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Christmas Around the World – Part II

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TR Robertson *As Christmas Eve and Christmas Day approaches, countries around the world will celebrate the holiday in incredibly unique, festive, and diverse ways. Part II will continue looking at glimpses of some of these countries and the ways Christmas is celebrated that makes this holiday such an amazing time of year.

Singapore – Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping district displays some of the most impressive Christmas decorations in the world. Gardens on the Bay has an amazing Christmas village display.

Switzerland – Advent Calendars are extremely popular in Switzerland. Parents will make them for their children and others purchase Advent calendars made to the interest of the children.

Iceland – Celebrations begin 13 days before Christmas Day. Children receive presents each day from thirteen different Santa Clauses called Yule Lads. The presents are placed in the children’s shoes left on windowsills. If they have not been good, they will receive rotten potatoes.

Mexico and other Latinx and Hispanic countries – Families celebrate Nochebuena on Christmas Eve with food, songs, dancing and pinatas for the children. Religious observances are attended at midnight Mass. Other festivities begin on December 12 with the Feast of La Guadalupana and end on January 6 with the Epiphany. Santa Clos brings gifts to children, but the Three Wise Men fill children’s shoes with candies, fruit, nuts, and sugar cane and at times money or gold items.

Bahamas – Junkanoo festivals are held on Boxing Day, December 26th, and again on New Year’s Day. The festival features goat skin drums, cowbells and brass instruments with choreographed dancers dressed in traditional one-of-a-kind costumes. Food is provided such as benny cakes, coconut cakes, fruit cakes, ham and turkey, plantains, fried and boiled fish and Johnny cakes. Local beers, Kalnik, and Sands, is also consumed.

Jamaica – Also holding a Junkanoo festival. Food offered much the same as the Bahamas, but curried goat, stewed oxtail and Jamaican rum fruitcake served as well. Many stay out late at the Christmas Eve Grand Market.

Colombia – In Colombia Christmas is a public holiday and primarily a religious celebration. It begins on December 7, Dia de las Velitas (Day of the Candles). December 16 is the first day of the Christmas Novena, a devotion consisting of prayer said on nine successive days. Christmas Eve is the most important day of Christmas in Colombia. Presents are opened at midnight and parties are held until sunrise. Little occurs on Christmas Day.

Venezuela – Christmas is celebrated here also as a religious occasion. El Nino Jesus (Baby Jesus) brings presents instead of Papa Noel (Santa Claus). Many festivities begin in November and there are night festivals held in various neighborhoods. In the capital of Caracas all the streets close so everyone can make their way to church, many of them arriving on roller blades.

Estonia – Estonians celebrate Christmas on December 24, referred to as joululaupaev (Christmas Saturday) and is a public holiday. The evening meal includes pork with sauerkraut, potato salad with red beet and for dessert, gingerbread, and marzipan. December 25 is a day of relaxing and visiting relatives.

Greece – The festive period lasts from November 30 to January 6. December 25 and 26 are public holidays. Most homes decorate trees and homes. Presents are not opened until January 1, St. Basil’s Day. The Christmas meal includes lamb or pork and desserts like Baklava and pastries. On Christmas Eve a Christmas cake is made with a cross in the middle. On Christmas morning boiled pork with plenty of lemon is eaten. In cities with ports, many of the boats in the harbor are decorated. Like Europe, many of the town squares have large, decorated trees and festivals are held around the square.

Italy – The Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 is a national holiday. Christmas decorations begin to appear, trees decorated, and numerous nativity scenes appear. Christmas is celebrated much like other European countries. Midnight Mass is a major part of every family’s tradition. The dinner on Christmas Eve consists of seafood, no meat, and lots of Christmas sweets like panettone, struffoli, and much more. In some cities, Christmas Day is celebrated with a Christmas lunch. Some cities hold big bon fires on Christmas Eve. On January 6, Epiphany, decorations are taken down and, in some areas, female puppets are burned to symbolize the end of the Christmas period and the death of the old year and the beginning of a new year. Most have adopted the giving of gifts on Christmas Day to children from Santa Claus, but on the 6th of January, the Three Wise Men bring good children’s gifts and sweets. In some cities parades exist called Corteo Dei Re Magi (Three Kings Procession).

United Kingdom – Many traditions date back to times long ago. Festivals, caroling, Christmas trees, decorations of shops and homes, religious services are part of every town in U.K. Mince pies are sold during the festive season as well as Advent calendars. Father Christmas delivers presents on Christmas Eve to stockings and on Christmas Day under the tree. Presents are opened on Christmas Day except for the Royal Family who opens presents on Christmas Eve. Telling Christmas stories, ghost stories and local legends on Christmas Eve is also a tradition.

Scotland – Christmas in Scotland was traditionally observed very quietly because the Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian Church, for several reasons never placed much emphasis on the Christmas festival. In Catholic areas, Midnight Mass is attended. Many of the Christmas traditions from England are starting to be celebrated. In Edinburgh, a German Christmas market is held beginning in November.

Ireland – Christmas is the largest day of celebration on the calendar in Ireland. Work typically stops at noon on Christmas Eve and a “Christmas drink” is celebrated in local pubs. Graves are visited to remember relatives who have passed and wreaths of holly are placed on the graves. Santa Claus in Ireland is known as Santy or Daidi na Nollag. The traditional dinner is turkey or goose with ham and vegetables. Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince pies are served for dessert. Christmas celebrations are finished with Little Christmas, Oiche Nollaig na mBan, on Jan. 6.

These are but a few of the countries that celebrate the Christmas and holiday season throughout the world. However, you choose to celebrate, enjoy the season, celebrate with family and friends, enjoy the food and worship in whatever way you choose.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

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  • Published: 2 years ago on December 13, 2022
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