Christmas Eve traditions around the world
Christmas Eve traditions around the world
Christmas Eve or December 24 is that magical evening when you are eating a delicious dinner with family and friends and children are waiting for Santa. However, things don’t look exactly like this all over the world. Here is what people do on Christmas Eve in various countries:
People usually go to a mass in the late afternoon and have Christmas dinner in the garden, because in the Southern Hemisphere it’s summer in December. Typical dishes include roasted pork, turkey, or goat, stuffed tomatoes, salads, and puddings. Fireworks are being launched at midnight to announce the birth of Christ. Meanwhile, people start opening gifts under the Christmas tree and afterwards stay up until late with family and friends. Most of the Christmas Day is spent sleeping.
Because it’s also summer in Australia, people may be camping at Christmas. In spite of the summer heat, the Aussie hang wreaths on their front doors and sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve just like people in the Old World do. According to a popular Australian Christmas song, Santa gives his reindeers a rest when he reaches Australia and uses kangaroos instead.
Danish children are very lucky as they may receive 24 small gifts, one for each day of December until Christmas Eve. Most people go to church for Christmas service on December 24 to hear the Christmas sermon. Afterwards they have a walk and feed animals and birds, as it is customary for people in Denmark to give animals a treat on Christmas Eve.
You’ll always find an interesting version of Christmas in non-Christian countries, including Japan. In the Nippon archipelago, Christmas is known as a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration, and Christmas Eve is more important than Christmas day, resembling Valentine’s Day celebrations, with romantic meals and eating at KFC. The next day schools and businesses are normally open because Christmas is not a national holiday.
Artificial Christmas trees usually decorate Nigerian homes and presents are exchanged. Nigerians also serve turkey, but their Christmas meals can also include beef, goat, sheep, or chicken. Children receive new clothes and are taken by parents to see Santa Claus. Most families throw Christmas parties on December 24 and people go to church on Christmas morning to give thanks to God.
The actual Christmas celebrations begin on Christmas Eve, when families decorate the Christmas tree. Children go out carol singing from home to home and are offered traditional sweets and money for singing well. Sometimes adults go carolling as well. Carol singers usually carry with them the “Star Carol” a star made of coloured paper, silver foil, and bells, and featuring a nativity scene in the middle. The majority of Romanians eat pork for Christmas dinner, and traditional foods are made from the pig slaughtered on December 20, when people celebrate St. Ignatius’s Day.
Spanish people go to Midnight Mass or “La Misa Del Gallo” on December 24, and have dinner before the service. Seafood is a popular choice for Christmas dinners, especially in Galicia. After the midnight service people go out on the streets carrying torches, singing, and playing guitars. Four days later, on December 28, the Spanish celebrate the “Day of the Innocent Saints”, which is similar to April Fool’s Day – people try to trick each other and even TV stations share silly stories.
In Sweden people use hay straws to make decorations in order to remind them that Jesus was born in a manger. Most times, straw is used to make goats that guard the Christmas tree – even huge ones, like the straw goat that has been built in the city of Gävle each year since 1966. On Christmas Eve afternoon Swedes watch Donald Duck on TV – about half of the Swedish population watches “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas”, and the habit dates back from 1959.
Unlike most countries, Ukraine celebrates Christmas on January 7 because it follows the old ‘Julian’ calendar for religious celebrations. This means that Christmas Eve is celebrated on January 6, and people may fast all day long before having dinner. It is said that you have to wait until the first star is seen in the sky and only afterwards you can eat. All the patience is worth, although, because the meal has 12 dishes, representing Jesus’s 12 disciplines. The main dish is “kutia”, a sweet porridge made of wheat. Another Christmas custom specific to Ukraine is decorating the Christmas tree with artificial spider’s web – the legend says that a poor woman did not afford to decorate her Christmas tree, and she found a glittering web spider decorating her tree on Christmas morning.
What other Christmas Eve traditions do you know and which do you hold with your family? Share with us the way you celebrate Christmas!