Hello my loves,
I’m not sure if this goes for everyone but growing up I always assumed everyone around the world celebrated Christmas in the same way I do. But as I grew up and met more people with different nationalities I realised not everyone does which is why I’m writing this post today!
Each religion, country and person around the world celebrate Christmas in all different ways so I wanted to share with you all some interesting facts I’ve found about the way others celebrate this time of year. I’m not going to do every country as I’ll be here for the next few weeks but I’ll write some of the most different ones I’ve found!
So here we go;
Most people in Spain go to Midnight Mass or ‘La Misa Del Gallo’ (The Mass of the Rooster). It is called this because a rooster is supposed to have crowed the night that Jesus was born. Most families eat their main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve before the service. The traditional Spanish Christmas dinner is ‘Pavo Trufado de Navidad’ which is Turkey stuffed with truffles (the mushrooms, not the chocolate ones!) In Galicia (a region in north-west Spain, surrounded by water) the most popular meal for Christmas Eve and for Christmas Day is seafood. This can be all kinds of different seafood, from shellfish and mollusks, to lobster and small edible crabs.
After the midnight service, people walk through the streets carrying torches, playing guitars and beating on tambourines and drums. One Spanish saying is ‘Esta noche es Noche-Buena, Y no Es noche de dormir’ which means ‘Tonight is the good night and it is not meant for sleeping!’
A big part of the Christmas celebrations in Germany is Advent. Several different types of Advent calendars are used in German homes. As well as the traditional one made of card that are used in many countries, there are ones made out of a wreath of Fir tree branches with 24 decorated boxes or bags hanging from it. Each box or bag has a little present in it. Another type is called a ‘Advent Kranz’ and is a ring of fir branches that has four candles on it. This is like the Advent candles that are sometimes used in Churches. One candle is lit at the beginning of each week in Advent.
Christmas Eve is the main day when Germans exchange presents with their families. In German Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Frohe Weihnachten’. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages. Christmas Day being called “Erste Feiertag” (‘first celebration’) and the 26th December is known as “Zweite Feiertag” (‘second celebration’) and also “Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag” which translates as Boxing Day (although it doesn’t literally mean that)! Santa Claus or Father Christmas (der Weihnachtsmann) brings the main Christmas presents on December 24th. They might also write a letter to Weihnachtsmann in other parts of Germany. Some people say that Santa/Father Christmas (Weihnachtsmann) brings the presents and some say it is Christkind!
The main Christmas meal, called Réveillon, is eaten on Christmas Eve/early Christmas morning after people have returned from the midnight Church Service. Dishes might include roast turkey with chestnuts or roast goose, oysters, foie gras, lobster, venison and cheeses. For dessert, a chocolate sponge cake log called a bûche de Noël is normally eaten. In France, Father Christmas / Santa Claus / St. Nicholas is called Père Noël (Father Christmas). In eastern France he is accompanied by Le Pere Fouettard, a man dressed in black. He might be the same person as Zwarte Piet in The Netherlands.
In French Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Joyeux Noël’. In Breton (spoken by some people in Brittany, Northern France) it’s ‘Nedeleg Laouen’ and in Corsican it’s ‘Bon Natale’. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
One of the most important ways of celebrating Christmas in Italy is the Nativity crib scene. Using a crib to help tell the Christmas story was made very popular by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 (Assisi is in mid-Italy). The previous year he had visited Bethlehem and saw where the stable, where it was thought that Jesus was born. A lot of Italian families have a Nativity crib in their homes. Having cribs in your own home became popular in the 16th century and it’s still popular today (before that only churches and monasteries had cribs). Cribs are traditionally put out on the 8th December. But the figure of the baby Jesus isn’t put into the crib until the evening/night of December 24th!
On Christmas Eve, it’s common that no meat (and also sometimes no dairy) is eaten. Often a light seafood meal is eaten and then people go to the Midnight Mass service. The types of fish and how they are served vary between different regions in Italy. In Italian Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Buon Natale’, in Sicilian it’s ‘Bon Natali’ and in Ladin (spoken in some parts of the northern Italian region of South Tyrol) it’s ‘Bon/Bun Nadèl’.
In Mexico, Christmas is celebrated from the December 12th to January 6th. From December 16th to Christmas Eve, children often perform the ‘Posada’ processions or Posadas. Posada is Spanish for Inn or Lodging. There are nine Posadas. These celebrate the part of the Christmas story where Joseph and Mary looked for somewhere to stay. For the Posadas, the outside of houses are decorated with evergreens, moss and paper lanterns.
Christmas Eve is known as ‘Noche Buena’ and is a family day. People often take part in the final Posada and then in the evening have the main Christmas meal. At midnight, many people go to a Midnight Mass service, known as the ‘Misa de Gallo’ (Mass of the Rooster). There are lots of fireworks to celebrate Christmas Day.
Another important day, is Candelaria (also known as Candlemas) on the 2nd February and it marks the end of the Mexican Christmas celebrations. Lots of Mexicans have a party for Candelaria.
Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is quite a small festival in India, due to the number of people who are Christians (about 2.3%) compared to people who belong to other religions. Midnight mass is a very important service for Christians in India, especially Catholics. The whole family will walk to the mass and this will be followed by a massive feast of different delicacies, (mostly curries) and the giving and receiving of presents. Churches in India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service.
Instead of having traditional Christmas Trees, a banana or mango tree is decorated (or whatever tree people can find to decorate!). Sometimes people use mango leaves to decorate their homes. In Southern India, Christians often put small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to show their neighbors that Jesus is the light of the world.
For most people in Zimbabwe, Christmas day starts with a Church service. After the Church service, everyone has a party in their homes and people go from house to house, visiting all of their family and friends on the way home! Sometimes, this can take all of the rest of the day! At every house you have something to eat, exchange presents and enjoy the party.
Children in Zimbabwe believe that Santa Claus brings them there presents early on Christmas Day, ready to show their friends at Church and at the parties. Only the main room in the house is often decorated in Zimbabwe. Some Zimbabweans have a traditional ‘European’ Christmas Tree, but they decorate the room with plants like Ivy. This is draped around the whole of the top of room.
The special food eaten at Christmas in Zimbabwe is Chicken with rice. Chicken is a very expensive food in Zimbabwe and is a special treat for Christmas. This is often eaten at the Christmas Day parties. Santa might sometimes arrive at big stores in a Fire Engine. The streets in the big cities also can have colorful Christmas lights.
In Egypt Christmas Day isn’t celebrated on the 25th December but on 7th January (like in Ethiopia and by some Orthodox Christians in Russia and Serbia). For the 43 days before Christmas (Advent), from 25th November to 6th January, Coptic Orthodox Christians have a special fast where they basically eat a vegan diet. They don’t eat anything containing products that come from animals (including chicken, beef, milk and eggs). This is called ‘The Holy Nativity Fast’. But if people are too weak or ill to fast properly they can be excused.
On Coptic Christmas Eve (6th January), Coptic Christians go to church for a special liturgy or Service. The services normally start about 10.30pm but some chapels will be open for people to pray from 10.00pm. Many people meet up with their friends and families in the churches from 9.00pm onwards. The services are normally finished shortly after midnight, but some go onto 4.00am! When the Christmas service ends people go home to eat the big Christmas meal. All the foods contain meat, eggs and butter – all the yummy things they didn’t during the Advent fast! One popular course if ‘Fata’ a lamb soup which contains bread, rice, garlic and boiled lamb meat. On the Orthodox Christmas Day (7th) people come together in homes for parties and festivities. People often take ‘kahk’ (special sweet biscuits) with them to give as gifts.
Christmas is a very special time in Jamaica and like a lot of other countries, radio stations play carols all through the Christmas period. Lots of people paint their houses and hang new curtains and decorations for Christmas. Most families spend Christmas Day at home with friends and family members.
In Jamaica, Christmas Eve is also called ‘Grand Market’ and is a really exciting time, especially for children. In every town and city in the country there is a cross between a festival and a market. During the day, people go shopping for Christmas foods, sweets and toys, etc. You might also buy some new clothes ready for the celebrations in the evening. Around 6.00pm the evening part of Grand Market starts and it lasts until the morning! Everyone comes out in their new or best clothes, including children, to celebrate and party all night. All the streets, shops and many houses are decorated with lights. There are normally street vendors selling food like jerk chicken, boiled corn, and sweets like candy canes and sugarcane. Following the Grand Market, some people will go to a Midnight Mass Church Service and others will party all night. Many people will also go to a Church Service on Christmas Day morning before the end of Grand Market.
Poland is a largely catholic country and Christmas Eve is a very important and busy day. It’s now often the most important day over Christmas – even though it’s not a holiday but Christmas and the 26th December are holidays! Traditionally it was day of fasting and abstinence (not eating anything) and meat is not normally allowed to be eaten in any form.
Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia (pronounced vee-GHEE-lee-uh). The house is also cleaned and everyone gets washed and puts on their festive clothes. The main Christmas meal is eaten in the evening and is called “Kolacja wigilijna” (Christmas Eve supper). It’s traditional that no food is eaten until the first star is seen in the sky! So children look at the night sky to spot the first star!
On the table there are 12 dishes – they are meant to give you good luck for the next 12 months. The meal is traditionally meat free, this is to remember the animals who took take of the baby Jesus in the manger. Everyone has to eat or at least try some of each dish. For catholics the 12 dishes symbolize Jesus’s 12 disciples. Like in many Catholic countries, Christmas Eve is often a ‘fasting day’ meaning that some people don’t eat anything until after sunset (when the Church day officially ends). So that’s where the custom of the first star come from. Some people in central Poland say that at midnight the animals can talk.
These are just some of the interesting and incredible Christmas traditions that are celebrated worldwide, if you’d like to find out more go check out; http://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/ – I found some amazing information and facts on this website and if your interested in finding out more, defiantly give this website a read. It’s jam packed with traditions!
I really hope you enjoyed today’s post, I’ve learnt so much whilst writing this out for you all.
I hope your all as well as possible!
Lots of love to you all as always,
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