Christmas traditions around the world
Traditionally Christmas all over the world is celebrated as the birth of Jesus Christ. But with globalisation, many non-Christian countries and families too celebrate this wonderful festival. Let’s see how the celebrations differ in different countries.
In many regions in France, Christmas celebrations start with St Nicholas Day on the 6th of December. Then children get sweets and little gifts. Many cities in France are decorated during the weeks leading up to Christmas and children love to open the 24 little windows of their Advent calendar. In the Alsace region, the tradition of putting up decorated Christmas trees dates back as far as the 14th century. Towns and cities are also illuminated with Christmas lights. On Christmas eve, Children put their polished shoes out in front of the chimney and hope that ‘Père Noël’ (Father Christmas) fills the shoes with sweets.
In Italy, a nativity scene, a ‘presepe’, is usually put up in churches, town squares and often in homes. This is for many the most important part of the Christmas decorations. ‘Babbo Natale’ or Father Christmas hands out presents to children on Christmas Day. Still in many families, gifts are exchanged only on 6th of January which is the Day of Epiphany. In Italy, the people wish each other ‘Buon Natale’, which means ‘Merry Christmas’.
Houses are often decorated with fairy lights and festive ornaments in December, however, in Germany the Christmas tree is usually only put up and decorated at the homes in the morning of the 24th of December. The 26th of December is a public holiday in Germany too and many families celebrate on this day together, go to Church or enjoy a little excursion to a nearby park.
In England, most people start with Christmas decorations early, that is as early as mid of November. Many families also collect donations from others to see their decorations, and the amount collected is donated to charities. Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Day, the 25th of December. 26 December is a bank holiday as well. On Boxing Day, the 26th of December, friends and family are usually visited to exchange gifts.
In Norway, children wait for ‘Julenisse’, the Norwegian Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, the ‘Julenisse’, brings presents to the children. During the month of December, children wait eagerly for ‘Jul’, that is how they call Christmas.
In Iceland, children put their shoes on the windowsill so the ‘Juletide Lads’, Santa Claus, fills the shoes with little goodies.
The Portuguese celebrate Christmas on 24th of December. Houses are decorated for Christmas and many families put up a nativity scene (presépio), where Baby Jesus is added to the crib after the family attends Midnight mass. Children put out their shoes for Baby Jesus, not Santa, and gifts are exchanged after the family has attended a Christmas service on Christmas eve.
In the Philippines there is a special tradition of having a Christmas lantern, which is called ‘paról’; the lantern is star-shaped, remembering the star of Bethlehem, and mainly made out of bamboo and paper.
In Australia, it is tradition in the weeks up to Christmas to join in Christmas picnics organized by various churches and sing Christmas carols on the beach. As Australia is in the southern hemisphere, the festive season is during summer time and for Christmas time friends and family often gather at the beach.
Rather than gathering around the table for a turkey dinner, families head out to their local Kentucky Fried Chicken. The tradition began in 1974 after a wildly successful marketing campaign called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!” The fast food chain has maintained its yuletide popularity, causing some people to order their boxes months in advance or stand in two-hour-long lines to get their “finger lickin’ good” food.