In Argentina the weather is warm at Christmas. Preparations for Christmas begin very early in December and even November. Many people in Argentina are Catholic and they also celebrate Advent.
House are beautifully decorated with lights and wreaths of green, gold, red and white flowers. Red and white garlands are hung on the doors of houses. Christmas Trees are also very popular and they are often decorated by 8th December (the feast of the Immaculate Conception - when Catholics celebrate when Mary was conceived). Some people like to put cotton balls on the Christmas Tree to represent snow! Any tree might be made into a Christmas Tree - not just the traditional fir tree!
The Nativity scene or 'pesebre' is also an important Christmas decoration in Argentina. The pesebre is put near to the Christmas tree.
The main Christmas meal is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve. It might be served in the garden or be a barbecue! Some popular dishes include roasted turkey, roasted pork, stuffed tomatoes and Christmas bread and puddings like 'Pan Dulce' and Panetone.
At midnight there will be the sound of lots of fireworks! People also like to 'toast' the start of Christmas day. Some people like to go to midnight services, but other prefer to stay at home and let off fireworks and then open their presents under the tree!
Christmas in Australia
In Australia, Christmas comes in the middle of the summer holidays! Children have their summer holidays from early to mid December to early February, so some people might even be camping at Christmas!
Because it's so hot at Christmas time in Australia, there are quite often massive bush fires across the country. Many volunteer bush fire fighters are involved in saving people and property and travel from all over Australia to help in other states.
Australians hang wreaths on their front doors and sometimes go out Christmas carol singing on Christmas eve. People also decorate their houses and gardens with Christmas Trees and Christmas lights. Neighbors sometimes have little competitions as to who has got the best light display. The neighbors often visit each other to look at the light displays at night. Sometimes the displays are put out as early as December 1st. One street in Sydney raises over $(AUS)35,000 every year for charity with their co-ordinated street display!
Australians also decorate their houses with bunches of 'Christmas Bush', a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream coloured flowers. In summer the flowers turn a deep shiny red over a period of weeks (generally by the week of Christmas in Sydney).
In each State capital city there is a large Carols by Candlelight service. Famous Australian singers like The Wiggles, John Farnham, Anthony Warlow, Colin Gery, Niki Webster and many more help to sing the carols. These carol services, held in different cities, are broadcast on TV across Australia. There are also huge Christmas pageants in each state capital city, that are also broadcast across the country. Most towns and cities have festivals and parades. In some places, there is a fireworks display at the local park.
Many towns, cities and schools also hold their own Carols by Candlelight services, with local bands and choirs sometimes helping to perform the Christmas Carols and songs. As it is the middle of Summer in Australia at Christmas time, the words to the Carols about snow and the cold winter are sometimes changed to special Australian words! There are also some original Australian Carols.
When he gets to Australia, Santa gives the reindeer a rest and uses kangaroos or 'six white boomers' (a popular Australian Christmas song!). He also changes his clothes for less 'hot' ones!
On Boxing Day most people go and visit their friends and often have barbecues at the beach. A famous Yacht race from Sydney to Hobart in Tasmania is also held on Boxing Day.
Christmas in Austria
Austria shares many Christmas traditions with its neighbour Germany, but also has many special Christmas customs of its own.
During Advent, many families will have an Advent Wreath made from evergreen twigs and decorated with ribbons and four candles. One each of the four Sunday in Advent, a candle is lit and a carols or two might be sung!
Most towns will have a 'Christkindlmarkt' (Christmas market) from late November, early December selling Christmas decorations, food (like gingerbread) and Glühwein (sweet, warm mulled wine). Cities like Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg have huge markets and people from all over the world to visit them.
Christmas in Belgium
In Belgium there are three official languages, Dutch (a Belgium version of Dutch is known as Flemish, this is mainly spoken in the northern area of Belgium called Flanders), French (mainly spoken in the southern Walloon Region) and German (spoken by about 1% of Belgium's in the east of the country).
