The tree is up, the stockings are hung, and the smell of cookies lingers in the air. That’s right, it’s Christmas time! A season filled with friends and family, giving back to others, and of course, fun!
Christmas in the United States is celebrated as either a religious or cultural holiday and recent studies indicate almost 90 percent of Americans celebrate the season. So now you may be wondering, “what about the rest of the world?” After all, the United States is just a small piece of the wonderful world in which we live. Many other countries celebrate Christmas too. Some traditions are exactly like ours, and others, not so much. Keep reading to find out more about Christmas traditions around the world.
Christmas in Australia: Have you ever heard of Christmas in July? Well in Australia that isn’t a far cry from the truth. Australia is in the southern hemisphere so their seasons are opposite of ours here in the United States, which means Christmas falls during residents summer vacation. Australians participate in many of the Christmas rituals we celebrate such as decorating Christmas trees, attending church services, and exchanging gifts. However, their Christmas dinners are usually celebrated outside with a picnic or a bonfire, often on a beach or while camping. Could you imagine sleeping in a tent in December in Pennsylvania? No thank you!
Christmas in England: Christmas in England is very similar to Christmas in the United States, but with some subtle differences. Santa is known as Father Christmas, and on Christmas Eve children write letters to him and then burn them in the fireplace. It is believed the ashes of the list can be read by Father Christmas who will then deliver the presents that night. In England, and other areas of the UK, residents celebrate Boxing Day on December 26. What was once considered a day to deliver boxes to the needy, is now a day for residents to give small gifts and tips to the people who help them out all year round such as newspaper carriers and mailmen. It’s also a big day for shopping, comparable to Black Friday in the United States.
Christmas in France: Did you know not every French family decorates a Christmas tree? In France, on Christmas, or Noel as it is commonly referred, children receive their gifts in a shoe! On Christmas Eve children leave their shoes by the fireplace for Pere Noel who fills their shoes with fruits, nuts, chocolates, and small gifts. They celebrate by singing Christmas carols, eating a large Christmas meal, and attend church services. But they have to watch out for Pre Fouettard, Pere Noel’s evil sidekick who keeps track of children who behaved badly throughout the year.
Christmas in Brazil: In Brazil it is customary for families to attend “Missa do Gallo” (Midnight Mass) and create “Presepio’s” or (Nativity Scenes) to display in their houses, storefronts, and churches. Families often celebrate with a larger dinner on Christmas Eve which usually begins at 9p.m. or midnight. Children receive gifts from Papai Noel, the Brazilian version of our Santa Claus. During the Christmas season Brazilians attend a folk play called Los Pastores, a story about a Shepherdess and a gypsy who try to steal Jesus from his manger.
Christmas in Germany: The Christmas tree is a very large part of the German’s holiday celebration, mostly because they are credited for starting the tradition. However, German children are forbidden from decorating the Christmas tree because it is believed the tree will hold a spell on them if they see it before Christmas Eve. The mother of the family decorates the tree on December 24th while the father keeps the children occupied elsewhere. The mother will ring a bell when she is finished signifying the children can enter the room and open gifts. Most families also attend a church service Christmas Eve.
Christmas in Italy: Children in Italy don’t open presents on Christmas Day, they wait until January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany, when they hang their stockings for La Befana. La Befana is the equivalent of our Santa Claus, who is said to have turned down an invitation from the Wise Men on their journey to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. Now she wonders the world on the feast of Epiphany leaving presents for the good children and coal for the naughty ones. Italian families also place a great importance on the recreation of the Nativity, now a popular tradition around the world, because of its roots in Italian heritage.
Christmas in the Philippines: Filipino’s have one of the longest Christmas seasons, starting their celebrations long before we even think about Halloween. It is not uncommon for families to start hanging up Parols (a star lantern that represents the Star of Bethlehem) as early as September. Leading up to Christmas Day, families attend a series of nine masses known as Simbang Gabi ending with midnight mass on Christmas Eve called Misa de Gallo. Christmas Eve, or Noche Buena, is followed with a large feast between families and friends that usually lasts all night long. On Christmas morning Filipino families visit their elderly relatives and extended family members. Children receive gifts from these family members only after they have paid them the proper respect. Notice, no Santa Claus in the Philippines.
Christmas is a special time for families all over the world and is celebrated in so many different ways. To find out more about other Christmas celebrations around the world, check out these great websites: www.whychristmas.com and www.the-north-pole.com/around/.
Happy Holidays from Agora Cyber Charter School!