The biggest and one of the most joyful holidays of the year, Christmas is almost here! There’s no other festival that is celebrated with such vigor and enthusiasm in so many countries around the world. Although Christmas traditions may slightly vary depending on the local customs this holiday is all about Christmas trees, festive meals, family time, and of course exchanging Christmas Gifts.
Christmas in Germany: “Frohe Weihnachten!”
On Christmas Eve after visiting church families feast on a big meal featuring traditional roast goose or duck stuffed with apples, fish, Christmas bread and marzipan treats. Before the dinner is the presentation of the Christmas tree. While children are waiting in the other room one of the parents brings out the Christmas tree and decorates it with apples, sweets, cookies, angels, and lights. When all is ready they call everyone to the room. It is under the Christmas tree where the following morning children find their Christmas gifts that are believed to be brought by Father Christmas – ‘Der Weihnachtsmann’.
Christmas in France: “Joyeux Noël”
Like in many other countries, the Christmas season in France begins with Saint Nicholas’ Day, December 6th. The preparations for the holiday start a few days before Christmas with the decoration of the Christmas tree and displaying a Nativity scene with figurines.
At midnight on Christmas Eve families go to church for a Christmas mass. Young children usually stay at home and go to bed early to dream of their Christmas gifts. Before going to bed, they leave their shoes by the fireplace to find it the next morning filled with gifts from Santa Claus (“le père Noël”).
The main Christmas dinner called ‘Le Reveillon’, is a grand feast served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The dishes are usually quite elaborate and vary according to the region.
Christmas in Mexico: “Feliz Navidad!”
Every year, Mexicans celebrate Christmas, Las Posadas for a full nine days leading up to Christmas or Holy Eve. Christmas is the time for church and family. After church services on Christmas Eve, families gather together for a festive dinner that starts with oxtail soup with beans and chili, followed by roasted turkey and a special salad of fresh fruit and vegetables.
The most important part of Mexican Christmas for children is pinata party. The pinata is a large clay or papier-mache figure shaped like a star or animal covered with colorful paper streamers. The pinata is filled with candy and small gifts and hung from the ceiling. The blindfolded children take turns trying to break it open and race to gather as many candies as they can.
Christmas in Russia & Ukraine: “Schastlivogo Rozhdestva!”
Christmas Day in Russia & Ukraine marks the birth of Jesus Christ according to Christian Orthodox church. Although banned during the Soviet Union, Christmas has finally regained its popularity and religious meaning in Eastern Europe. Observed on January 7th according to old ‘Julian’ calendar it is declared a national holiday.
People in Russia & Ukraine celebrate Christmas by preparing a festive dinner, attending Christmas liturgy, visiting relatives and friends, and exchanging Christmas gift baskets. There is a 40-day Lent preceding Christmas, which ends with the first star in the night sky on January 6 – a symbol of Jesus Christ’s birth. The first star also signals the start of the Christmas dinner. For many secular Russians, Christmas is a family holiday but it is not as important as New Year’s.
Christmas in Japan: “Merii Kurisumasu!”
Even though only 1% of the population in Japan is Christian and many people don’t know exactly what the origin of Christmas is the Japanese have adopted many Western customs related to observing Christmas. Along with decorating Christmas trees, hosting parties and exchanging Christmas gifts they have their own unique traditions. Eating special Christmas cakes on Christmas Eve is one of them. Stores all over carry versions of this Christmas cake and drop the prices drastically on December 25th in order to sell everything out by the 26th. Christmas Eve has also become a night for lovers to go out and spend romantic time together at fancy restaurants or hotels.
Without a doubt Christmas is very enjoyable time of the year for Japanese people, but New Year’s still remains a much more popular holiday.