A season of joy and a means for celebration, the Christmas spirit is truly one of its own. Although the reason for its celebration is common around the world, different countries celebrate it differently to others, mainly varying due to the different cultures in each one. With the festive season upon us, we are going to be looking at but a few countries, and how they celebrate Christmas.
I am sure that for most, the first country that comes to mind over the mention of the word “Christmas” is Finland. Being home to Lapland (and therefore the North Pole, which is said to be Santa’s home), Finland is as close to Christmas as any country could get! Although rich with Christmas themes, the jolly figure of Santa Clause wasn’t always so jolly here. In fact, here he is known as Joulupukki, which translates to “Christmas Goat” because of the traditional Finnish Yule Goat that was said to scare people and ask them for presents, while not giving any in return. Thankfully, over time this figure became that of a human one that we know today, and a giver of gifts rather than a nasty receiver. Although celebrated on the 24th of December here, Christmas day is a time for family to gather for large meals and the famous tradition of gift giving. Leading up to Christmas Eve, it is common for folk to buy Christmas trees from the local market. This day is also considered the most important of the three holy days, and sees its celebrators eating meals of rice porridge with plum juice for breakfast as an old tradition. Another common tradition is for “Peace of Christmas” to be broadcasted on the radio and TV at midday, as a way for everyone to partake in this common act. To leave you with a fun fact, animals are also involved in the celebration in Finland! These are all very basic traditions celebrated in Finland for Christmas. The real experience is to be had by you while there!
South Africa 🇿🇦
Being in the southern hemisphere, South Africa celebrates its Christmas in the summer. While this doesn’t fit the common idea of a cosy winter based Christmas, it is most certainly a beautiful time to celebrate! Most schools and work places are closed for the holiday season, which sees folk enjoying the blossoming outdoors during camps with the family, or having Christmas carols being played in the background while preparing the house for a feast with the family. On Christmas day, most people tend to go to a church service in the morning to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas. A common meal that can be found during the feasts here is roast gammon with vegetables, and perhaps even a nice trifle or malva pudding on the side. If this isn’t the meal of choice, then you can bet that South Africans are having a good old braai on Christmas day. On Christmas day, homes are commonly decorated with common festive decorations such as stockings, lights, etc, as well as Christmas Crackers to decorate the tables. Overall, the Christmas spirit is well and truly alive in South Africa during the festive season, and it is one that simply must be experienced.
A very famous tradition in Italy is to tell the Christmas story through the Nativity Crib Scene. This is the famous scene that celebrates the birth of Jesus. Having Nativity scenes in your home became a common tradition in the 16th century and is still used today. While the scene is set out from as early as the 8th of December, the figure of baby Jesus is not to be put inside the crib until Christmas Eve. Aside from the Nativity scene, another popular tradition in Italy is feasting! Italians would cook what is called a “Cerone” of roasted meals, grilled vegetables, and a traditional Christmas cake. One fun fact to leave you with, a popular tradition for Italians is to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve!
In India, Christmas is a rather small festival considering the low population of Christians there. However, an important service for Christians in India is the Midnight Mass. This sees entire families walking to the mass, followed by a great feast (mainly consisting of curries, but does include other treats). This also sees the people take part in the common tradition of gift-giving. Although not much of the country is decorated to suit the festive season, certain churches would be decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles during the Midnight Mass service the day before Christmas. Aside from this, people here would often make use of large paper lanterns in the shapes of stars, and hang them out between houses so that it creates the image of the stars floating above those who would walk down the roads there. This is all met with the ringing of church bells at midnight to mark the beginning of Christmas day! India’s vibrant culture combined with the Christmas spirit must truly be a site to behold.
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