Christmas celebrations around the world reflect the local traditions and culture. The festivities from one country to the next can vary quite dramatically. In the United States of America, we enjoy Christmas traditions such as Christmas Caroling, decorating the Christmas tree, leaving stockings, gift wrap, sending out Christmas cards, and leaving cookies for Santa.
The following are some of the interesting traditions for the Christmas season from around the world:
In Australia, many of the celebrations are held outdoors as Christmas comes towards the start of the summer holidays. Carols by Candlelight is the most popular events during the Christmas season when people gather to light candles at night and sing Christmas carols outdoors.
Australians decorate their homes and gardens with Christmas trees and lights. They also hang wreaths on their front doors and enjoy carol singing on Christmas Eve.
In France, the celebrations for Christmas start on December 5 (St. Nicholas Eve) and the most important day of the celebrations are Christmas Eve. In the days prior to Christmas, families create a crèche which is a nativity scene in their living room. While families will have a Christmas tree decorated with lights and tinsel, the crèche is their priority.
On the fourth Sunday before Christmas German families create an Advent wreath from pine or fir branches that include four colored candles. Germans light one of the candles on the wreath every Sunday and sing carols and eat festive cookies.
The festive celebrations start on December 24. The Christmas trees are normally only put up during the morning of December 24 although homes are typically decorated with ornaments and lights earlier in December. The Advent wreaths white candle is lit on Christmas Day and this day is spent focusing on family who goes to church together and then enjoys a Christmas dinner together.
In India Christmas is a state holiday. The Christians in India go to midnight mass and then enjoy a large feast of delicious delicacies while exchanging gifts. Many Christian homes will create a Christmas crib, hang stars that are brightly lit outdoors and give cakes and sweets to their neighbors.
It is only in the last few decades that Christmas has been celebrated widely in Japan. It is not seen as a religious celebration or holiday due to the fact that there are not many Christians in Japan. Customs traditional in the United States have made their way to Japan such as giving and receiving Christmas presents and cards.
Christmas is seen as a time to spread happiness in Japan instead of a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is generally the more popular day to celebrate. The meal of choice on Christmas day is often fried chicken and a sponge cake is the Japanese Christmas Cake, decorated with flowers, trees, and a Santa Claus figure.
In Mexico, the Christmas celebration begins on December 16 and is called Las Posadas. Christmas Eve is the ninth night of Las Posadas and is called Buena Noche. A procession to the church is led by the children and everyone attends the midnight mass.
Members of each family create detailed designs with brown paper bags to make farolitos or lanterns. A candle is placed inside and then the farolitos are placed on windowsills, rooftops, along sidewalks and on outside walls to light up the neighborhood with the Christmas spirit.
In the Philippines, people enjoy celebrating Christmas for as long as they possibly can. In some shops, Christmas carols are played from the beginning of September. December 16 is the formal beginning of the Christmas celebrations and many people attend the first of nine masses early in the mornings. The final mass is held on Christmas day. Christmas celebrations last until the first Sunday in January when the Feast of the Three Kings or Epiphany is celebrated.
One local tradition is known as the ‘parol’, this is a bamboo frame or pole that has a lit star lantern on the top. The ‘parol’ is the most popular decoration and represents the star which guided the wise men and is typically created from bamboo strips and cellophane paper or colored Japanese paper.
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