How do people celebrate Christmas around the world? We all know that Christmas is a big holiday here in the United States, with lights, decorations, gifts and dinners. Christmas is a popular Christian religious holiday, as well as a secular holiday, which is celebrated by people all over the world. Holiday traditions are as varied as the people who celebrate them, and they are constantly evolving. Here are some of the ways that Christmas is observed in other countries.
Many of the images we have in the United States of a "traditional" Christmas come from the United Kingdom. The holiday is celebrated with Christmas cards, caroling and a holiday feast, with Christmas pudding for dessert. The children place their stockings by the fireplace for Father Christmas to fill with goodies and small presents. Gift-giving is less important in the UK than togetherness and the big holiday dinner. The celebration extends to December 26, or Boxing Day, which marks a traditional day off for servants to enjoy their own Christmas dinner.
Since Australia is in the southern hemisphere, this means that Christmas happens in the middle of summer. Australians to have many of the same Christmas traditions as we do in the United States, such as Christmas trees, carols and Christmas dinner; however, they are likely to spend Christmas at an outdoor party in shorts and T-shirts or even at the beach, rather than wearing sweaters in front of a roaring fire.
Australia's Santa Claus is more likely to be seen in a red swimsuit than a warm, fur-lined coat. And since there's no snow in Australia during the summer, Santa's sleigh is pulled by six snow-white kangaroos rather than the reindeer Santa uses in snowy places.
Christians in China celebrate Christmas by decorating their homes with colorful paper lanterns, as well as a Tree of Light. Chinese children also hang stockings by the fireplace, in hopes that Dun Che Rau Len, or "Christmas Old Man," will come and bring them gifts. Because only about one percent of China's population is Christian, Christmas isn't nearly as widely celebrated in China as it is in the United States.
In Mexico, Christmas is a religious holiday celebrated by most of the country. Every home has a Nativity scene, and one of the big events of the holiday are the posadas, reenactments of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem. The final Posada on December 24 ends with a big Christmas dinner, a piñata and Midnight Mass. On Christmas morning, the children all rush to look under the tree, to find the gifts that Santa has brought.
In Sweden, Christmas begins on December 13, with the St. Lucia ceremony. On St. Lucia Day, the youngest daughter in the family dons a white robe with a wreath of evergreens and candles upon her head. Accompanied by her siblings, she serves her parents Lucia buns and coffee in bed. Two days before Christmas, families set up their Christmas trees. On Christmas eve, the mother of the house lights candles for all to carry on a precession to church. On Christmas morning, many church services are lit entirely with candlelight, and children receive small gifts.
The United States
The United States is a nation made up of people from all over the world, so as a result our holiday traditions are borrowed from many other nations. People in the United States commonly celebrate by exchanging Christmas cards, enjoying a Christmas dinner with loved ones and exchanging gifts under the Christmas tree. Children hang stockings by the fire and eagerly await a visit from Santa Clause. Some families attend church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well.
Some things are unique to an American Christmas, such as the lavish displays of lights found in homes and front yards. Rudolph the Reindeer is an American tradition, and there is a greater emphasis on Christmas gifts in American culture than in other parts of the world.
Christmas is a special time for children, and every parent wants to make it something memorable, something magical. That may seem like a tall order considering the seasonal hoopla and commercial excess that now associates itself with this celebration, but the magic can be kept if a little forethought goes into holiday preparations.
Italian Christmas traditions are a festive blend of Christian influences and pagan celebrations. Whether your family is Italian or you just want to explore global holiday traditions, you can incorporate some old-world charm into your holiday.