Christmas Celebrations in Different Countries
Christmas dinner may be a picnic in the woods or on the beach as there is summer like weather in Australia during the season. Carols are sung by candlelight and decorattions are done in Australian homes with flowers and other plants. Many carols sung are Australian, celebrating Christ’s birth with imagery drawn from the Australian Christmas Bush, which flowers at Christmas. Other songs sung and listened to are about Snow and Snowmen.
Church is attended in great mass on Christmas Day. Services are often held very early in the morning.Mostly, Christmas is celebrated along traditional lines and families often travel great distances to be together to be at the dinner meal togetherness. Due to the multiculturalism in Australia food can vary. But meals mainly centre on the traditional Hams, Turkeys and Plum Pudding. Often these dishes are cooked earlier and served cold. Salads and other summer foods are present as well as food from other cultures.
Christmas in Bangladesh is held in special way. The Christian village men cut down banana trees and replant them in pairs along the paths to churches and outside their homes,They bend over the huge leaves to make an arch, and then make small holes in the bamboo poles, fill them with oil and tie them across the arches. When the oil is lit the way to church is bright.
Although Christianity is unsanctioned in China, there are an estimated 10 million baptised Christians (about 1 percent of the population) who celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time. The popularity of midnight mass has grown swiftly over the past few years on Christmas Eve. The small percentage of Chinese who do so, erect artificial trees in their homes decorated with lights. Christmas trees are called “trees of light” and are also decorated with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns. Children hang up stockings in hopes that Dun Che Lao Ren (China’s Santa) will fill them with presents. Shops have men dressed as Santa Claus handing out sweets and waitresses with Santa hats.
When the Christmas tree first came to England in 1841, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, Germany decorated it for his wife Queen Victoria in the German fashion. But, soon English customs arose. For example, Christmas cards were hung from the tree as decorations. Tiny candles placed among the branches, tiny gift packages wrapped in brocade and velvet with colourful satin ribbons, silver-filigree baskets, red-golden swags and an angel on top make up the traditional English tree.
The traditional Christmas meal is roast turkey and plum pudding.Two weeks before Christmas, towns and cities across England host pantomime plays Audiences are then treated to performances of such favourites as Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Puss in Boots. Male roles are often played by women and female roles by men. In Cinderella, the wicked step-sisters are almost always play by male actors.
Boxing Day is also a national holiday in England. It is celebrated on December 26th. Legend tells that on this day the noblemen “boxed up” gifts for their servants. It is also called Saint Stephen’s Day. Saint Stephen was a martyr who was stoned to death. Boxes that have been placed in the church all through the year are opened on this day. Payment for special services that were done during the year are distributed on this day.
Father Christmas delivers the presents, which are not opened until Christmas afternoon. Letters to Father Christmas are not sent by mail, instead, the letters are thrown into the back of the fireplace, and if they are drawn up the chimney by a draft, it is said that the letter has reached Father Christmas. If the letter is burned up in the flames, another try is made.
The midnight service on Christmas Eve is traditionally followed by a meal called ‘le reveillon’. Cafes and restaurants are open all night serving reveillon. Reveillon means to wake up, or first call of the day. So, Reveillon is a symbolic spiritual awakening to the meaning of Christ’s birth. The meal can consist of oysters, sausages, wine, baked ham, roast fowl, salads, fruit and pastries. In Alsace, a roasted goose has pride of place. In Brittany there are buckwheat cakes and sour cream. In Burgundy, turkey and chestnuts are eaten. In the Paris region oysters are the favourite dish, followed by a cake shaped like a Yule log. After the festivities, it is customary to leave a candle burning just in case the Virgin Mary passes that way. In northern France, children are given their gifts on December 6th, which is Saint Nicholas Day, instead of Christmas Day
Many Christmas traditions practised around the world today started in Germany. It has been long thought that Martin Luther began the tradition of bringing a fir tree into the home. One legend says, late one evening Martin Luther was walking home through the woods and noticed how beautifully the stars shined through the trees. He wanted to share the beauty with his wife so; he cut down a fir tree and took it home. He placed small lighted candles on the branches and said that it would be a symbol of the beautiful Christmas sky.
Another legend says that in the early 16th Century, people in Germany combined two customs that had been practised in different countries around the globe. The Paradise tree (a fir tree decorated with apples) represented the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. The Christmas Light, a small pyramid-like frame, usually decorated with glass balls and tinsel and with a candle on top, was a symbol of the birth of Christ as the Light of the World. Changing the tree’s apples to tinsel balls and cookies; and combining this new tree with the Light placed on top, the Germans created the tree that many of us know now.
When Christianity arose in Germany, St. Nicholas became popular. He was known for his miracles and generosity and became a saint to children. He became the Santa Claus figure and the feast of St. Nicholas was celebrated on December 6. St. Nicholas rode a white horse and of course carried gifts to all the good little children.
Today, the Germans still celebrate St. Nicholas Day and make it a point to attend church on Christmas Eve where the church is lit by candles held by the worshipers. The Tannenbaum (Christmas tree) is traditionally decorated in secret with lights, tinsel, and ornaments by the mother and is lit and revealed on Christmas Eve with cookies, nuts, and gifts under its branches. But the speciality is the Lebkuchen, a spicy, tasty cake made in shapes and hung on the tree.
India, perhaps, has the most cosmopolitan Christmas in the world because of international influence on her people, Just to name a few, Christmas trees from Germany, ornaments from America, greeting cards from England, creche from France, books from Greece. Children in brightly coloured dresses, accompanied by an orchestra of drums and cymbals, perform group dances, using coloured sticks as they do their native dances.
Indian Christians do not believe in short services. The main service on Christmas Day is a midnight one which lasts from two to three hours, with hundred of communicants and many children all massed together on the floor.
In south India, Christians fill little clay lamps with oil and put a piece of twisted cotton in them for wicks. Towards the evening they light these lamps and place them along the edge of the low flat-roofed houses and along the walls outside, so that the houses twinkle with light.
On December 16, Mexican homes are decorated for the upcoming holiday with flowers, evergreens, and coloured paper lanterns. Traditionally, Christmas has been celebrated with replicas of the manger scene called the presebra rather than the Christmas tree.
The pinata is a delightful treat for the children of Mexico. During the nine days before Christmas, parades lead the townspeople to one neighbour’s house. There is much celebrating and fun. The children are anxious to break the pinata. It is usually a clay pot decorated to look like a bird or other animal. But best of all it is filled with candies and goodies. The pinata is hung from the ceiling and the children take turns swinging at it while blindfolded. When it breaks, all the children race to the falling goodies.
Also in Mexico, Santa Claus is less popular than the figure of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of the sun. He is an old man with a long white beard and flowing white robes. Before Christmas arrives, children write letters to the Christ Child listing what they want. And on the eve of the Epiphany, January 6, they place their shoes at the foot of their beds for the Three Magi (the Three Wise Men) to fill.
December 25th is a public holiday in Pakistan, but it is in memory of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. In Christian homes, cards and gifts are exchanged, new clothes are worn and friends’ houses are visited. Christmas Day service is filled with Christians. In the villages of Urdu and Punjabi, it is called Bara Din, the Big Day. The villagers wear bright clothes because it is a happy occasion. People embrace and greet each other with ‘Bara Din Mubarrak Ho’, ‘the blessing of Christmas on you’.