Christmas Traditions and Customs From Around The World
December 25 is the day Christians celebrate as the birth of Jesus Christ... however, it is unknown when the birth actually happened, and the chances of it being in December are slim.
December 25 was originally a pagan holiday in Babylonian times to herald the Son of the Goddess of Nature (Isis). It was celebrated with a huge feast and much merriment.
Christmas in France
A visit to France during the Noel season, as it is referred to there, will find many homes with a crèche, or an elaborate Nativity scene.
For many years a Yule log was burned in homes from the day of Christmas until New Years Day... although nowadays, most people simply make a cake in the shape of a Yule log (Buche de Noel).
Some parts of France have small gifts given on St. Nicholas Eve (December 6) and larger gifts on Christmas day.
Christmas in Australia
Don't like the cold? Celebrate Christmas in the Land Down Under! Australia is an extremely warm continent, and often celebrate the holiday at the beach or enjoying a family barbecue. To walk the streets, it looks like any traditional holiday scene, with the lights and the decorations... but don't expect evergreens frosted with snow.
Christmas in Mexico
In Mexico, the celebrations start on December 12, in honor of the birth of the virgin Guadalupe. The Epiphany is on January 6, which ends the festivities, and this is the day children receive presents. Rather than stockings, the children place gift requests in their shoes.
Christmas in Switzerland
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Switzerland celebrates the tradition of the Advent Calendar, with each day having a small window with Christmas pictures inside for the month of December through the 24th.
There is also a garland or a wreath containing candles which are lit on each Sunday of the Advent.
These traditions are also celebrated in Denmark.
Christmas in Russia
Russia has only officially recognized Christmas again since the early 1990's. The revolution of 1917 had banned all religious holidays from being observed. Generally it is celebrated on January 7, as the Russian Orthodox church goes by the Julian Calendar rather than the Gregorian.
Priests come to the homes and bless them with holy water and children go caroling, along with gatherings of family for a grand dinner.
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Christmas in South America
South American traditions vary depending on the location.
In Chile, there is the observance of Novena, which includes a nine day fast and prayer. This ends on Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, after which a festive dinner is prepared.
Argentineans and Brazilians are more laid back, celebrating family and friends.
Christmas in Iraq
The country of Iraq only had the holiday of Christmas officially recognized in 2008. The Christian population of this country celebrates with a reading by the children of Christ's birth, followed by the burning of dried thorns. The ashes are then jumped over three times and a wish is made.
Christmas Among Native Americans
Many Native American tribes were introduced to Christian concepts by the European settlers. They incorporated their own traditions with that of the new ones.
In many tribes, a dance is done on Christmas Eve as the manger or "Christmas crib" is surrounded. Instead of angels, it is the great Thunderbird that brings the good news, and the wise men are represented by leaders of the different Nations.
Christmas in Bethlehem
In the town of Bethlehem, where Christ is to have been born, a place often visited is the Basilica of the Nativity which is to honor the holy Mother of God (Theotokos).
With the nationalities in Bethlehem being so diversified, the celebrations last for several weeks. There are many visitors to Manger Square which is thought to be the actual location of Christ's birth. As in many traditions shown here, there is an emphasis on celebrating with family and friends.
Christmas Traditions in the United Kingdom
Building up to Christmas has almost become as traditional as the celebration itself.
On the first of December Advent calendars are started, either in the form of a Calendar with opening doors and sometimes even a chocolate inside, or a candle in which you light each day.
Shops and public places tend to have Christmas decorations displayed anytime from September onwards, however most homes begin putting up decorations in the first week of December. Decorations consist usually of the Christmas tree with a Fairy on the Top decorated with tinsel and colorful lights.
Christmas in the United Kingdom usually starts with 24th December with most people either already finished work, or having a short working day and finishing early. Traditionally Christmas Eve is a time for the family to be together and enjoy a Mince pie and maybe even a brandy.
Parents normally have their hands full looking after excitable children who get very excited about Christmas Day. A lot of adults traditionally go to Midnight Mass, This is a special church service where you can go to sing carols and prayers, however this seems to be less of a tradition as the years go on.
