Christmas in Australia is often very hot. Some Australians and particularly tourists have their Christmas dinner at midday on a local beach. Bondi Beach in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs attracts thousands of people on Christmas Day. Other families enjoy their day by having a picnic. If they are at home, the day is punctuated by swimming in a pool, playing Cricket and other outdoor activities.
In Mexico, Christmas is celebrated from the December 12th to January 6th.
From December 16th to Christmas Eve, children often perform the ‘Posada’ processions or Posadas. Posada is Spanish for Inn or Lodging. There are nine days of the Posadas. It is celebrated by participants reenacting the Christmas story where Joseph and Mary looked for a room at an Inn. For the Posadas, the outside of houses are decorated with evergreens, moss and paper lanterns.
In Mexico, children get their main presents on January 6th called the day of Epiphany.
History of Santa
The depiction of Santa Claus we know today was inspired by the Dutch catholic patron saint Nicholas, Sintaklaas. Although the Dutch had bought him with them in the 17th century, he did not become an important person at Christmas until the Novelist Washington Irving put him in a novel that he wrote in 1809. This first Santa Claus smoked a pipe and flew around in a wagon without any reindeer but he did not have his red suit or live at the North Pole. He did however bring presents to children every year.
In 1863 He was given the name Santa Claus, wearing the red suit, pipe and riding his sleigh pulled by reindeer, just as we know it today.
In China, Santa is known as ‘Sheng dan lao ren’ (Traditional: 聖誕老人, Simplified: 圣诞老人; means Old Christmas Man).
Only a few people have a Christmas Tree or celebrate Christmas at all! When people do have a tree it is usually a plastic one. The tree is decorated with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns and called a tree of light). Christmas isn’t that widely celebrated in the rural areas of China, but it’s becoming more well known.
The strange thing is that most of the world’s plastic Christmas Trees and Christmas decorations are made in China, but the people making them might not know what they are for!!!
In Poland, Advent is the beginning of Christmas Time. It’s a time when people try to be peaceful and remember the real reason for Christmas. Poland is a largely catholic country and Christmas Eve is a very important and busy day. Traditionally it’s a day of fasting and abstinence (not eating anything) and meat is not normally allowed to be eaten in any form. A special Christmas Eve meal called Wigilia (pronounced vee-GHEE-lee-uh) is eaten after the first star has been seen in the sky. It’s also all meat free and might consist of Barszcz (beetroot soup), Uszka (mushroom ravioli), Pierogi (Pasta dumplings filled with either cheese and potato or cabbage and mushroom) and fish dishes (normally carp and herrings).
Later children check the presents under the tree and give them out. Presents might also be brought by ‘Swiety Mikolaj’ (St. Nicholas).
Although Sri Lanka is a mostly Buddhist country (only 7% of people are Christians) Christmas is a celebrated, as a public holiday, by everyone. Most Christians in Sri Lanka are Catholics. For Christians in Sri Lanka, the Christmas season starts on 1st December when people let off fire crackers at dawn!
The streets are decorated and the shopping centers have large Christmas Trees in them. Big companies have Christmas parties and large hotels have Christmas dinner dances.
The Christians go to Midnight Mass services all over the country. They also invite friends, both Christian and non Christian to their homes for parties.
On Christmas day people meet with their family and have a big lunch together with danish open-faced sandwiches on rye-bread.
In Denmark, children believe that their presents are brought by the ‘Julemanden’ (which means ‘Christmas Man’). He looks very similar to Santa Claus and also travels with a sleigh and reindeer. He lives in Greenland, likes rice pudding and is helped by ‘nisser’ which are like elves.
In Danish Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Glædelig Jul’.
Everyone cleans their houses ready for the three holy days of Christmas – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Christmas Eve is very special, when people eat rice porridge and plum fruit juice in the morning. They will then decorate a spruce tree in the home. At midday, the ‘peace of Christmas’ is broadcast on radio and TV by the City Mayor of Turku (which is south Finland). In the evening, a traditional Christmas dinner is eaten. The meal will include ‘casseroles’ containing macaroni, rutabaga, carrot and potato, with cooked ham or turkey.
Animals are given their own Christmas in Finland, with farmers sometimes hanging a sheaf of wheat on a tree to be eaten and pecked at by the birds. Nuts and pieces of suet are also hung on trees in bags from the branches.
Canada is a very large country and people of many different cultural backgrounds live there. Because of this, there are lots of different Christmas traditions in Canada. Many of the traditions and celebrations come from French, English, Irish, Scottish, German and native/first nation influences.
The Eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia is known all over the world for its fir and pine Christmas Trees, so most families in Canada have a fir or pine Christmas Tree. One Canadian tradition is to send the biggest, best fir tree (grown in Nova Scotia) to Boston.
In northern Canada, some people plan a Taffy Pull. This is held in honor of Saint Catherine, the patron saint of single women. This party provides an opportunity for single women to meet eligible single men!
Many Canadians open their gifts on Christmas Eve. Some only open their stocking on Christmas Eve. Others choose one gift to open, then save the rest until Christmas Day.
Canadian children also believe in Santa Claus.
Midnight mass is a very important service for Christians in India, especially Catholics. The whole family will walk to the mass and this will be followed by a massive feast of different delicacies, (mostly curries) and the giving and receiving of presents. Churches in India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service.
Instead of having traditional Christmas Trees, a banana or mango tree is decorated (or whatever tree people can find to decorate!). Sometimes people use mango leaves to decorate their homes.
Christians in Mumbai often display a manger in a front window, (there’s great competition in making the nativity scenes. People make cribs in their homes and Churches.
In India, Father Christmas or Santa Claus delivers presents to children from a horse and cart.
In Pakistan, December 25th is a public holiday, but it is in memory of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Christians make up a very small part of the population. Most Christians in Pakistan live the country and are quite poor.
On Bara Din or Christmas day, Christians go to Church again for the Bara Din celebrations. People wear their best, colourful clothes. They can stay in the Church courtyard for hours, enjoying various food from the different stalls. The evening is usually celebrated with immediate family or relatives where special food is enjoyed. Adults often visit their parents.
The traditional Christmas greeting in Punjabi is ‘Bara Din Mubarrak Ho’, which means, ‘the blessing of Christmas on you’.
Christmas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is more of a religious festival than commercial. Most people won’t have any presents.
Christmas Eve is very important with Churches having big musical evenings (many churches have at least 5 or 6 choirs) and a nativity play. These plays last a very long time. They start at the beginning of the evening with the creation and the Garden of Eden and end with the story of King Herod killing the baby boys.
On Christmas day, most families try to have a better meal than usual. If they can afford it, they will have some meat (normally chicken or pork). The rest of the day is spent quietly sleeping after a busy and late night on Christmas Eve!
People go back to work on the 26th (Boxing Day).
Many churches in Zambia have nativity plays and a crib in the church. One or two days before Christmas, Zambians like to go carol singing round the local streets for charity.
On Christmas day, children are encouraged to bring a present to church for children who are in hospital or might not get a present because they are less fortunate. After church, on Christmas day, it is a custom that all the children go to one house and all the adults go to another house to have a party and to eat!