Different countries have different traditions and customs when it comes to celebrating Christmas. Read on to find out what they do.
Christmas tree, cakes, Santa Claus, holidays, feasts...
It's December and the only thing one associates with this month is Christmas. A time to meet and greet family, it's therefore a popular festival around the world.
Let's start with where Christmas begins first. Probably one of the few places where Christmas is celebrated in summer, Australia misses out on a white Christmas. Feasting is an important part of the occasion. A typical Christmas menu includes seafood, glazed ham, cold chicken, duck or turkey, pasta, salads pavlovas and ice-creams. Also many have Christmas dinner in the woods or on the beach like a picnic.
The Christmas trees in Finland are very different. Decorated beautifully with candy, paper flags, cotton, tinsel, apples and other fruits, they stand out. One of the popular traditions for the farmers is to tie a sheaf of grain, nuts and seeds on a pole and place it in the garden for the birds to feed on. It's only after the birds are fed that the feast begins for the family. Families wait for the first star to appear and the feast takes off.
In the land where Jesus was born, Christmas is not just special it's also done in style. The town is decorated with flags and other items of adornment. Streets are strung with Christmas lights. A Christmas market comes up and Christmas plays are performed. On Christmas eve processions are taken out and they usually end at the entrance of the birthplace of Jesus.
Children make an Advent Calendar — a calendar with 24 little flaps opening onto images of a Christmas scene.
The Christmas tree is usually decorated on Christmas eve. The Christmas dinner is a Christmas eve event. After the service, families gather to share hot chocolate and huge homemade doughnuts called “ringli”. Depending on the region, gifts are exchanged on December 25, January 1 or January 6 (when the three Magi were said to have visited the Christ child).
Pantomimes are a popular tradition here. Local people wear masks and visit houses during the 12 days of Christmas, miming and making rude noises and actions, ringing bells and asking for candy or other treats. They are also quizzed to see how they have been during the past year which in turn fetches them a reward each. Families deck up the exterior of their homes with lights and often create big ice sculptures in their front gardens. Christmas is truly a white one here, with about 12-14 feet of snow covering the ground during this period. Christmas eve sees families compete in cookie baking competitions and the day itself sees the close family members' making merry.
A major Christmas tradition is setting up the crèche and it's the children's responsibility to collect all that is needed for making it. A piece of oak — the Christmas log is kept burning on the hearth all through Christmas day. Another variation here is that the three wise men who give the gifts to the children and not Santa. And the gifts are only given on January 6. On Christmas morning, an additional feast, called consoada is held. The leftovers are placed near the fireplace for the souls of the departed, so that once they eat they will be blessed.
Christmas is often referred to as Gwiazdka, meaning “little star”. Traditional Christmas eve supper consists of 12 dishes, which have to be sampled before they are laid out. According to ancient belief the more one eats at Christmas eve, the more pleasure awaits him. Another tradition is that the table is always laid for an extra person in case a stranger or the Holy Spirit should appear to share the meal.