In Belgium Dutch/Flemish Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Vrolijk Kerstfeest', French it's 'Joyeux Noël', in German it's 'Frohe Weihnachten' and in the Walloon language (spoken by somepoel in the Walloon Region) it's 'djoyeus Noyé'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
On Christmas Eve ('Kerstavond' in Flemish and 'le réveillion de Noël' in Walloon), a special meal is eaten by most families. It starts with a drink (apéritif) and 'nibbles', followed by a 'starter' course such as sea-food, and then stuffed turkey. The dessert is 'Kerststronk' (Flemish) or 'la bûche de Noël' (Walloon) a chocolate Christmas Log made of sponge roll layered with cream. The outside is covered with chocolate butter cream and made to resemble a bark-covered log.
As in The Netherlands, children in Belgium have two Christmas visitors! On December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day, 'Sinterklaas/St. Niklaas' (Flemish) or 'Saint Nicholas' (Walloon) is believed to bring presents to children.
Children put their shoes in front of the fireplace, together some for Sinterklaas like a drawing or biscuits; they might also leave a carrot for Sinterklass's horse and something for Zwarte Piet (Black Peter, Sinterklass's assistant). Then in the night, Sinterklaas arrives on the roof on his horse with Zwarte Piet. Zwarte Piet climbs down the chimney and leaves the presents in and around the shows. Sinterklaas has a book in which he keeps all the names of the children and tells if they've been bad or good. Children are told that if they've been bad, Zwarte Piet will put you in his sack and take you back to Spain! Traditional foods that are left for Sinterklaas include tangerines, gingerbread, chocolate and 'mokjes' (cookies made in the shapes of letters. There are lots of songs that children sing about Sinterklaas. Different regions of Belgium have different customs and traditions about St. Nicholas.
Some people celebrate Advent and have Advent Wreaths/Crowns made from fir or leylandii greenery. The wreaths have four candles and a candle is lit each week counting down to Christmas. These are very popular in Elementary/Primary Schools where an Advent song is sung when the candles are lit. Lots of children also have paper Advent Calendars with chocolate behind the doors for each day!
In the weeks before Christmas, people also like to go to Christmas Markets. You might spot Santa Claus at the market! Poeple go to buy Christmas presents, decorations and food. You can also drink jenever (gin) or Glühwein (hot wine) and eat some Smoutebollen/oliebollen (deep fried sweet dumplings) are also very popular. Going ice skating with friends is also something very common.
Christmas in Brazil
Many Brazilian Christmas traditions come from Portugal as Portugal ruled Brazil for many years. Nativity Scenes, known as Presépio are very popular. They are set-up in churches and homes all through December.
Christmas plays called Los Pastores (The Shepherds), like the plays in Mexico are also popular. In the Brazilian versions of the play, there's also traditionally a shepherdess and also a woman who tries to steal the baby Jesus!
Most people, especially Catholics, will go to a Midnight Mass service or Missa do Galo (Mass of the Roster). The mass normally finishes about 1.00am. On Christmas day, people might go to church again, but this time the services are often in the afternoon.
After the Missa do Gallo there are often big firework displays and in big towns and cities there are big Christmas Tree shaped displays of electric lights.
In Brazil, Santa Claus is called Papai Noel & Bom Velhinho (Good Old Man). Many Christmas customs are similar to ones in the USAor UK.
Sometimes children leave a sock near a window. If Papai Noel finds your sock, he'll exchange it for a present!
Taking part in a 'Secret Santa', known as 'amigo secreto' (secret friend) is popular in Brazil at Christmas. It is traditional to give small gifts all through December using a pretend name (apelidos). On Christmas Day, people reveal who their amigo secreto was!
The most popular Christmas song in Brazil is 'Noite Feliz' (Silent Night).
Favourite Christmas foods in Brazil include pork, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork and fresh and dried fruits, Brazil nuts and Panettone.
Epiphany, when people remember the Wise Men visiting Jesus, is widely celebrated in Brazil.
