It’s a worldwide Christmas!

By Sergio González | 11:15
Christmas tree by the Colosseum in Rome

The Colosseum in Rome

Christmas holidays are around the corner and the celebrations are so wide spread that traditions can be quite different and very interesting. There are odd ways of celebrating Christmas and also some very interesting ones, we’ll try to see them all! You’re welcome to tell us about any strange and funny traditions from your country or your family, because we all have them. My family’s? We sing after Christmas Eve dinner.

Nowadays, and in most modern societies, religion is considered private and belongs to a personal sphere, not to official matters, so Merry Christmas has become Happy Holidays. Sad for some, but perhaps it’s an opportunity to bring friends or relatives from other cultures to share this very special time. 

In Catholic countries, from Italy to Brazil, there’s a traditional mass at Christmas Eve midnight, Rooster’s Mass, but less and less followed these days. In protestant Central Europe, the mass happens before dinner and it has a more lively and joyful mood. 

In Eastern Europe, Catholic traditions command a day of fasting to purify your soul and get your body ready for the big Wigilia dinner. In Poland, herrings are the center-piece of the meal and they come in every sauce and cooking, along with the traditional Christmas wafers

Actually, fish, the symbol of Christianity, is the main meal in most Catholic countries as it was forbidden for Christmas Eve in the past years. Nowadays, The Church calls for moderation, but in countries like Spain and France it’s a seafood and cava or champagne feast. Spain’s oddness: it’s possible to listen at the same time to traditional gospel carols  and to people singing funny  songs in the streets and at parties. 

In Denmark, the land of The Ugly Ducking or The Little Mermaid, keep on honoring Hans Christian Andersen’s memory with Julekalendere, a special Christmas-themed TV show for children of 24 chapters, aired daily from the 1st of December until Christmas Eve’s  happy ending.

In the Netherlands, Christmas Eve is not special at all, the party comes the following day, at the Gourmetten. There’s no need to translate it, you’re surely have understood it’s a food festivity.  Families as well as groups of friends gather to grill delicious meat and fresh fish, and obviously delicious Dutch omelets and Pannekoeken, Christmas pancakes, usually cooked with beestings.

One of the most interesting things about the Netherlands is they’ve been a free society since they got rid off Spanish dominance in the Renaissance and their social behaviour has been proved to be some years ahead of the rest of us. As for Christmas, massive retail sales -such as famous American Black Friday-and Santa himself are Dutch. Read in a later post to find out the truth about Santa Claus. Are you sure he lives in the North Pole?

Christmas tree at Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro

Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro

In the Philippines, Catholicism met the sumptuousness of Asia and their celebrations are some of the largest and the longest on Earth. Most traditional Spanish Christmas customs can be traced in food and celebrations but dressed up with the local taste for color, joy and parols -bamboo and rice paper ornaments-, common in many Asian celebrations.

Christmas in China is not an official holiday but it has more of a commercial and colorful side and it’s starting to be followed in the big coastal cities. Santa’s customs, Christmas trees and stockings can be spotted in shops, offices and in some streets, something that’s been happening for a long time in former colonies of Hong-Kong and India or in more Westernised countries like Japan where presents are exchanged but mainly socially, around office parties.

Christmas in South America varies in its traditions among the different countries on the continent, but there three things that are common to all of them. USA influence is strongly present. Religion is still the main focus of Christmas for a great deal of people and, despite the tropical summer, decorations tend to be winter-themed.

In Venezuela, Baby Jesus is the one with the task of bringing presents to the children. On the 7th and 8th of December, Colombia becomes a candle-lit cluster and streets, balconies and entire neighbourhoods compete each other to be the brightest honoring Immaculate Conception and it’s a very intense experience for visitors.

As Catholicism took away local pagan traditions when it expanded into Europe, for example in Nigeria and Ethiopia. They celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and they go back home to stay with folks, but they have huge meat grills and palm wine instead of Christmas puddings and eggnog. In Ethiopia, they dress in a simple white garment after the fasting day that precedes the feasting and, like in Russia and other Orthodox countries, Christmas is on January the 7th! How will you be celebrating the holidays this year? 

Photo Credit: sunshinecity

Photo Credit: Leandro’s world tour


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