As Santa begins to make his way delivering gifts, learn a little more about Christmas traditions and how the Christmas season is celebrated in different parts of the world!
- In Poland and the Ukraine, a big feast is held on Christmas Eve (December 24). The dinner consists of twelve courses, one for each apostle. It’s also common practice to leave one open seat at the table as an act of charity. Before the dinner can begin, the family gathers outside or at the window to wait for the appearance of the first star in the night sky, a representation of the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity story. Children shout out that they’ve seen the “little star” and then dinner commences.
- In Australia, Christmas falls during summer so holiday celebrations usually involve outdoor parties and barbecues. Australia is known for its outdoor concert, Carols by Candlelight, a now common show put on worldwide. It originated in Australia in the 19th century when people began to simply gather in parks and other outdoor spaces to sing carols by candlelight.
- In Mexico, traditional Christmas decorations include brown paper lanterns called farolitos. These paper lanterns are cut into intricate shapes and a candle is placed inside to illuminate the design.
- In Colombia, the Christmas festivities kick off on December 7 on Dia de las Velitas or Day of the Candles. Entire communities glow with soft candle light found in paper lanterns. The season lasts into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day festivities. All through Christmas Eve night, family and friends celebrate and rejoice while children play with their new toys brought by El Nino Jesus or Baby Jesus, instead of the Santa Claus.
- In Ethiopia, the birth of Christ is celebrated as the holiday Ganna and is observed on January 7. Ganna is not a time for gift-giving unlike the western tradition. Instead, the festival focuses on religious observance and quality time with family, friends, and the community.
- In China, major cities embrace the festive colors and lights of the Christmas season, although only a small fraction of the population celebrates the Christian holiday. The few who do celebrate Christmas call the holiday Sheng Dan Jieh, meaning Holy Birth Festival. Homes are traditionally decorated with paper chains and pagodas.
Around the world, Christmas means different things to different cultures. Though the dates and traditions may change, the thread that ties all of these Christmas traditions together is the gathering of family and friends. People around the world take time to celebrate their loved ones and we hope that no matter how you celebrate the season, you get to spend it with the ones you love. Merry Christmas!