Christmas in Canada
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, USA because of the assistance given during the disaster, known worldwide, as the Halifax Explosion. This tradition has carried on for many years. Bostonians always love and appreciate the Nova Scotian Christmas tree. They place this tree in the city and then light it during a ceremony to begin the Christmas season.
Mummering is a tradition which takes place in the provinces of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, more commonly in small towns and villages rather than large towns and city's. People dress up in costumes and knock on someone's door and say in a disguised voice, "Are there any Mummers in the night?" or "Any mummers 'loud in?'", meaning 'are mummers allowed in the house?' Then they sing and dance and have Christmas cake and a cup of something nice before moving on to the next house. In some places, if the host does not guess who the Mummers are, the host must join the Mummers in their merry-making. Going Mummering is a fun Christmas season activity for adults. Mummers usually come out between December 26th and January 6th (The 12 Days of Christmas). However, some come out only before Christmas Day. In some places Mummering is now banned because people used it as an excuse for begging.
On the south shore of Nova Scotia, over Christmas, there's the tradition of Belsnickeling where people dress up in funny Santa costumes and go from house to house until the home owners guess who you were. It was especially popular in West & East Green Harbour. The Belsnicklers often brought musical instruments nd sang. They were served Christmas cake or cookies. This tradition was brought to Nova Scotia by the 1751 Germans immigrants who settled Lunenburg and South shore.
People in Canada send Christmas Cards to their friends and family.
In northern Canada, some people plan a Taffy Pull. This is held in honour 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. Canadians are especially proud to say that their country is the home of Santa Claus. (Although I'm sure the people in Finland would disagree!!)
"Sinck Tuck" is a festival started by the Inuit that is celebrated in some provinces of Canada. This celebration consists of dancing and gift exchanging.
Labrador City in Newfoundland holds a Christmas Light-up Contest each year. People dress the outside of their houses up with lights and often have big ice sculptures in their front gardens! They have no trouble finding enough snow or ice, because Labrador City has about 12-14 Feet of snow every year!
Many Canadian families have cookie-baking parties. They bring a recipe for Christmas cookies, bake them and then exchange them with the members of their family. At the end of the party, each family goes home with a variety of different cookies to enjoy over the Christmas season.
Christmas in China
In China, only about one percent of people are Christians, so most people only know a few things about Christmas. Because of this, Christmas is only often celebrated in the major cities. In these big cities there are Christmas Trees, lights and other decorations on the streets and in department stores. Santa Claus is called 'Shen Dan Lao Ren' and has grottos in shops like is Europe and America.
In Chinese Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Sheng Dan Kuai Le or 圣诞快乐' in Mandarin and 'Seng Dan Fai Lok or 聖誕快樂' in Cantonese. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
In China, Santa is known as 'Sheng dan lao ren' (Traditional: 聖誕老人, Simplified: 圣诞老人; means Old Christmas Man).
One a few people have a Christmas Tree (or celebrate Christmas at all!). If people do have a tree it is normally a plastic one and might be decorated with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns (they might also call it a tree of light). The Christmas Trees that most people would see would be in shopping malls!
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!!!
A tradition that's becoming popular, on Christmas Eve, is giving apples. Many stores have apples wrapped up in colored paper for sale. People give apples on Christmas Eve because in Chinese Christmas Eve is called 'Ping An Ye' (which means quiet or silent night) and the word for apple in Chinese is 'Ping Guo' which sounds similar.
Some people go Carol singing, although not many people understand them or know about the Christmas Story. Jingle Bells is a popular Carol in China!
People who are Christians in China go to special services. Going to Midnight Mass services has become very popular.
Thank you to Lisa, Gu Yuhong and DeAnn for their help in giving me information on Christmas in China!
Christmas in Costa Rica
During Christmas in Costa Rica, people like to decorate their houses with beautiful tropical flowers. A model of the nativity scene, called the Pasito or Portal, is the center of the display. It's also decorated with flowers and sometimes fruit. Some of the scene take a long time to make and all the family is involved. As well as the traditional figures, people add other models including houses and lots of different sorts of animals.
