The festival of Christmas which falls on 25th December annually marks the birth of Lord Jesus Christ. Though the festival is predominantly celebrated by the Christian population yet we more than often notice that the festive decorations are done and sumptuous meals are prepared, even in non-Christian families.
In the month of this festival of joy and mirth, one notices the beautifully decorated Christmas trees, the dangling bells, the tiny sparkling lights in the houses and on the windows and walls. Young girls and boys wake up early on Christmas morning. They are in a rush to find out what all has Santa Claus left for them in the form of lovely presents. Christmas is also the time of charity. People lend their economic and moral support to the needy.
Family members spend their time in baking cookies, buying precious christmas gifts to exchange, visits are made to the loved ones. People feel fortunate to have their loved ones around them during the Christmas time. Christmas around the world are majestic with grand revelry at the Vatican and local church celebrations luring the local masses.
Christmas celebrations around the world
However, Christmas around the world differ in a lot of ways. From the Western to the Eastern Hemisphere myriad activities, traditions and rituals mark this day. In some places, Christmas is not celebrated in winters, rather it comes towards the beginning of the summer holidays. All over the world, the festival of Christmas reflects the local cultures, beliefs, practices and traditions.
On a cozy Christmas Eve in the United States, one may come across packs of carolers who visit your home to serenade you. In Argentina, gifts, food, light fireworks mark this festival of awe and magic. In Newfoundland, friends and acquaintances dress up and disguise themselves in colorful costumes and perform comedy comic pieces. Let us now take a glimpse into Christmas celebrations that mark the many different parts of the world.
United States of America:
We can not foget USA when talking about Christmas around the world. Well known as the melting pot of many cultures, people residing in the USA come from varied backgrounds. Christmas is one of the most important and enthusiastically celebrated festival in the USA. USA with its multi-cultural society has many different traditions and ways in which people celebrate Christmas. The traditional meal includes turkey or ham with cranberry sauce. Popcorns, gingerbread and eggnog are part of the common food and drink palette.
Tamales, roast goose, red cabbage, crawfish, pork, seafood salad are common food items consumed during this festive season. Christmas is a public holiday and schools and businesses are closed. In the days or weeks leading up to Christmas Day, people adorn their houses with gardens and lights and Christmas trees. One common aspect is the preparation of a special meal for family or friends.
Children are showered with presents, affection and blessings from their loved ones. Sunday schools, churches and communities host and organize special events. Religious and secular customs are mingled with family traditions. Christmas tree, Yule log, Christmas cards, Santa Claus, reindeers, snowmen, snowflakes and mistletoe remain significant part of Christmas for the Americans. The outside of the homes are decorated keeping in mind the regional traditions and weather.
Christmas celebrations first started in Australia around 1788 as a result of British settlement in the continent, the cultural norms of the Mother Nation were transferred to the new colonies. When the Aussies celebrate Christmas on 25th December, it is the time of their summer vacations. In the Land Down Under i.e. Australia seasons are completely opposite to America. On Christmas Aussies come together at night to light candles and sing Christmas carols.
Surfing, swimming, sailing and riding bicycles form the order of the day for most of the Australian families who love spending time with each other during the festival season. Meals are grilled outside on the barbeque. Families decorate their homes with beautiful and colorful flowers called the Christmas bush and Christmas Bellflower. Evergreens, ferns and palms are also put to use for decorative purposes.
Christmas festivities begin around late November. On Christmas Eve families attend the church together. The most important part of the day for a lot of families in Australia is the Holiday midday dinner. Families sit together to enjoy traditional British Christmas dinner of roasted turkey, ham, plum pudding. Families also head out for picnics and camping trips.
A large country with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, in Canada, Christmas rituals and traditions are influenced by French, English, Scottish, German, Ukrainian and Norwegian culture thus combining Christmas around the world. Sending of Christmas cards is a common trend in Canada. A lot of people like to open their gifts on the Christmas Eve while some choose to open only their stocking and stall gift opening for the rest of the Christmas day.
Christmas stockings are hung by the fireplace. Young kids expect that Santa Claus would come around the night on his sledge and place some presents for them either in the stockings or under the handsomely decorated Christmas tree.
The special Christmas meals include roasted turkey, vegetables, mashed potatoes and vegetables. Desserts include, Christmas puddings, tarts, muffins, fruit cakes and pies. In Nova Scotia, Eastern Canada pines and firs are decorated as Christmas trees. It is also interesting to discuss about the tradition of Belsnickeling, where people dress up in funny Santa costumes and visit different houses where the hosts are supposed to recognize you.
