Christmas Traditions Around the World
Christmas, though a festival of Christian faith, is celebrated (and not celebrated) in various ways around the world by many Christians and many non-Christians alike: Some decorate trees, drink egg nog and sing Christmas carols, while others enjoy a steamy sauna and eat roasted suckling pig. Traditions vary by country and in some cases, even by state and the ways in which they are celebrated around the world are very interesting. Below is a listing of a few countries and the ways in which they traditionally celebrate Christmas. Compare these to your own family traditions and you’ll see how interesting they are or perhaps you may decide to try a new tradition this holiday season.
Christmas in China: The Christian children in China decorate trees with colorful ornaments made from paper in the shapes of lanterns, flowers and chains. They also hang muslin stockings hoping that Christmas Old Man (or Dun Che Lao Ren), will fill them with treats and gifts. Chinese Christmas trees are called, “Trees of Light.” Non- Christian Chinese call this season Spring Festival and celebrate it by preparing and sharing delicious meals and by paying respect to their ancestors. Children receive toys and clothes and watch firework displays.
Christmas in Denmark: This day is supposed to be when a mischievous elf called Nisse, can have his fun. Families leave him a bowl of porridge or rice pudding on Christmas Eve to keep his jokes to a minimum. Christmas Eve dinner begins with rice pudding that holds a magic almond inside. Whoever finds the almond receives a prize. A traditional Christmas Eve dinner consists of goose, red cabbage and browned potatoes, followed by lots of cakes and pastries.
Christmas in Finland: Houses are cleaned and many hours are spent baking for this holiday. Fir trees are dropped, tied to sleds and taken home to be decorated. A sheaf of grain is tied to a pole with nuts and seeds and then placed in the garden for the birds to enjoy. The meal begins when the first star appears in the sky. The Christmas tree is set up on Christmas Eve and decorated with candies, cotton, tinsel, paper flags and apples. Many Finnish homes use candles for lighting in the trees. The Christmas festivities are preceded by a famous steamy sauna, after which everyone dresses in clean clothes in preparation of their Christmas dinner, which typically consists of boiled codfish with allspice, boiled potatoes and cream sauce. Also on the menu is roast suckling pig or a roasted fresh ham, mashed potatoes and vegetables. After dinner the children go to bed while the adults stay up to converse and drink coffee with their visitors until about midnight. The children do not hang up stockings and Christmas Day services begin at six in the morning.
Christmas in Switzerland: The jingling of bells heralds the arrival of Christkindli – a white clad angel, with a jeweled crown and face veil. Tree candles are lit as she enters each house and hands out presents from the baskets being held by her child helpers. The week prior to Christmas, children dress up and visit homes with small gifts. After the midnight mass service, families gather to eat huge homemade doughnuts called ringli and drink hot chocolate. The Feast of St. Nichohlas is celebrated at dusk on December 6th.
Christmas in Czech Republic: On Christmas Eve, unmarried women practice a traditional fortune telling method called ‘Shoe Tossing’ to predict their relationship status for the upcoming year. So, if you single ladies would like to give this a try, here’s how you do it: Stand with your back to your house door and toss one of your shoes over your shoulder towards your house. If it lands with the toe facing the door it means you should begin making wedding preparations as you will be getting married within the year. If it lands with the heel facing the door it means you’re looking at another year of being single. Better luck next year.