How do other countries celebrate Christmas?

Tomorrow is Christmas Day, where millions of people will gather together and exchange gifts. However, traditions that we have known for years differ massively across the world. Here’s a look at just a few other countries and how they celebrate December 25th.

Croatia

Merry Christmas: Sretan Božić

Preparations for Christmas start a whole month before on November 25th, which is St Catherine’s Day. Traditionally, families have an Advent wreath of straw or twigs which has four candles, representing different stages of life; creation, embodiment, redemption and ending. A fifth candle is added in the centre on Christmas Day.

Other saints days are also celebrated during Advent; St. Barbara’s Day (December 4th), St. Nicholas’ Day (December 6th) and St. Lucia’s Day (December 13th). On the evening before St. Nicholas’ Day, children clean their shoes and leave them in the window, in the hope that St Nicholas will fill them with chocolates and small presents. However, if they have been naughty, Krampus (a monster with big horns) will leave golden twigs to remind them to behave.

Christmas, like many countries, is mainly celebrated with close family. The majority of Croatians are Catholic so many like to go to a Midnight Mass service. On Christmas Eve, its traditional to eat ‘bakalar’ (dried cod) or other fish, with the main meal on Christmas Day often turkey, duck or goose. This is often accompanied with ‘sarma’, cabbage rolls filled with minced pork.

Croatians normally decorate Christmas trees on Christmas Eve and are traditionally decorated with ornaments in the shape of fruits. In rural areas, some bring straw into the house as a symbol of good crops in the future.

Christmas celebrations continue until January 6th.

Japan

Merry Christmas: めりーくりすます or メリークリスマス

Christmas has only started being celebrated in Japan over the last few decades. As there aren’t many Christians, it is not seen as a religious festival and isn’t a national holiday. However, as the Emperor’s birthday is celebrated on December 23rd, schools are closed around this time. Businesses treat Christmas Day as a normal working day. This could change next year, however, as the current Emperor is set to retire in 2019.

Christmas Eve is seen as a romantic day, with couples spending time together and exchanging gifts, similar to how Western nations celebrate Valentine’s Day. Couples often have a romantic meal at a restaurant, meaning booking a table on Christmas Eve can be difficult.

On Christmas Day, fried chicken is often eaten and people often place orders in advance at restaurants such as KFC. This tradition is relatively new; in 1974, an advertising campaign by KFC called ‘Kentucky for Christmas’ was extremely successful and has been popular every Christmas since. Japanese Christmas cake is also eaten; a sponge cake decorated with strawberries and cream.

Japanese celebrations for New Year are much more similar to that of typical Western traditions at Christmas time. Over December 31st to January 4th, families get together, send cards to each other and have a special meal.

Hungary

Merry Christmas: Boldog karácsonyt

Christmas festivities in Hungary are centred on Christmas Eve, known as
Szent-este (Holy Evening). People spend the evening with family decorating the Christmas tree, with children hoping that Jézuska (Jesus) will leave them presents under it.

Hungarians also eat their main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve. The meal is made up of a fish soup, known as Halászl, stuffed cabbage (filled with mince pork, rice, garlic and onion), as well as chicken and other meats. Gingerbread is also eaten, often decorated with bright colours and Christmas figures, as well as a poppy seed roll known as Bejgli, which is a roll of sweet yeast bread filled with ground poppy seeds, rum and apricot jam. Pálinka, a traditional Hungarian fruit brandy, is also typically drunk at Christmas.

Like in Croatia, many Hungarians go to Midnight Mass and Hungarian children will also leave their shoes in windowsills on St. Nicholas’ Day (December 6th) waiting for Mikulás (St. Nicholas) or Télapó (Old Man Winter) to fill them with gifts.

Taiwan

Merry Christmas: 圣诞节快乐

Unlike mainland China, Christmas is more widely celebrated in Taiwan. However, with Christians only making up five percent of the population, it is not a national holiday.

Many schools perform Christmas plays and most children know about Santa Claus and even a couple Christmas songs.

Christmas cakes, like those that Japanese people enjoy this time of year, are also popular in Taiwan.

Indonesia

Merry Christmas: Selamat Natal

Although the vast majority of Indonesia are Muslim, there are 20 million Christians, with Christmas being a public holiday in Indonesia.

Christians in the country will attend church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, singing carols such as Malam Kudus (Silent Night).

Indonesians, like many other countries, decorate their houses with a Christmas tree. However, these are often artificial and made of plastic.

On television, Indonesians will tune in to Home Alone, a popular Christmas film across the world, as well as themed musical concerts which are also broadcast.

Wherever you are tomorrow, I wish you all a very merry Christmas!

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