Christmas is one of the prevalent celebrations for Christians. With the world transforming in a global village, Christmas is now eminent in countries worldwide. Caroling, feasting, and greetings, gift-giving along with the prayers and wishes – Christmas is fêted with high spirits. Though the spirit remains the same throughout however the mode of celebration, the dates and the traditions vary. For some it is a month long festival which begins with the Dawn on Sunday subsequent to November 26 and ends on January 6 with the feast of Epiphany (the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12)), while most people celebrate it as a festive season spreading over a week. Read on to our Christmas series to have a glimpse over the diverse ways in which it is celebrated in different countries.
Read on for a how Christmas is celebrated in different countries:
Christmas falls during summer in South Africa, schools are closed for vacations and flowers bloom throughout the town.
Christmas day begins with happy people singing Christmas carols throughout the town, some people are also awakened by the lovely sung carols. Everyone begins the day with worship at their house and later they prepare to dress in finest clothing for the Christmas service at the Church.
It is a norm to bring gifts at the service to be present in honor of Jesus at the service. No one attends the service without presenting gifts, this is their way of celebrating. Later people rejoice with dinner at their place.
Houses are decorated with pine branches and have a Christmas fir decorated in the corner. Presents for children are kept under the tree. Before bedtime, children hang stockings to be filled with presents by Christmas Father.
Christmas is observed on the 25th of December in Argentina during the summer. Preparations begin a little early for Christmas in argentina than other countries. Houses are decorated with lights and flowers. Usually red and white garlands are hung, also artificial trees are used to create Christmas tree. Many set up a creche in their homes during the season, setting up Christ’s manger with great care. The “pesebre” is placed close to the Christmas tree. A wonderful custom practiced be many people here is applying cotton balls on the branches of the Christmas tree to simulate snow throughout the nativity.
Families attend religious services at the church. And later visit each other’s home on the joys occasion. At midnight on 24th December, fireworks are usually seen to commemorate the birth of Christ. Families also light “globos”, colourful paper baloons that take off into the sky when lit from inside. If you visit Argentina during Christmas, you will be spellbound by the beauty of the numerous “globos” flying in the night sky.
Most Alaskan Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25th, just as people do in the continent of the US. Santa Claus may arrive for a pre-Christmas visit. The songs sang at each home include Aleut words Gristuusaaq suu’uq, or Christ is born. Everyone joins in the closing words, Mnogaya leta, or god grant you many years. At the end of the carols the host provides carolers with maple-frosted doughnuts, cookies, candy, piruk, or fish pie, and sometimes smoked salmon. In Alaska children wander from house to house carrying a colored star on a long pole, and singing carols.
In Brazil, Christmas is one of the most important festive days, or “dia de festas”. It is celebrated on 25th December.
Having a multicultural population, the festivities in the country are influenced by ethnic ways. As a former Portuguese colony, they have retained some of the Christmas customs of their former masters. Notable among these is creating a nativity scene or “Presepio”. Every December, presépios are created during Christmas and displayed in churches, houses and stores. Come January and they are dismantled along with the Christmas trees and lights.
A highlight of Christmas celebrations in Brazil is making huge Christmas “trees” of electric lights. These “electric trees” can be seen against the night skies in major cities such as Brasilia, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro throughout the season. Christmas carols are sung during Christmas to commemorate the birth of Christ. In some regions the feast starts on Christmas Eve around 9 pm, while at other places it is eaten at midnight with the children being served first. Except for the high temperatures and the absence of snow, Christmas here is pretty much the same as it is in the US.
In Canada, Christmas Day is celebrated on 25th December.
The Christmas festivities here are quite similar to the American observance of the occasion. Pantomiming wearing masks is a popular tradition in Canada. Local people wear masks and visit houses during the twelve days of Christmas, miming and making rude noises and actions, ringing bells and asking for candy or other treats. The mummers remove their disguise and stop behaving riotously if the hosts guess their identities correctly. They also quiz the children to check whether they have been good in the past year, and if they are satisfied, the kids receive candy as reward.
Christmas decorations start here from several days before 25th December. In Quebec, elaborate nativity scenes are displayed in individual homes as Christmas decorations.
