It is interesting to find out how other cultures celebrate Christmas. Even here, in the United States, people celebrate in different ways. How, you say? Well, I’ve seen Christmas specials from around the country, and they’ve portrayed the uniqueness of each place. For example, there’s no way boats can be decorated and paraded around canals here in Utah as they do in Florida. And have you seen the beauty in a lighted cactus or palm tree, as opposed to a spruce or fir? Our world is amazing, and we can find beauty in what’s different and how different people choose to worship the Savior.
Let me share traditions in other parts of the world. Even though I won’t be able to spotlight all, I’ll give you the links to find them.
In Africa: “Christmas is a summer holiday. In December, the southern summer brings glorious days of sunshine that carry an irresistible invitation to the beaches, the rivers, and the shaded mountain slopes. Schools are closed, and camping is the order of the day. In the cities and towns carolers make their rounds on Christmas Eve. Church services are held on Christmas morning. Christmas Eve celebrations in larger centers include "Carols by Candlelight" and special screen and floor shows. Homes are decorated with pine branches, and all have the decorated Christmas fir in a corner, with presents for the children around. At bedtime on Christmas Eve, children may also hang up their stockings for presents from Father Christmas. Many people have a Christmas dinner in the open-air. For many more, it is the traditional dinner of either turkey, roast beef, mince pies, or suckling pig, yellow rice with raisins, vegetables, and plum pudding, crackers, paper hats, and all.” (From http://www.santas.net/aroundtheworld.htm)
In Argentina: since I come from there, I can tell you how it’s done. Christmas is a summer holiday, so there’s no snow. Most people are Catholic and they attend Midnight mass. Families get together to have Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) dinner. It includes all kinds of meats, salads, mince pies, breads, puddings, alcoholic fruit punch, and cakes. There are also bowls with fruits, nuts and cheeses. After dinner, people go to wish good tidings to friends, neighbors and family. There are fireworks and dances out in the open. At homes, the traditional fir tree is decorated, but the most important decoration is the crèche (pesebre). I remember visiting a great-aunt as a child, and her nativity was impressive: it went from floor to ceiling, very elaborate. Presents are not given until January 6, when the Magi come to visit children. The children leave their shoes out the night before and on that morning they find presents left on the shoes by the Magi.
In Bethlehem: “From a few days before 25th December, the town is decorated with flags and other items of adornment. Streets are strung with Christmas lights. A Christmas market comes up and Christmas plays are performed. A cross is painted on the doors of every Christian home and Nativity scenes are displayed in every household. On Christmas Eve, annual Christmas processions are taken out. Residents of the town as well as tourists crowd the doorways and the roof of the Basilica to get a view of the parade. Galloping horsemen and police mounted on Arabian horses lead the procession, followed by a man riding over a black steed and carrying a cross. After him come the churchmen and government officials. The procession quietly enters the doors and puts an ancient effigy of the Holy Child in the Church. The visitors are then taken through winding stairs leading to a grotto where a silver star marks the site of the birth of Jesus."(From http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/worldxmas/)
In India: “Christians in India decorate banana or mango trees. They also light small oil-burning lamps as Christmas decorations and fill their churches with red flowers. They give presents to family members and baksheesh, or charity, to the poor people.”(From http://www.santas.net/aroundtheworld.htm)
In Italy: “The Christmas season in Italy goes for three weeks, starting 8 days before Christmas known as the Novena. In the week before Christmas children go from house to house dressed as shepherds, playing pipes, singing and reciting Christmas poems. They are given money to buy presents. A strict feast is observed for 24 hours before Christmas Eve, and is followed by a celebration meal, in which a light Milanese cake called panettone features as well as chocolate. By twilight, candles are lighted around the family crib known as the Presepio, prayers are said, and children recite poems. At noon on Christmas Day the pope gives his blessing to crowds gathered in the huge Vatican square. In Italy the children wait until Epiphany, January 6, for their presents. According to tradition, the presents are delivered by a kind ugly witch called Befana on a broomstick. It was said that she was told by the three kings that the baby Jesus was born, she was busy and delayed visiting the baby. She missed the Star, lost her way and has been flying around ever since, leaving presents at every house with children in case he is there.”(From http://www.santas.net/aroundtheworld.html)
In Japan: “Only 1 per cent of Japanese people believe in Christ. Even so, most Japanese people decorate their stores and homes with evergreens during Christmas. They enjoy giving each other gifts, and this is the part they celebrate. They have a Buddhist monk called Hotei-osho who acts like Santa Claus. He brings presents to each house and leaves them for the children. Some think he has eyes in the back of his head, so children try to behave like he is nearby. Among the Christian Japanese Christmas is not a day for the family. They do not have turkey or plum pudding, rather than that the day is spent doing nice things for others especially those who are sick in hospitals.”(From http://www.santas.net/aroundtheworld.htm)
In Turkey: I decided to add this one, because while researching I found there’s some controversy. Considering that the idea of Santa Claus came from a city that is now in this country (Myra), I thought it should be interesting to find out more. And find out I did.
“Turkey is a Moslem country. Although there are Catholic and Jewish minorities, most Turks are Moslems. The Turkish minorities live in peace with Turkish Moslems and have their own places of worship. You will find churches and synagogues all over Istanbul. For the Moslems, December 24th is not a date that commemorates Jesus' birth. They do have Jesus at their Koran (Moslems' Holy book) but the most important figure in their religion is Mohammed the prophet. At the end of the year, Istanbul will be decorated with lights all over its main streets, but this is done to commemorate the new year.”(From http://www.business-with-turkey.com/tourist-guide/xmase.shtml)
However you choose to celebrate Christmas, I’m sure it is a time to build up memories for you and your family. And if you’d like to contribute your thoughts or traditions, send a comment our way.
To view a copy of the Neighborhood News for Friday, 3 December, please click here.