Usually the last thing that is done on Christmas eve is to leave a Mince Pie and a Sherry for Santa Clause and a carrot for the reindeer. This is a tradition that is usually carried out by children.
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Christmas Day in the UK
Christmas day usually starts with the opening of presents; the family will gather round and exchange gifts and cards with each other. Depending on whether or not you have children will influence how early this happens and normally the children are very excited and awake earlier than normal on Christmas day.
Christmas Dinner is a very important part of the British Christmas day. Unlike our friends in the states, we traditionally serve Turkey or Goose Roast dinner for Christmas, however today the Turkey is more favoured over the goose.
Christmas pudding is usually served after dinner as a dessert, originally associated with Christmas when Prince Albert introduced it during a Royal Christmas Dinner. It is also almost customary that Christmas cake is either made or bought, which usually gets enjoyed with a glass of brandy or cup of tea late Christmas afternoon or Boxing Day.
Boxing Day is celebrated on the 26th of December. Originally this day was the time to give presents to people like friends, servants and tradesman. Nowadays Boxing Day is usually a time when you visit family that you could not visit on Christmas day. Boxing Day is a bank holiday, although more and more supermarkets and shops seem to be opening their doors on boxing day in the hope of luring you in to purchase early January sales.
Traditionally Christmas lasts for 12 days, Starting on December 26th and finishing on January 6th.
So as you hang the stockings, say the prayers, and recovered from the Wal-Mart sales, think about how many different traditions there are for this season. Perhaps some can be incorporated into your own celebrations. And above all, please have a:
Nollaig Shona Dhuit
... and a Happy New Year!
Christmas Traditions in Germany
In Germany, the preparations for the Christmas celebration usually begins in November. The people in Germany set aside special evenings so that they can bake delicious deserts and make Christmas decorations and gifts.
December 6 is Nikolaustag, St. Claus day. On the eve of December 5, shoes or boots are set beside the fireplace. While all the children are asleep, St. Nicholas goes from house to house with his book of sins, which lists all the misdeeds of the children.
If he checks his book and finds out that the child has been good, he will fill the boot with holiday candies and treats. But, if the child has been naughty, he would awake to find his boot filled with nothing but twigs!
Many of their Christmas tree decorations are made with a white dough called Christbaumgeback. The dough can be shaped, molded or cut into any shape and it is then baked to harden. The ornaments are then decorated in various ways and hung on the tree.
Children aren't allowed to see the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve! While they are being pre-occupied in another room, one of the parents will bring out the tree and decorate it. In Germany Christmas trees are often decorated with apples, cookies, nuts or candy. They will also be adorned with angels, trains, tinsel and lights or candles. Sometimes family treasures are used as decorations.
The presents are then placed under the tree and nearby tables are set with a brilliantly decorated plate, one for each member of the family. The plates are filled with Christmas treats such as marzipan, fruits, chocolates and nuts.
After all the preparations are made, a bell is rang to announce that the Christmas room is ready. It is traditional for carols to be sung and for the Christmas story to be read. Sometimes sparklers are even lit to celebrate and then all the presents are opened.
Christkind and Christkindl
In some areas of Germany, it is believed that the Christ Child sends a special messenger on Christmas Eve. This special Christmas angel is called Christkind. He is a winged creature that is all dressed in white robes and wears a golden crown. The children in those parts of Germany leave their Christmas wish lists on their windowsills for Christkind.
Another traditional Christmas visitor is the Christkindl. She is also considered a messenger of the Christ Child. Christkindl is a beautiful young girl that wears a crown of candles on her head. She visits each house delivering presents from her basket.
Christmas Man or Weihnachtsmann
In other parts of Germany, hey have a figure that is much like the traditional Santa Clause in America. He is called Christmas Man or Weihnachtsmann and he travels about delivering all the Christmas gifts on Christmas eve.
Many of the homes in Germany have several Christmas trees decorated each year. Advent wreaths called the Adventskranz, are made of holly and have four red candles placed in the center. They are laid on a table and one candle is lit on each Sunday counting down the days until the last one is lit on Christmas Eve.
These are just a few of the many traditions celebrated in Germany.
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