On December 24, Christmas Eve, extended family members get together for a fun-filled celebration. A mass service is held at midnight and attended by many. In Canada, tourtière or pork pie is served to everybody who attends the Midnight Mass. After participating in the Christmas Eve Mass, many Canadian families (especially those of French descent) have a grand dinner that lasts well into the early hours of Christmas morning.
In Canada, children hold Santa Claus to be the bringer of their presents. Many of them hang their stockings to be filled by him with gifts and goodies. Many Canadians open their gifts on Christmas Eve, while others choose to unwrap only one gift on this day and open the rest on Christmas Day.
Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in the world. Both Hong Kong and Macau designate Christmas as a public holiday on December 25. Arrival of winter marks the celebration of Christmas in China. People decorate their homes with dazzling Christmas lights, beautiful Christmas tree and mouthwatering Christmas recipes. Christmas trees are called “trees of light” and are also decorated with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns. Children hang up muslin stockings in hopes that Dun Che Lao Ren (China’s Santa) will visit and fill them with presents.
Although Christianity is unofficial in China, there are an estimated 10 million baptized Christians (about 1 percent of the population) who celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time.
In Denmark, the Christmas celebrations begin with Advent. In each Sunday in Advent, each one of the four candles are lit on the Advent wreath, which is traditionally made here out of fine spruce twigs and cuttings. On each Sunday in Advent, guests are invited to join in the lighting of the candles on the Advent crown. In the weeks leading to the Christmas Eve, Danish families set up Christmas trees in their homes and decorate them in the most beautiful manner. The trees, commonly spruce, are usually decorated with a silver or gold star on the top.
Here, the main Christmas celebration is on December 24(Christmas Eve). But the festive atmosphere is quite apparent even on the day before, i.e 23rd December. In Denmark, this day is popularly called “Lille Juleaften” (Little Christmas Eve). Christmas Day (December 25th) is a rather quiet time and is usually a day to be spent in the company of close friends and family members.
Christmas in France is a time for get together with family and friends. It is a time to worship together, dine together and enjoy together.
Arranging the Nativity scene is a popular custom associated with the French Christmas season. During Christmas, nearly every home in the country displays a Nativity scene or creche which is the center of Christmas celebrations for families. Little clay figures called “santons” or “little saints” are placed in the creche. Children put out in the hearth their shoes or wooden clogs called sabots to be filled with gifts from Pere Noel, the French equivalent of the British Father Christmas and the American Santa Claus.
The custom of Christmas tree decoration has never been that popular in France. The use of the Yule log has faded in the country, though in the southern parts a log is burned in individual homes from Christmas Eve until New Years Day.
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India is a secular nation and houses every community. Christians are a minority here and form nearly 2.3% of the population. But the fact that there are only about 25 million Christians in India, in no way lessens the observance of the festival.
For Indian Christians, especially the Catholics, the Midnight mass on Christmas Eve is a very important service and holds great religious significance. Every year, on the night of 24th December, all members in Christian families visit their local churches to attend the Midnight mass.
In India, Father Christmas or Santa Claus is held to be the giver of presents to children from a horse and cart. As in the U.S., he is believed to deliver presents at the house of every kid who behaves well during the whole year. Santa Claus is known as ‘Christmas Baba’ in Hindi and ‘Christmas Thaathaa’ in Tamil.
In Italy, the Christmas season goes for three weeks, starting 8 days before Christmas known as the Novena and lasts till after the Feast of Epiphany. The opening of the Holy Season is announced by the sound of cannon firing from the Castle of Saint Angelo in Rome. Eight days before Christmas, a special service of prayers and church worship begin which ends on Christmas Day. This special service is known as the Novena, a Roman Catholic worship service consisting of prayers on nine consecutive days. The Nativity scene is one of the most beloved and enduring symbols of the Christmas season. Creating the Nativity scene during Christmas actually originated in Italy.
Presepio is the center of Christmas celebrations for families. By twilight, candles are lighted around the family crib known as the Presepio, prayers are said, and children recite poems. Guests kneel before the crib and musicians sing before it. The tree is a fir, real or fake, decorated with colored balls and multicolored lights. Both the “Presepio” and the tree are put away in the evening of next year on January 6th. A strict fast is observed a day before Christmas and ends 24 hours later with an elaborate celebratory Christmas feast.