Christmas and the holiday season is popular and well-known in North America but in some other countries around the world is celebrated quite differently.
Australians hang wreaths on their front doors and sometimes go out Christmas carol singing on Christmas eve. People decorate their houses and gardens with Christmas Trees and Christmas lights.
Australians also decorate their houses with bunches of “Christmas Bush”, a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream coloured flowers. In summer the flowers turn a deep shiny red over a period of weeks (generally by the week of Christmas in Sydney).
In Croatia, preparations for Christmas start on 25th November which is St Catherine’s day. People also celebrate Advent. Over 85 per cent of people in Croatia are Catholic so Advent is an important time for them.
It’s traditional to have an Advent wreath made of straw or evergreen twigs which has four candles. The wreath symbolizes endlessness and the four candles symbolize different parts of history and life:
First Candle (purple): creation – hope
Second Candle (purple): embodiment – peace
Third Candle (pink): redemption – joy
Fourth Candle (purple): ending – love
A fifth candle is sometimes added in the center which is lit on Christmas Day! You can buy wreaths, but many people like to make them. People also often have a paper Advent Calendar.
Ethiopia (and especially the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) still use the old Julian calendar, so they celebrate Christmas on January 7th, not December 25th. The Christmas celebration in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is called Ganna. Most people go to Church on Christmas day.
Many people fast on Christmas Eve. At dawn on the morning of Ganna, people get dressed in white. Most people wear a traditional garment called a shamma. It’s a thin white cotton piece of cloth with brightly colored stripes across the ends.
In Hong Kong, Chinese Christians celebrate Christmas with Church services in Chinese. At the Anglican Cathedral, some services are held in English, because Europeans who live and work in Hong Kong attend them as well as people from Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, people also send Christmas cards, many of which are home made using Chinese craft techniques.
Poinsettias flowers and Nativity scenes decorate homes, churches and public places, as well as big red and gold letters from the Chinese alphabet on decorated streamers and paper chains.
In Hong Kong, Father Christmas/Santa Claus, is known as “Sing Daan Lou Yan” (Christmas Old Man) in Cantonese or “Sheng Dan Lo Ren” in Mandarin. Most people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese and would use “Sing Daan Lou Yan”.
Every year in Hong Kong there is a “Winterfest”. It’s a huge winter party that involves the shops, theme parks and other attractions in Hong Kong.
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.
The Christmas day meal is usually prepared on Christmas Eve. The traditional Jamaican Christmas meal include fresh fruits, sorrel and rum punch and meat. The Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee and saltfish, breadfruit, fried plantains, boiled bananas, freshly squeezed fruit juice and tea. Dinner is usually served in the late afternoon and this may include chicken, curry goat, stewed oxtail, rice and peas.
Christmas has only been widely celebrated in Japan for the last few decades. It’s still not seen as a religious holiday or celebration as there aren’t many Christians in Japan. Now several customs that came to Japan from the USA such as sending and receiving Christmas cards and presents are popular.
In Japan, Christmas in known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange presents. In many ways it resembles Valentine’s Day celebrations in the United Kingdom or the United States.
Most Christians in Macedonia belong to the Orthodox Church and so Christmas is celebrated on January 7th.
Christmas celebrations really start on 5th January which is called “Kolede”. On this day people, especially children, like to go carols singing around their neighbors. They are given fruits, nuts and coins.
When the singing has finished people gather around big bonfires. They are sometimes held in parks where hundreds of people can go to see them. Others like smaller events where the local community comes together.
Father Christmas (“Pai Natal”) is believed to bring presents to children on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day. The presents are left under the Christmas Tree or in shoes by the fireplace. However, some people say that the presents are brought by the Baby Jesus rather than Father Christmas.
Like in Spain, the traditional Christmas meal in Portugal, called “Consoada”, is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve and consists of codfish with green vegetables and boiled potatoes. This is normally followed by shellfish, wild meats or other expensive foods.
After the meal, people go to church for the “Missa do Galo” or “Mass of the Rooster” service. During the service an image of baby Jesus is brought out, and everyone queues up to kiss it. It is then put in the nativity scene (the presépio) that every church will have. After the service people return home and open their presents.
Sri Lanka :
Although Sri Lanka is a mostly Buddhist country (only seven per cent of people are Christians) Christmas is celebrated as a public holiday by everyone. Most Christians in Sri Lanka are Catholic. There has been influences from several different European countries.
For Christians in Sri Lanka, the Christmas season starts on December 1 when people let off fire crackers at dawn.
The streets are decorated and the shopping centres have large Christmas Trees in them. Big companies have Christmas parties and large hotels have Christmas dinner dances.
Many churches in Zambia have nativity plays and a crib in the church. One or two days before Christmas, Zambians like to go carol singing around the local streets for charity.
On Christmas day, children are encouraged to bring a present to church for children who are in hospital or might not get a present because they are less fortunate. After church, on Christmas day, it is a custom that all the children go to one house and all the adults go to another house to have a party and to eat.