber attack. North Korea denies the accusation. More

Featured Stories

  • Video Music Shows in Private Homes Gain Popularity

    Attending a live musical performance, be it in a huge arena or a small cafe, is an exciting experience. But here in the U.S., a very different kind of performance is gaining popularity: house concerts. “There's just a totally unique experience as opposed to playing like a coffee shop or a bar." More

  • Lee Surrenders to Grant at Appomatox

    Audio Southern General Robert E. Lee Surrenders at Appomattox

    General Robert E. Lee’s military skill and intelligence helped extend the war between the states. But even his skill could not save the South from the industrial power of the North and its mighty armies -- armies that were better-fed and better-equipped. On Sunday, August 9, Lee surrendered. More

  • Uganda Playground for Disabled Children

    Audio Helping Uganda’s Disabled Children Play

    You may think that all children have freedom to play. But for children who look differently from others or have physical disabilities, the idea of play can seem far away. An organization in Uganda is seeking to change that. Read on to learn words needed to talk about this sometimes difficult topic. More

  • A microneedle used to inject glaucoma medications into the eye is shown next to a liquid drop from a conventional eye dropper. (Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek

    Audio Tiny Needles Treat Eye Disease

    Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness around the world. In the United States, more than two million people suffer from the disease. Now, researchers are developing very small needles that may offer a more effective and painless treatment for glaucoma and other eye diseases. More

  • The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement in Las Vegas

    Audio Mob Museum Tells About the Mafia in America

    The U.S. government has long used public money to fight organized crime. Now, public money is also paying for a museum in Las Vegas to tell about "The Mob,” and not everyone is happy about that. But some say it helps the local economy by bringing people to a part of Las Vegas that few visit. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs