A trip through the Christmas traditions around the world
Christmas traditions around the world follow the uses from each area of the globe. In Portugal, Christmas is a synonymous for union and tradition, with codfish and bolo-rei at the table.
On this date, celebrated all over the world, each region follows its own traditions. It is a way of valuing and maintaining ancient traditions, passed on from generation to generation.
This is a special time for Catholic Christians, who celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We also celebrate union, family, love and hope.
The essence of Christmas is similar across the globe, but there are different customs, legends and celebrations in each country. Christmas traditions are different around the world, but they have many points in common.
6 Christmas traditions around the world – Unity around diversity
1. Bethlehem, State of Palestine
During Christmas season, the streets of Bethlehem fill-up of tourists, were it not for this place where it all began. In the old days, the majority of the city’s population was Catholic, but, due to conflicts, many Catholics emigrated. Nowadays, in the city where Jesus Christ was born, most of the inhabitants are Muslim.
Despite the different religious beliefs, Christmas Day is highly respected by all. It is considered a celebration of peace and hope either by Catholics or by Jews and Muslims.
On December 24th, it is traditional to have a march, accompanied by Christmas carols, to the Basilica of the Nativity. This is the place where Jesus is believed to have been born. The main Catholic, national and international entities and bishops participate in this march.
After arriving to the basilica, a Christmas Mass is celebrated there. At the end, the pilgrims go to the cave where Jesus was born to kiss and adore a special star. This one represents the birth of Prince Saviour.
Christmas traditions around the world almost always involve a ritual of food sharing and Bethlehem is no exception. At the end of the celebrations, the Franciscan Priests offer the pilgrims wine and dark bread as a representation of the Christmas meal.
Finland has a very deep connection with the Christmas season. It is said that it is in Lapland (in the north of the country) that Santa Claus, his wife and helpers live.
Christmas celebrations begin on the first weekend of December, which marks the beginning of Advent. Every Sunday, a candle is lit. On the last Sunday before Christmas, four candles are burned in the window announcing the beginning of the celebration.
On December 24th, at noon, Christmas Peace is proclaimed and broadcasted on radio and television. After this announcement, Christmas Mass is celebrated in the afternoon or early evening, accompanied by Christmas carols. In the evening the traditional supper is served, which includes pork shank and puree. At the end, children wait anxiously for the arrival of Santa Claus.
Christmas traditions around the world adjust to the habits of each region. In Finland they include sauna and skiing.
3. United States of America
It is likely that all the exuberance of Christmas decorations and Christmas standardization has emerged in the United States. Here, this celebration is rich in brilliance, colour, light, snowmen, wreaths and lush Christmas trees. Americans spend the days before Christmas looking for the perfect gift.
On Christmas Eve, with the traditional stuffed turkey at the table and the sound of Christmas carols, families get together. The socks hanging from the fireplace await the arrival of the morning of December 25th, for the opening of gifts.
Christmas traditions around the world are also influenced by climate. For the majority of the world’s population, Christmas is accompanied by cold and snow. But the same cannot be said of Australians, who celebrate Christmas in midsummer.
In Australia, it’s a tradition to party on the beach with the family while enjoying the turkey barbecue. On December 25th, the beaches fill up with people and the waves are surfed by people dressed as Santa Claus.
In Russia, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th, because there this celebration is based on the Gregorian calendar. The Russian Christmas tradition includes a dinner where the whole family gathers and shares delicacies. Family life continues with the distribution of gifts by “Grandfather Ice“, a version of Santa Claus.
In Japan, Christmas has a purely commercial meaning, fleeing some of the other traditions around the world. The Catholic minority in the country celebrates Christmas by gathering family and friends on the night of December 24th. For the majority of the Japanese population (mainly Buddhists), this holiday has little meaning. It is seen as Halloween or Valentine’s Day.
Christmas celebration in Japan began due to the strong western emigration to this country. This caused the date to be slowly implemented in Japanese culture, influenced by other Christmas traditions around the world.
The commemoration of this day has gained more and more followers. Today, starting in November, the streets are decorated with lights and Christmas trees. However, the date is seen as a romantic celebration. Couples usually go out for dinner and exchange gifts, and families take the opportunity to go for a walk. At dinner, you usually eat fried chicken and cream cake with strawberries.
Christmas traditions around the world are different, but identical in the celebration of the family and an evening of peace. Regardless of the country where you will spend Christmas, religious beliefs and traditions, celebrate with those you love the most. Celebrate hope, peace, unity and, above all, love.
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