The Christmas season is here and with this highly celebrated holiday comes a cornucopia of traditions from around the world. Let me take you on an international tour to tell you about some of the most charming and endearing customs that our neighbors from all the continents have cherished for decades.
One of the most revered traditions that millions of people have enjoyed is Germany’s gift to us, the Christmas tree. Since the 1800s, Germany has made wooden toys, especially the nutcrackers, which are some of the most undeniably popular symbols of Christmas. Even today, Germany has approximately 2,000 wood artisans and 150 manufacturers that have no problem competing with modern toys at Christmas time. The Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden start their celebration of Christmas on Dec. 13. In Sweden, there is a beautiful tradition for St. Lucia’s Day that begins when one of the daughters of a family dresses in a white gown and wears a crown of seven lit candles. The lovely woman awakens her siblings and parents with hot coffee and pastry. Denmark and Norway share the custom of honoring the birds and animals by giving them extra fodder and grain in remembrance of their presence in the stable in Bethlehem.
Celebrating Christmas in China does not have the religious overtones that many other countries have. Commercialism influences the way China chooses to observe Christmas by decorating their streets and stores with festive lights. The Chinese refer to a Christmas tree as a ”tree of light” and while you will not see intricate ornaments or candy canes, you will see paper chains, flowers, and lanterns. A new tradition that is becoming popular is the wrapping of apples in colored paper and offering them as gifts of peace.
Africans have many of the same Christmas traditions that are found in other regions of the world, but one particular custom caught my eye. On Christmas day, adults and children represent angels and travel from house to house singing carols and proclaiming the coming of Christ.
You will not find carolers in wool coats, mittens, or hats, but you will see Aussies swimming, surfing, and camping by the beach. Australian Christmas feasts are a combination of picnic foods and traditional recipes fit for an indoor dinner. Many of the decorations are similar to European styles, but you will also see summertime flowers and koala bears in Santa suits.
Unlike China, Christmas in South America is centered on a religious theme. You will find elaborate Nativity Scenes that may even occupy an entire room. Family dinners, with a variety of meats and beverages, are common to most of the South American countries.
Canada, Mexico and the United States all have Christmas customs that incorporate family gatherings, decorating competitions, and ceremonies depicting the birth of Christ. In the United States, there are many traditions from immigrant ancestors so there is quite a melting pot of ways that Christmas is honored.
No matter what corner of the world you live in, the Christmas spirit is alive. Merry Christmas from all of us at TeamKuptz!