With Christmas quickly approaching, many of us are making preparations for the holidays. Whether it’s a secular holiday for us, a religious one or a combination of the two, the holidays is usually filled with traditions, both personal and cultural.
Few holidays are celebrated with such a wide range of traditions as Christmas. Here are 10 from around the world.
Only a little over 2% of the Indian population are Christians, which is still a sizeable number of people. Christmas is typically celebrated by a midnight mass and the exchange of gifts. Indians also decorate trees; however instead of conifers they decorate mango and banana trees.
Somewhere along the way it became the custom to leave a snack for Santa, which probably accounts for his rather rotund physique. In the US it’s milk and cookies. In Ireland they have spiced it up a bit and leave mince pies and Guinness.
Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, and most stores and schools are open. Shopping malls and stores often have Christmas displays. A special sponge cake is often served on Christmas Day. One of the most popular meals on Christmas day is chicken. KFC is extremely popular in Japan and around 3.6 million families will eat from the restaurant this Christmas.
- Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic Christmas has a romantic aspect. Single women stand with their backs to the door and throw a shoe over their shoulder. According to the tradition, if the shoe lands with the toe pointing to the door a marriage proposal will happen soon.
Attending early morning mass is a tradition in Venezuela. The streets are closed to cars so that people can go to mass the traditional way; on roller skates. You will often see the skaters pulling on strings that are hanging from windows. The strings are attached to the big toe of young children who tie the string and place outside the window before going to bed on Christmas Eve.
One of the fairly universal aspects of Christmas celebrations around the world is the gathering of families and loved ones. In Finland, Christmas is a day of remembrance and candles are placed on the graves of family members on Christmas Eve. A place is often set at the table, or food is left out, for departed family members on Christmas Day.
No other country celebrates the Christmas holidays quite like the Philippines. The Christmas celebration lasts well into the New Year and end with the Feast of the Three Kings, which is celebrated on the first Sunday in January.
Children polish their shoes and leave them on the windowsills along with freshly washed socks for the Three Kings to leave gifts in as they pass through the town.
In 1966 a giant 13 metre tall straw goat was erected in Gavle’s town square. At midnight on Christmas Eve the giant straw goat went up in flames. Each year the city builds the straw goat and residents try to burn it down. So far the goat has been set on fire more than 25 times. Local bookmakers started taking bets on whether the goat would survive in 1988.
Decorating the Christmas tree is an almost universal part of the holidays, but each culture aids its own special touches. In Ukraine the trees are covered with artificial cobwebs and spiders. The custom is based on ancient folklore. According to the legend a woman was too poor to decorate her tree and a spider spun a web in the tree. When the webs were touched by the first sunlight of Christmas Day they transformed to strands of gold and silver.
In many parts of the world children write letters to Santa. Santa’s official address is The North Pole, with the Canadian postcode of H0 H0. A group of Canadian postal volunteers answer the letters that arrive from around the world. Letters in almost every language are answered as well as answers written in Braille.