As much as I love Christmas the way we celebrate it in the USA, I think its very cool to see how other countries celebrate and observe December 25th. I think you will enjoy sharing what I've found! Read of for 8 Christmas traditions from around the world! Please keep in mind that not all of these traditions are currently observed, they are the earliest history of Christmas activity recorded in that particular country or region but do not necessarily reflect current celebrations of today. They were just all quite interesting and I thought I would include them! Enjoy!
In Czechoslovakia, St. Nicholas is called Svaty Mikalas and is said to climb down from heaven to earth on a golden rope along with and angel and a whip-carrying devil! An ancient tradition involves cutting a branch from a cherry tree and putting it in some water indoors to bloom. If the bloom opens up in time for christmas, it's a sign of good luck! It's also a sign that the winter will possibly be short. The hope of early spring helps keep everyone's spirits up during the dark and cold winter.
You knew I wouldn't leave out the very town where our Lord was born! Bethlehem is the site of the Church of the Nativity, which is ablaze with decorations and flags every year at christmas! On Christmas eve, there are crowds in the church's very doorways and rooftops around all clamoring to see the dramatic annual procession. Christian homes in Bethlehem are marked by a cross painted over each door and homemade manger scenes are displayed for all to see. And -of course- a star is set up on a pole in the village square!
Christian Iraqi families celebrate christmas by gathering together and having a child read about the birth of Jesus while other family members hold lighted candles. After the reading, everyone sings while a huge bonfire of bushes is being burned. If the thorns burn to ashes, it's a sign of good luck to be granted in the coming year! When the fire has died, each person jumps over the ashes 3 times and makes a wish. On Christmas day, they light another fire in the churchyard. The bishop leads the service, carrying a figure of Baby Jesus. After the service he blesses one person with a touch. Then that person passes the touch to the person beside them until all present have felt the "touch of peace".
Sinterklaas, as St. Nicholas is known in the Netherlands usually appears in person in each child's home on christmas day. He bears a striking resemblance to the children's father or uncle! He generally carries a birch rod and questions the children about their behavior in the past year. Children who have been "good" will find their shoes filled with nuts and candy when they awaken. Dutch children are told that Sinterklaas sails from spain on his feast day, december 5th. They leave out hay and sugar for his horses in hopes that he will favor them.
It is from Scandinavia that our yule log traditions derive! The long, dark and cold winters inspired traditions concerned with warmth and light. Yuletide, which means "the turning of the sun", is a time of extreme importance in Scandinavia. It's a time when fortunes for the coming year are supposed to be determined. There was a time when the dead were thought t roam the earth at christmas in Scandinavia! It was considered dangerous to sleep alone on christmas eve. Master and servant alike would sleep together on a freshly spread bed of straw. As for the yule log, it was originally an entire tree, chosen with great care and brought into the house with great ceremony. The butt end was placed in the hearth and the rest of the tree stuck out in the room. The tree was slowly fed into the fire and the whole process was timed carefully to last all Yule season. Nw there's some traditions I've never heard of!
Wow! Venezuela has some very different but interesting traditions! Early every morning between December 16th and 24th, Venezuelans attend a daily morning church service called Misa de Aguinaldo. In Caracas, the capital city, it's customary to roller-skate to this service! Most neighborhoods close the streets to cars until 8 a.m. Here's the coolest thing about this tradition: before bedtime, children tie one end of a piece of long string to their big tow and hang the other end out the window. The next morning, roller-skaters gently tug any string they see hanging out! After mass, people head back to their homes to enjoy tostadas and coffee.
The Japanese people didn't always celebrate christmas. Christmas was introduced in Japan by the Christian missionaries, and for a long time the only people who celebrated it were those who had turned to the christian faith. But now The christmas season in japan is widely observed and holds much meaning. One western custom in observing christmas that has been adopted by the Japanese people is gift exchanging. Stores enthusiastically display appropriate gifts for men, women and children alike! The nativity scenes are especially appealing to little girls in Japan because they love anything having to do with babies. And Japanese children never sleep in cradles, so the manger holds a large amount of fascination.
However, New Years Day is more celebrated than Christmas. On New Year's Eve, homes are cleaned from top to bottom and everyone dresses in their finest clothes. Then the father of the house marches thru each room followed by all the family, and throws dried beans into every corner, bidding the evil spirits to withdraw and good luck to enter.
Poland has a very elaborate tradition called Wigilia which I found quite fascinating! Beginning on Christmas Eve, a strict 24-hour fast begins which ends with a huge christmas feast! And in honor of the star of Bethlehem, the meal cannot begin until the first star of the night appears! I wonder what they would do on a cloudy night! Once the star appears, a special rice wafer is blessed by the parish priest, broken into little pieces and shared by all. Then the meal finally begins! The feast has 12 courses, one for each Apostle. And the table is always set with one extra seat in case a stranger or the Holy Spirit should appear to join in and share the meal.
Isn't it neat to see how other countries celebrate christmas? I had no idea there were so many other interesting traditions around the world! Do you know of any different or rare traditions from other countries? Which of these do you find the most inspiring and enlightening?
Top Photo Credit: EdZa