Have you ever wondered how other countries celebrate Christmas, or do they at all? With Christmas approaching fast, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at how the rest of the world will be celebrating. Although this is not a complete list of all countries, it is a sample of how a few other countries celebrate Christmas around the world.
While we celebrate Christmas on December 25th, that is not considered to be a Japanese national holiday. It is a fun time however to get the decorations out and put up Christmas trees in the house. Businesses also prepare to decorate their store windows with lights and other decorations. Because less that one percent of Japan’s population is Christian while the remaining are Buddhist, Christmas has no religious meaning to the Japanese. On Christmas, everyone still goes to work, or school. There is a tradition for Christmas that Japan does take part in. Eating Christmas cakes on Christmas eve. These cakes vary from single layers to double layers with chocolate frosting. Gifts are also exchanged. In Japan, Santa comes to visit children but not in the traditional way of coming down a chimney. No, Santa comes through their bedroom window and quietly leaves them one gift under their pillow. Christmas in Japan is also a time for couples to go out for the night and enjoy a romantic time with each other at an expensive restaurant, or hotel.
In Ireland Christmas is very much a religious holiday. Christmas in Ireland lasts from Christmas Eve to the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. This day celebrates the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus. On Christmas Eve candles are lit and placed in the windows. This is done in case Joseph and Mary might be looking for shelter. Women are often busy baking seed cake for every person in the house. Puddings are also made for Christmas, New Year’s Day and the Twelfth night (the end of the traditional Yule festival). The day after Christmas, St. Stephens Day, for children is a big event. The Wrens Boys Procession is an event where boys go door to door with a fake wren on a stick, singing songs. In Ireland long ago The Wren Boys would go into the woods and hunt a kill a wren and parade the dead bird through the town on top of a decorated pole. The ceremony is primarily to ask for money, or treats.
Like Ireland, Mexicos celebration of Christmas is also religious to them. The main Christmas celebration is called La Posada, meaning the inn but it also represents a pre-Christmas celebration. A celebration of the Nativity. This procession reenacts when Joseph and Mary were looking for shelter before the birth of Jesus. During this procession, those who are celebrating will be seen going from house to house carrying images of Mary and her husband Joseph looking for shelter. The children of Mexico, on Christmas day try and break a decorated clay pinata blindfolded. A pinata is a papier-macache, or other kind of container that is decorated and filled with toys or candy. Midnight mass service is attended and lullabies are sung to Jesus.
In Germany the real celebration of Christmas starts on December 6, St. Nicholas Day, also known as Nikolaustag. An interesting fact to point out is the Christmas tree originated in Germany. In Germany children are not allowed to decorate the tree. It’s said that the tree has a mysterious spell for all children who see the tree before Christmas Eve, so the tree is decorated before Christmas Eve and before the evening feast. During Advent, advent wreaths are set on a table. Four red candles are placed in the center of it. These candles are lit on each Sunday prior to Christmas and the last one is lit on Christmas Eve. Children use Advent calendars to count the days until Christmas arrives. On December 6, children leave out one shoe for St. Nicholas. This is St. Nicholas Eve. Children will either get candy if they have been good, or twigs if they were bad.
While there are some countries that do not celebrate Christmas, such as the Middle East, India, China, and a good part of Africa, Christian minorities in these countries do celebrate Christmas in their own way. Whether going to Church, spending time with family, decorating a tree, or baking cookies,everyone has their own special way of celebrating Christmas and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.