Christmas wreaths are made of cypress branches and are decorated with red coffee berries and ribbons. Most homes, shops and important buildings are decorated with Christmas lights.
In Costa Rica, the gift bringer is often 'Niño dios' (Child God, meaning Jesus) or 'Colacho' (another name for St. Nicholas).
On Christmas Eve, everyone puts on their best clothes and goes to Midnight Mass. In Costa Rica it's called the 'Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Rooster); it's also called that in Spain.
After Midnight Mass the main Christmas meal is eaten. It normal includes chicken and pork tamales that have been wrapped for cooking in plantain leaves. To drink there's lots of egg nog and rum punch!
After Christmas, and into January, there are lots of fiestas, parades, rodeos, street parties, bull runs and choral and dance festivals. On 26th December (Boxing Day) there is an important horseback parade called the Tope. The next on the next day (27th), many towns and cities have 'Carnaval' with a big parade featuring dancing and big floats.
Christmas in Denmark
Some people in Denmark give and receive extra Advent presents on the four Sundays of Advent.
Different types of Advent candles and calendars are popular in Denmark. A Kalenderlys (calendar-candle) is an Advent candle and most people have one of these types of candles. A Pakkekalender (gift calendar) are also a fun way to countdown to Christmas Eve. There are 24 small gifts for the children in the calendar, one for each day until Christmas Eve.
Julekalender (christmas calendar) is a television series with 24 episodes. One episode is shown each day in December with the last one being aired on Christmas Eve. The first Julekalender was shown on TV in Denmark in 1962. The two main Danish TV channels DR and TV2 both show different versions of Julekalender each year. The theme of the stories in the Julekalender normally follow a similar storyline, with someone trying to ruin Christmas and the main characters saving Christmas!
ber where everyone has a good time! Making cakes and biscuits is popular in the time before Christmas. Gingerbread cookies and vanilla ones are often favorites.
In Denmark most people go to a Church Service on Christmas Eve about 4.00pm to hear the Christmas Story. It's also traditional to give animals a treat on Christmas Eve, so some people go for a walk in the park or woods and take some food to give the animals and birds.
When they get home the main Christmas meal is eaten between 6.00pm and 8.00pm. It's served on a beautifully decorated table. Popular Christmas foods include roast duck, goose or pork. They are served with boiled and sweet potatoes, red cabbage, beetroot and cranberry jam/sauce.
Most families have a 'ris á la mande' (a special kind of rice pudding, made of milk, rice, vanilla, almonds and whipped cream) for dessert. All but one of the almonds are chopped into pieces. The person who finds the whole almond gets a present called a Mandelgave (almond present) and it's often a marzipan pig!
After the meal the lights on the Christmas Tree are lit, poeple might dance around the tree and sing carols and then it's time for people to open their presents. The Christmas tree normally has a gold or silver star on the top and often has silver 'fairy hair' on it to make it glitter.
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.
Christmas in Egypt
In Egypt about 15% of people are Christians. They are the only part of the population who really celebrate Christmas. Most Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church and they have some very unique traditions for Christmas.
Christmas Day isn't celebrated on the 25th December but on 7th January (like in Ethiopia and by some Orthodox Christians in Russia and Serbia).
The Coptic month leading to Christmas is called Kiahk. People sing special praise songs on Saturday nights before the Sunday Service.
For the 43 days before Christmas (Advent), from 25th November to 6th January, Coptic Orthodox Christians have a special fast where they basically eat a vegan diet. The don't eat anything containing products that come from animals (including chicken, beef, milk and eggs). This is called 'The Holy Nativity Fast'. But if people are too weak or ill to fast properly they can be excused.
On Coptic Christmas Eve (6th January), Coptic Christians go to church for a special liturgy or Service. The services normally start about 10.30pm but some chapels will be open for people to pray from 10.00pm. Many people meet up with their friends and families in the churches from 9.00pm onwards. The services are normally finished shortly after midnight, but some go onto 4.00am!
