Family Christmas traditions around the world are as colorful and have as much tradition as they do in America. In Europe where much of the Christmas traditions originated still, celebrate today as they did many years ago. Folks usually stay in close family circles and it has considered sad if you have to spend Christmas alone. Gifts are given but Little Jesus gives them or they know their parents are the ones that bought them. Many folks go to Catholic Mass on Christmas Eve and it is not uncommon for this to be the only time in the year that Church is attended.
Australia is known for starting a tradition around 1938 of Carols by Candlelight. Folks gather outdoors and sing carols on either Christmas Eve or an evening right before Christmas. That custom has spread around the world. Australians celebrate Christmas on December 25th even though it is the middle of the summer season. Obviously a few traditions are different because of the hot weather. It is not unusual to see Santa surfing in to the beach for an outdoor barbeque.
In Japan Christmas in not an official holiday and has less importance than New Year’s Day. Santa Claus is not as important to the Japanese as he is in other parts of the world. New Years Day is the official day to get together with family. Christmas is more a day for lovers. They celebrate by having a special date and strolling around looking at Christmas lights erected by companies to make it feel more romantic. One of the highlights of the Christmas season in Japan is the giving of the Christmas cake, a white-frosted cake symbolizing a birthday cake for Jesus. It often has strawberries on it.
In India, they celebrate Christmas in much the same way as we do. It is an official holiday, folks attend church, and Hindu children that go to missionary school participate in the festivities. The educational system takes a holiday beginning right before Christmas and goes through the first few days of the New Year. They call it Bada din or the big day, and it revolves around shopping and Santa Claus too.
Christmas in the Philippines is started with nine-day dawn masses that start on December 16. The Philippines celebrate the world’s longest Christmas season. Family members eat together on Christmas Eve after midnight mass.
South America is heavily Catholic so the religious aspect is predominating. Their celebrations are a mixture of traditions from both Europe and Native Americans. They have traditions that involve gift giving and family Christmas meals are very important. Villages often act out the events surrounding the birth of the Christ child. Nativity scenes are a major feature of Christmas in South America.
Peter brought the Great Christmas in Russia after he finished traveling in the western world late in the 18th century. After decades under communist rule, Christmas was revived around 1992. Russia celebrates Christmas Eve with a twelve-course meal to honor each of the apostles and either Grandfather Frost or his helper, the Snow Maiden, gives out gifts on New Years Day. Their Christmas traditions also include a “yolka” or Christmas tree.
In Germany, traditions vary by region. Gifts are given on Christmas Eve after a small meal. Gifts are brought by someone who resembles Saint Nicholas or by “Christ Kind” who may represent the Baby Jesus.
Christmas starts with Santa Lucia Day on December 13 for Sweden. Father Christmas brings gifts on Christmas Eve. Companies often celebrate by hosting a lunch for their employees. One of the most interesting traditions of the Swedes is the watching of a Disney special on Christmas Eve at 3 PM.
In Norway, they also have a tradition of watching Disney. Norwegians celebrate on December 24th with large dinners and gifts given by “Juvenescent” to children who have been well behaved. Boxing Day follows a quiet Christmas day and children go door to door to gather treats gifts and money much as our children do on Halloween. The official end of Christmas is January 6th.
Christmas traditions around the world are varied but all have a central theme. The birth of Christ, gift giving and family traditions are all celebrated in many ways. We may celebrate in a different way, someone other than Santa Clause may deliver the gifts, but Christmas is still celebrated throughout the world as a special day for family.