VALENCIA, Calif. – December is famous for one of the main holidays called Christmas. Christmas is a special time for every family to get together and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but have we ever wondered how people from other countries celebrate Christmas?
Christmastime is celebrated differently all over the world, varying by country and region. It is very interesting to learn how Christmas is celebrated in different parts of the world. I asked some of my international friends to tell us what happens in their countries and families and here are some customs and traditions of celebrating Christmas in different countries.
In France, Christmas is called ‘Noël’. “French people usually have a Christmas tree decorated with red ribbons and white candles. Our father of Christmas is called Père Noël,” shared with us my French friends Jaclyn and Margo. “We also like the tradition of sending Christmas cards to wish everyone good luck and joy, and a happy New Year.” The Christmas dinner is an important family gathering with good meat and the best wine. These days Christmas dinner starts with a strong tasting pate made from goose liver followed by the dish made from seafood – usually lobster and oysters.
In Russia Christmas can be celebrated – either on December 25th or on January 7th. This unusual date is because the Russian Orthodox Church uses the old ‘Julian’ calendar for religious days. Special Christmas food includes cakes, pies and ‘meat dumplings’. “A meatless dinner is served with the most important dish called ‘kutya’,” said Katerina from Russia. “My granny makes ‘kutya’ using berries, wheat or other grains to symbolize immortality, honey and poppy seeds are added to ensure happiness and success.”
In New Zealand, Christmas and Boxing Day are official winter holidays. People celebrate Christmas with traditional Northern-hemisphere winter images and traditional Christmas tree. Several Christmas themed parades are held in New Zealand. The most popular is Auckland’s Santa Parade down Queen Street. “Christmas starts for us with opening gifts in the morning. Then we have special dinner that includes turkey or chicken with all the trimmings,” stated John who lives in Auckland for the last 8 years. “After Christmas meal tea time comes. During this time we discuss with our families what good happened with us in the year that gone.”
In Brazil, father of Christmas is called Papai Noel. A special Brazilian Christmas dinner includes chicken, turkey, ham, rice, salads, fresh and dried fruits, and beer. For the dessert Brazilians enjoy local traditional sweets ‘Brigadeiro’ made of condensed milk and chocolate. “All Brazilians have Christmas trees; and, as we don’t have snow in Brazil, we put cotton over their Christmas tree branch to simulate snow,” shared Nancy from Brazil.
Christmas Day is also a special winter holiday in Nigeria. For this holiday traditional Nigerian meals are prepared according to traditions of each region. “To sweets and cakes we prefer various meat dishes,” stated my Nigerian friend Hebey. “Served with special food, there is a variety of alcoholic drinks like traditional palm wines and beers.” Christmas season in Nigeria is filled with different festivals that involve dancing and singing. Gift giving ceremony in Nigeria often includes money-presents and the flow of gifts from successful people to less ones.
In the multicultural USA people will find various ways of celebrating Christmas. During Christmas time, Americans get together with their families and friends, open Christmas presents, eat special dinners, bake and eat Christmas cakes and cookies. In addition, Americans have Santa Clause who comes on Christmas Eve to give boys and girls presents. In the USA, people also sing Christmas carols to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. A friend of mine, who lives in the USA, writes about Christmas meals, “For Christmas dinner my family has turkey with trimmings; my grandparents prefer Polish sausage called ‘keilbasi’ with cabbage dishes and soups. My husband’s Italian family has lasagna!”
Christmastime is a special time of a year no matter how it is celebrated. It is a time of happiness, love, joy, forgiveness, fun, and spending time with family and also with friends. Charles Dickens said, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year,” so we all need to honor Christmas in our warm hearts no matter what country we are from. Merry Christmas!