Christmas in France
In France, a Nativity crib is often used to help decorate the house. French cribs have clay figures in them, not wooden ones. During December, some towns and cities such as Marseilles have fairs that sell Nativity figures. As well as having the normal Nativity figures in them, French scenes also have figures such as a Butcher, a Baker, a Policeman and a Priest.
In French Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Joyeux Noël'. In Breton (spoken by some people in Brittany, Northern France) it's 'Nedeleg Laouen' and in Corsican it's 'Bon Natale'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
Yule Logs made out of Cherry Wood are often burned is French homes. The log is carried into the home on Christmas Eve and is sprinkled with red wine to make the log smell nice when it is burning. There is a custom that the log and candles are left burning all night with some food and drinks left out in case Mary and the baby Jesus come past during the night.
In France, Father Christmas / Santa Claus / St. Nicholas is called Père Noël (Father Christmas). In eastern France he is accompanied by Le Pere Fouettard, a man dressed in black. He might be the same person as Zwarte Piet in Holland.
The main Christmas meal, called Réveillon, is eaten on Christmas Eve/early Christmas morning after people have returned from the midnight Church Service. Dishes might include roast turkey with chestnuts or roast goose, oysters, foie gras, lobster, venison and cheeses. For dessert, a chocolate sponge cake log called a bûche de Noël is normally eaten.
Christmas in Germany
A big part of the Christmas celebrations in Germany is Advent. Several different types of Advent calendars are used in German homes. As well as the traditional one made of card that is used in many countries, there are ones made out of a wreath of Fir tree branches with 24 decorated boxes or bags hanging from it. Each box or bag has a little present in it. Another type is called a 'Advent Kranz' and is a ring of fir branches that has four candles on it. This is like the Advent candles that are sometimes used in Churches. One candle is lit at the beginning at each week of Advent.
Christmas Trees are very important in Germany. They were first used in Germany during the Middle Ages. If there are young children in the house, the trees are usually secretly decorated by the Mother of the family. The Christmas tree was traditionally brought into the house on Christmas eve. In some parts of Germany, during the evening the family would read the Bible and sing Christmas songs such as O Tannenbaum, Ihr Kinderlein Kommet and Stille Nacht (Slient Night).
Sometimes wooden frames, covered with coloured plastic sheets and with electric candles inside, are put in windows to make the house look pretty from the outside.
Christmas Eve is the main day when Germans exchange presents with their families.
In German Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Frohe Weihnachten'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
Germany is well known for its Christmas Markets where all sorts of Christmas foods and decorations are sold. Perhaps the most famous German decorations are glass ornaments. The glass ornaments were originally hand blown glass and were imported in the USA in 1880s by the Woolworth stores. The legend of the glass 'Christmas Pickle' is famous in the USA, but it's that, a legend. Most people in Germany have never heard of the Christmas Pickle!
Christmas in Greece
On Christmas Eve, children, especially boys, often go out singing 'kalanda' (carols) in the streets. They play drums and triangles as they sing. Sometimes the will also carry model boats decorated with nuts which are painted gold. Carrying a boat is a very old custom in the Greek Islands.
If the children sing well, they might be given money, nuts, sweets and dried figs to eat.
Christmas Trees are becoming more popular in Greece, but they aren't traditional. Instead most houses will have a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire is suspended across the rim. A sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross hangs from the wire. Some water is kept in the bowl to keep the basil alive and fresh. Once a day, someone, usually the mother of the family, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle water in each room of the house.
This is believed to keep the 'Killantzaroi' (bad spirits) away. The Killantzaroi are meant to appear only during the 12-day period from Christmas to the Epiphany (January 6th). They are supposed to come from the middle of the earth and get into people's house through the chimney! The Killantzaroi do things like putting out fires and making milk go off. Having a fire burning through the twelve days of Christmas is also meant to keep the Killantzaroi away.
Every December, in Aristotelous Square in the city of Thessaloniki (which is the second biggest city Greece) a huge Christmas Tree and three masted sailing ship are put up. It's a popular tourist attraction.
