- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It’s not a most wonderful time of the year for all Americans, as 1.3 million face a loss of unemployment benefits if Congress doesn’t act by Dec. 28.

Yet try to put on a happier face for all mankind.

The Salvation Army is jingle belling and lots of folks are trying to be of good cheer.

After all, Americans aren’t the only people who celebrate Christmas.

In South Korea on Wednesday, the penguins stole the show.

Dressed in miniature reindeer, Santa and colored Christmas tree costumes, a family of nine African jackass penguins waddled in the holiday spirit at an amusement park.

The jackass penguin, named for its braying sound, is a protected class found off the coast of Africa.

And speaking of Africa, move it, move it along the coast to Madagascar, where our seasonal floral stars, poinsettias, are flaming year-round stars.

In fact, poinsettias grow as large as shrubs in Madagascar and are the island nation’s national flower.

Madagascar and other nations share other commonality with American Christmas celebrations — food and worship.

And leave it to France to mix hearth, worship and not just food, but good rich food and wine.

Christmas Eve night or early Christmas morning, tradition calls for yule logs of cherry wood to be sprinkled with red wine to create a nice aroma when burning. While Americans leave milk and cookies for Santa, the French leave food and drinks for Mary and baby Jesus.

The main meal, called Reveillon, is a feast, of course — on everything from roasted goose or turkey, to venison, foie gras and various cheeses, to pastries and desserts with fruits and nuts.

The Irish pretty much celebrate Christmas the same as we do here in the United States and in the United Kingdom, and indeed honor St. Stephen’s Day, too. That is when on the day after Christmas, soccer and horse races take place, and an tradition called the Wren Boys Procession takes place, where young folk dress in costumes and go house-to-house carrying a long pole decorated with a holly bush and sing a rhyme about the wren, a very small bird.

“The wren, the wren, the king of all birds/On St. Stephen’s day was caught in the furze.”

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