Cookies are given to these visitors known as the Belsnicklers. The Belsnicklers often carry along with themselves musical instruments. They sing and dance and contribute a great deal to the merrymaking on the auspicious day of Christmas. Cookie baking parties are also common.
Celebration of Christmas in Ireland is very similar to the celebration of Christmas in the UK and USA. Yet, there are certain traditions and customs that are unique to the Irish people. Irish people, predominantly Catholic begin their celebrations by late November and continue with them till the 6th of January which is known as the day of the feast of Epiphany or Little Christmas. In the olden days, in some Irish families people would put a tall, thick candle on the sill of the window after sunset on Christmas Eve.
The burning of the candle was a welcoming gesture for Mary and Joseph. In the Gaelic language, Christmas is known as “Nollaig” and Santa Claus is referred to as ‘San Nioclas’ (Saint Nicholas) in Ireland. Christmas markets are buzzing and friends, family and acquaintances come home to celebrate the joyous season together.
Holly, ivy and evergreens are used to decorate the homes. Homes in Ireland hang mistletoe on doorways as symbols of peace, goodwill and wellness. Hundreds of young men and women take to the sea in the spirit of Christmas in Sandy cove, County Dublin, Forty Foot or Port Stewart Strand. In Northern Ireland as well as in the Republic of Ireland the day after Christmas i.e. 26th of December is celebrated as a public holiday. January 6th is the official date when all merrymaking comes to an end and it is then that the men of the household busy themselves taking down of the decorations.
Christmas In the East
So far we have largely discussed about the Western countries and the way Christmas is celebrated in them. In order to properly understand Christmas around the world it is essential for us to take into account the rituals, traditions and practices of the countries of the Eastern sphere as well. Let us look at Christmas celebrations in India and Korea.
Christmas Around the world & Christmas celebrations in India are quite similar and religious in nature with people visiting the church with their families to attend to the services over there. Churches start preparing themselves for Christmas well in advance. Households busy themselves with the preparation of food, sweets and decorations. Local markets, shops and stores are full of pretty fairy lights, flowers, bouquets, paper streamers, Christmas trees and greeting cards.
Families try to put Christmas trees. Decorations are handmade most of the times. Christmas stars shine bright in the verandahs of homes. Friends, neighbors and relatives are invited home for the Christmas treats. There are fruit cakes, rose cookies, sweetened dough balls, sweet dumplings, banana chips and cashew macaroons. As India is a large country with a vast geographic expanse what we notice is that local practices and traditions vary, even in terms of Christmas.
Christmas fruit cakes in India are heavily influenced by British plum puddings. Christmas cribs are another important feature of the festival in India. Beautiful cribs resplendent with lights and heavy detailing amaze the visitors. Major cities in India where Christmas is grandly celebrated include: Bombay, Goa, Delhi, Cochi and Calcutta.
Christmas around the world can not be talked without South Korea. Christmas is celebrated widely in South Korea. There are more Christians in Korea than there are in Japan and China. Christmas is an official public holiday. Schools and businesses remain closed while shops selling gadgets, dresses, and Christmas paraphernalia remain open. Churches are decorated spectacularly with lights. Churches organize service on Christmas Day.
Many Non-Christians too visit the churches and cathedrals on Christmas. Bright, colorful lights decorate the capital city, Seoul. Presents are exchanged and money is a popular present that is gifted and exchanged between the family members and friends. The legend of Santa Claus pretty much exists in the country but the Santa might be dressed up a little differently at times, that is, in blue! A Christmas cake/ sponge cake covered in cream is something that is relished by the old and young.
Thus, Christmas around the World vary in so many ways. There are activities and practices that are unique to individuals, their cultures and civilizations. Reveling in snow might be easy for the kids in the USA during the time of Christmas, while it is not so for young Christian kids in New Delhi. Snow men are a common feature of Christmas in Ireland while it is definitely not so in Australia where Christmas falls during the period of scorching heat.
From Christmas to the New Year, there is drinking, dancing, singing and praying. Important markers of Christmas include: the Christmas wreath that is the representative of everlasting life and God’s undying love for the mankind, the Christmas trees that are ladened with lights, tinsel and decorations. Christmas around the world and its celebrations include spending time with the family, decorating the entire house, inside and out and shopping for friends and relatives.