Going to a Midnight Mass Service is very important for most Greeks. After the service people can go home and end their Advent fast.
The main Christmas meal is often Lamb or pork, roasted in an oven or over an open spit. It's often served with a spinach and cheese pie and various salads and vegetables. Other Christmas and new year foods include 'Baklava' (a sweet pastry made of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey), Kataifi (a pastry made from a special form of shredded filo dough and flavored with nuts and cinnamon), Theeples (a kind of fried pastry). Another popular Christmas dessert are melomakarono, egg or oblong shaped biscuit/cakes made from flour, olive oil, and honey and rolled in chopped walnuts.
Christmas in India
Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is quite a small festival in India, due to the number of people who are Christians (about 2.3%) compared to people who belong to other religions. Having said this, the population of India is over 1 Billion, so there are over 25 million Christians in India!
One of the largest Indian Christian Communities in a city is in Mumbai. A lot of the Christians in Mumbai (previously known as Bombay) are Roman Catholics. In India's smallest state, Goa which is on the west of India, about 26% of people are Christians. Many of the Christians in Mumbai came from or have roots in Goa. The states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram (all on the very east of India) have high populations of Christians as well.
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.
Christmas in Indonesia
Although most people in Indonesia (about 85%) are Muslims, about 10% of the population are Christians - that's still about 20 million people! Indonesian Christians love to celebrate Christmas!
Indonesian Christians usually go to church services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In most churches and cathedrals, people create nativity scenes and use them as part of the Nativity drama performance.
Christmas in Hungary
In Hungary, Christmas Eve is very important and is called 'Szent-este' which means Holy Evening. People spend the evening with their family and decorate the Christmas Tree. Sometimes only the adults decorate the tree (without the children there), so when children come in and see the tree, it's a great surprise and they are told that angels brought the tree for them!
The main Christmas meal, which is also eaten on Christmas eve, consists of fish and cabbage and a special kind of poppy bread/cake called 'Beigli'.
The Midnight Mass service is very popular in Hungary. Most people go to Church after their Christmas meal.
On Christmas Day people visit their families.
St. Nicholas also visits Hungary on the 6th December. In Hungary he is known as 'Mikulás'. Children leave out shoes or boots on a windowsill to be filled with goodies! Presents might also be brought by Télapó (Old Man Winter).
Christmas in Italy
One of the most important ways of celebrating Christmas in Italy is the Nativity crib scene. Using a crib to help tell the Christmas story was made very popular by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 (Assisi is in mid-Italy). The previous year he had visited Bethlehem and saw where the stable, where it was thought that Jesus was born. A lot of Italian families have a Nativity crib in their homes.
The city of Naples in Italy is world famous for its cribs and crib making. These are known as 'Presepe Napoletano' (meaning Neapolitan Cribs). The first crib scene in Naples is thought to go back to 1025 and was in the Church of S. Maria del presepe (Saint Mary of the Crib), this was even before St. Francis of Assisi had made cribs very popular!
Having cribs in your own home became popular in the 16th century and it's still popular today (before that only churches and monasteries had cribs). Cribs are traditionally put out on the 8th December. But the figure of the baby Jesus isn't put into the crib until the evening/night of December 24th!Sometimes the Nativity scene is displayed in the shape of pyramid which can be meters tall! It's made of several tiers of shelves nd is decorated with colored paper, gold covered pinecones and small candles. A small star is often hung inside the top of the pyramid/triangle. The shelves above the manger scene might also contain fruit, candy and presents.
One special thing about Neapolitan cribs is that they have always been displayed not only characters and figures from the Christmas Story, but also 'every day' people and objects (such as houses, waterfalls, food, animals and even figures of famous people and politicians!). Naples is also the home to the largest crib scene in the world, which has over 600 objects on it!
Christmas in Ireland
In Ireland, people celebrate Christmas in much the same way as people in the UK and the USA, but they also have many of their own Christmas traditions and customs.
