Merry Christmas: How The Rest Of The World Celebrates Christmas

03 December 2022
By Sarah Angela Almaden
Japanese House

Unsplash: Viktor Talashuk

When we think of Christmas, we think of Mariah Carey's favorite holiday classic entitled “All I want for Christmas” and maybe Michael Bublé’s crooning Christmas songs like “Santa Baby” and “Blue Christmas.” Oh and the plethora of holiday films bringing in the festive cheer like Serendipity (yes, it’s a holiday movie), Elf, A Christmas Story, Love Actually, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, White Christmas, The Polar Express, The Holiday, Unaccompanied Minors, Miracle on 34th Street, The Santa Clause movie series, and the list goes on and on and on. But… despite all these catchy tunes and cozy binges, do you ever wonder what Christmas is like around the world? Let’s find out!

Jimmy Fallon

Giphy / The Simpsons

Germany: Frohe Weihnachten!

In Germany, Christmas is a magical time of the year. The advent traditions begin as early as the end of November, with the nearby towns hosting Christmas markets, otherwise known as Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindmarkt. These Christmas markets sell local German treats like Lebkuchen hearts and glass ornaments of all sizes and colors. Christmas markets in Germany are not only limited to shopping sprees as they also hold concerts, skating rinks, and play parks for visitors to explore.

Christmas is a familial holiday in Deutschland. But families typically wait until Christmas Eve to decorate the evergreen tree. However, their houses are decorated with bright lights and festive trimmings at the beginning of December. On the 24th, families gather around, share a meal, and exchange gifts. In some parts of the country, families would read the bible or sing Christmas songs like O Tannenbaum or Ihr Kinderlein.

France: Joyeux Noël!

The festive season in France begins on December 6th, when St. Nicholas pays a visit carrying sweets and treats for children. If you’re on the nice list, you will wake to find your shoes filled with goodies. But if you’re on the naughty list, you will wake to find your shoes filled with a bundle of twigs. In some villages, this tradition is even re-enacted with St. Nicholas being accompanied by a donkey or sometimes by le Père Fouttard.

In France, stores don’t necessarily play Christmas music throughout the season, but Christmas decorations, from Christmas trees to advent wreaths, can be seen all over. Like other cultures, food also plays an important role in the French Christmas tradition. On Christmas Eve, the Réveillon de Noël feast is observed. Families stay up past midnight for an extravagant meal with some of the best food and wine. This meal can last for several hours building up to the beloved dessert cake called Bûche de Noël.

Philippines: Maligayang Pasko!

In the Philippines, Christmas is celebrated longer than in any country in the world. The yuletide season lasts for about four months. And the festivities start as early as the first day of September — which also marks the beginning of the “Ber months.”

The annual Christmas countdown begins and catchy Christmas carols are played on the radio and all over the shopping malls. The cities are also lit up with lights, lanterns, and ornaments of any kind. In many houses, offices, hotels, even stores, the beloved Christmas tree is put up as early as September or October.

The most-awaited Christmas Eve party is known as Noche Buena. And the party is celebrated after people come home from midnight mass or Misa de Gallo. Families generally stay up very late in the evening to eat a lavish feast of traditional Filipino food like lechon, queso de bola, and hamon.

Italy: Buon Natale!

Christmas in Italy is a month-long festivity and it begins on December 8th when the Immaculate Conception is celebrated. On this day, many Italian families start decorating their homes with colorful holiday ornaments. And a cannon is even fired from Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo to mark the celebrations until the Epiphany on January 6th.

Christmas is a big and religious holiday in Italy. In fact, there are many religious services and holiday theater productions held in the days leading to Christmas. One of these is La Novena, or The Novena; it takes place nine days before Christmas and involves kids dressing up as shepherds and performing poems or Christmas carols door to door in exchange for money or treats. And on Christmas Eve, the church bells ring to signify the birth of Jesus Christ.

Portugal: Feliz Natal!

Presépios or nativity scenes ranging from simple, ceramic figures to living ones, can be seen all around Portugal during the Christmas season. In fact, the country’s love for nativity scenes garnered them a spot in the Guinness Book of Records for hosting the largest moving nativity scene in the world.

Christmas celebration or Natal in Portugal starts on the 24th to the 25th of December. On Christmas Eve, families eat a meal together of codfish, potatoes, green vegetables, followed by more expensive meats and foods. On the dinner table, there is also a wide variety of cakes, fried cookies, nuts, and sweets, as well as occasionally turkey, lamb, goat, or pork.

South Africa: Geseënde Kersfees!

The yuletide season in South Africa is full of sunshine and blooming flowers, and that’s because Christmas falls on a summer day. As a public holiday, schools are closed and people tend to spend time with their families.

On Christmas Eve, people sing Christmas carols to celebrate the merry holiday. The annual Carols by Candlelight services, performed by South Africa’s favorite musicians, are also attended by many people.

Like other cultures, Christmas in South Africa is a family affair. In the afternoon of Christmas day, family and friends get together. Sometimes, they go for a trip in the countryside or go for a swim at the beach.

US: Merry Christmas!

For many Americans, Christmas is one of the most special times of the year. With the holiday cheer, festive food, and diverse traditions, Christmas in the US is a one-of-a-kind experience. Like other cultures, people in America like to decorate their homes with ornaments, from Christmas light displays to inflatable snowmen.

The Christmas tree is an important symbol in this favored holiday. Families usually adorn the spruce tree with ornaments, topped by a star that represents the star of Bethlehem. The most famous Christmas tree is at the Rockefeller Center in New York City. The tree is up for the public to see over Christmas until the New Year.

The exchanging of gifts has also been part of the American Christmas tradition. Gift-giving happens between friends, family, and loved ones. Gifts are wrapped and left in stockings or placed under the tree, to be opened on Christmas morning. And stores remain open until Christmas day especially for those making last-minute shopping sprees.

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