Christmas is celebrated on a global level, and while Santa, cookies, and a great holiday tree make up the heart of the American tradition, many cultures celebrate this holiday in a very different fashion. From outdoor concerts in Australia to bright paper chains in China, the varied traditions around the world may make you rethink your own holiday festivities.
In Ethiopia, most people still look toward the Julian calendar, so Christmas Day is actually celebrated on January 7. Their celebration is traditionally called Ganna, and on that day, families attend church. On July 6, Ethiopians spend the entire day fasting, and early on January 7, people get up and dress in white. They attend mass at 4 a.m., where they are served Holy Communion. During the season, Ethiopians enjoy a number of different foods, including wat, which is a thick stew made of meat, vegetables, and eggs. Injera, sourdough bread, is also typically served as a spoon to scoop up the stew. Unlike in other countries, children do not typically receive gifts on this holiday. It is far more focused on the religious observance.
The Christmas season for Australians falls right in the middle of the summer, and given that most of Australia is either a hot dessert or a coastal area, the idea of snow and sleighs is pretty far off the radar for Australians. Instead, many people enjoy Carols by Candlelight, a chance to get outside, light candles, and sing holiday carols. Most Australians decorate their homes with ferns, palm leaves, and evergreens as well as the Christmas bellflower. Many also go ahead and put up a traditional Christmas tree. Australian children look forward to Father Christmas leaving Christmas gifts under the tree, and most put a candle in the window on Christmas Eve as a welcoming signal to the baby Jesus.
Christmas is traditionally a religious holiday throughout Mexico, and in many cities, people re-enact Mary and Joseph’s attempt to find shelter with a parade of people holding paper lanterns. This parade is typically called Posadas. December 23rd also marks another important Christmas tradition in many cities – Noche de Rabanos, or Night of the Radishes. In a central location, farmers bring in beautiful sculptures made from giant radishes. Often these are nativity scenes or musicians. Judges carefully look over these gorgeous sculptures, then declare a winner. Afterward, there is often a huge fireworks show.
India is fairly secular in nature, and Christians are a minority. However, those individuals make Christmas quite special in this nation. Midnight mass on Christmas Eve is very important to many, and as with many other Western countries, some families have trees, presents, and other decorations in their homes or apartments. In most cases, there is a huge feast of curries on the night of the 24th, and people do usually give each other unique Christmas gifts as well.
Just one percent of all Japanese people consider themselves to be Christians, so the holiday here is a secular one. In most cases, people celebrate on Christmas Eve, and preparations often begin far before the 24th. As with in the United States, this holiday is a big deal for retailers, and people spend serious cash on gifts and decorations alike. Most people enjoy putting up a Christmas tree here as well as lights outside their homes or apartments. The most traditional holiday food here is the Christmas cake, which is usually a sponge cake, strawberries, and whipped cream.
Christmas is celebrated in many different ways throughout the world, but the key to happiness each and every holiday season is to create traditions that work for your family.
Pinkchic18 is a writer who frequently writes about holidays and event planning. She also regularly contributes to the Holiday Gifts & Baskets Blog.