Christmas for Irish people, who are Catholics, lasts from Christmas Eve to the feast of Epiphany on January 6th, which some Irish people call 'Little Christmas'. Epiphany isn't now widely celebrated in Ireland.
There is an old tradition that in some Irish houses (although now not many), people put a tall, thick candle on the sill of the largest window after sunset on Christmas Eve. The candle is left to burn all night and represents a welcoming light for Mary and Joseph.
In Irish (or Gaelic) Christmas is 'Nollaig', Santa Claus is known as 'San Nioclás' (Saint Nicholas) or 'Daidí na Nollag' (Father Christmas) and Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Nollaig Shona Dhuit'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
Christmas in Jamaica
Christmas is a very special time in Jamaica and like a lot of other countries, radio stations play carols all through the Christmas period.
Lots of people paint their houses and hang new curtains and decorations for Christmas. Most families spend Christmas Day at home with friends and family members.
The Christmas day meal is usually prepared on Christmas Eve. The traditional Jamaican Christmas meal include fresh fruits, sorrel and rum punch and meat. The Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee and saltfish, breadfruit, fried plantains, boiled bananas, freshly squeezed fruit juice and tea. Dinner is usually served in the late afternoon and this may include chicken, curry goat, stewed oxtail, rice and peas.
Jamaican red wine and rum fruitcake is traditional and is eaten in most homes. The fruits in the cake are soaked in red wine and white rum for months before Christmas. (I have some friends who come from Jamaica and Jamaican Christmas Cake is really nice!)
Thank you to Lola Adegoke for her help in giving me information on Christmas in Jamaica!
Christmas in Japan
Christmas is not widely celebrated in Japan as not many people there are Christians. However, several customs have come to Japan from the USA such as sending and receiving Christmas Cards and Presents.
In Japan, Christmas in known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange presents. In many ways it resembles Valentine's Day celebrations in the UK and the USA. Young couples like to go for walks to look at the Christmas lights and have a romantic meal in a restaurant - booking a table on Christmas Eve can be very difficult as it's so popular!
Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, so schools and businesses are normally open on December 25th.
Christmas in Lebanon
In Lebanon, 35% of the population follow a form of Christianity called Maronite Catholic. These Christians build manger scenes in their homes called a Nativity Crib. The crib is more popular than a Christmas Tree. It's traditional for the scene to be based around a cave rather than a stable. It's often decorated with sprouted seeds such as chickpeas, broad-beans, lentils, oats and wheat that have been grown on damp cotton wool in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The crib scene then becomes a focus for the prayer of people in the house.
Other common Catholic traditions such as going to a midnight mass service are also celebrated in Lebanon.
In the capital city, Beirut, big and glamourous Christmas parties are held in major hotels and lots of people like going to them, even if they're not Christian. Western-style commercial displays of poinsettias, Christmas lights, holly and community Christmas trees are also becoming more popular, although some people don't like as they think they are too commercial.
When people visit each other houses over the Christmas period, sugared almonds are often eaten with strong cups of coffee.
In Lebanon most people speak Arabic, so Happy/Merry Christmas is Eid Milad Majid (عيد ميلاد مجيد) which means 'Glorious Birth Feast' or you could say Kul 'am wa enta bi-khair which means 'may every year find you in good health'. French is also spoken so you could wish people Joyeux Noël! Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.
Christmas in South Africa
Because South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas comes in the summer. So there's lots of sun and beautiful flowers in full bloom.
The schools are closed for the Christmas holidays and some people like to go camping. Going carol singing, on Christmas Eve, is very popular in towns and cities. Carols by Candlelight services are also popular on Christmas Eve. And many people go to a Christmas morning Church Service.
Traditional 'fir' Christmas trees are popular and children leave a stocking out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas meal is either turkey (or duck), roast beef, mince pies or suckling pig with yellow rice & raisins and vegetables, followed by Christmas Pudding or a traditional South African desert called Malva Pudding (sometimes also called Lekker Pudding) - get the recipe. People also like to pull Christmas Crackers! The meal is often eaten outside in the summer sun! If it's really hot they might even have a barbecue or 'braai'.
Christmas in The Netherlands / Holland
For most children in The Netherlands, the most important day during December is 5th December, when Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) brings them their presents!
St. Nicholas' day is on the 6th December, but in Holland, the major celebrations are held on the 5th December. The name Santa Claus comes from the name Sinterklaas.
On the morning of St. Nicholas' Day, Sinterklaas travels to a city or town in The Netherlands, wearing his red bishop's robes. He travels with his servants called 'Zwarte Pieten' ('Black Peters'). When Sinterklaas and the Black Peters come ashore from the boat, all of the local church bells ring in celebration. Sinterklaas then leads a procession through the town, riding a white horse. If he visits Amsterdam, he meets the Queen in the Palace.
On December, 5th children leave clogs or shoes out, by the fireplace or sometimes a windowsill, and sing Sinterklaas songs. They hope that Sinterklaas will come during the night with some presents. They also believe that if they leave some hay and carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas's horse, they will be left some sweets. They're told that, during the night, Sinterklaas rides on the roofs on his horse and that a 'Zwarte Piet' will then climb down the chimney (or through a window) and put the presents and/or candy in their shoes.
Children are told that the Zwarte Pieten keep a record of all the things they have done in the past year. Good children will get presents from Sinterklaas, but bad children will be put in a sack and the Zwarte Pieten take them to Spain for a year to teach then how to behave! Dutch tradition says that St. Nicholas lives in Madrid, Spain and every year he chooses a different harbour to arrive in Holland, so as many children as possible get a chance to see him. Every town in Holland has a few Sinterklaas helpers, dressed the same as Sinterklaas who help give the presents out. (and sometimes you might one see one Zwarte Pieten with Sinterklaas!)
If children are really lucky they might receive all their presents during the evening. This is called 'Sinterklaasavond' or 'Pakjesavond' (present evening). There might be a knock at the door and you might find a sack full of presents!
Sinterklaas parties are often held on St. Nicholas' Eve (5th), where treasure hunt games are played with poems and riddles giving the clues. Children follow the clues to find little presents left by Sinterklaas. Special biscuits and sweets are also eaten at the party. One type of biscuit is called 'letter blanket' or 'banketletter' (meaning letter cake), which is made from marzipan or pastry. The biscuits are made in the shapes of the first letter of the peoples names who are at the party. Another sweet biscuit that is eaten at the parties are 'pepernoot' which are made with cinnamon and spices in the pastry biscuit mix. Here's a recipe for peppernoot. AndHere's a recipe for kerstkrans, a Dutch Christmas Ring Cake.
Christmas in New Zealand
In New Zealand, like its neighbour Australia, Christmas comes in the middle of the summer holidays.
My relations that live in New Zealand tell me that there are lots of people out camping or at their Baches (holiday homes) for Christmas.
Many towns have a Santa parade with decorated floats, bands and marching girls. This can be any time from mid November onwards and is really a commercial event but much enjoyed by all.
Many people have a Christmas Tree in their homes and decorate it like people in the USA or UK.
Many New Zealanders have a barbecue for Christmas lunch and this is becoming more popular. The food cooked on the barbecue is often ham slices or even venison or some other kind of exotic meat. Shrimps and other fish are also barbecued!
Desserts are also very popular! Many still have a hot fruit pudding with custard and ice cream but cold desserts are popular. These include pavlova and whipped cream, meringues, cold fruit salad, jelly and ice cream. Drinks will include a range of soft drinks. Those who like it often over do the alcoholic drinks too. Here's a recipe for pavlova.
My relations have an English type Christmas meal in the middle of June (New Zealand's mid winter)! This meal will often be hot food such as roast chicken, roast lamb, cold ham, hot roast vegetables such as potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, and other root vegetables and also greens such as peas. Coleslaw is increasing in popularity. All with gravy!
They open their presents on Christmas day once the whole family is all together. This is usually before the Christmas lunch.