Christmas Around the World
How different countries celebrate the same holiday
December 23, 2020
Christmas is coming and people all around the world will be celebrating on December 25th. While so many participate in this well-known and popular holiday, the ways in which we celebrate differ greatly, from individual, to family, to culture, and even to country. From Krampus to boat races, not everyone celebrates like those in the U.S. Here is a look at four different countries and how they celebrate this classic holiday.
Greece: the home of the first Olympics. Many Greek Christmas traditions are different from all the rest. On Christmas Eve, children start the night by singing “kalandas” (carols) while carrying around model boats decorated with golden nuts. Boats in Greece carry much meaning because they symbolize Ancient Greek culture. Another tradition is to take a cross and basil on Christmas morning and dip them into Holy water. The mother of the household then sprinkles the water all over the house because it is believed to keep the “kallikantzaroi” (bad spirits) away. The spirits are believed to come from the start of Christmas to the Epiphany of Jesus, which is twelve days. In Greece, “Merry Christmas” is “Kala Christougenna,” and presents aren’t given on Christmas, they are given on January 1st because it is St Basil’s Day.
Australia: The famous Sydney Opera House, The Outback, and Christmas on…the beach? Christmas in Australia takes place towards the beginning of the “summer holiday.” Opposite to the United States, Australians have bushfires rather than snow, and many of our classic traditions are altered to take place at the beach or outdoors. Australians often eat Christmas “lunch” as opposed to “dinner,” including cold meats and fruit platters. A popular tradition in this “land down under” is “chocolate calendars,” similar to our classic Advent calendars, which are used to count the days leading up to December 25. Because this country is surrounded by water, one of their original traditions is the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race, which happens on the 26th of December every year. This prestigious boat race is not only revered by Australians, but is viewed by fans all around the world.
Germany: one of the most popular European countries to visit for holiday travelers. Throughout December, celebrations and traditions take place in which Germans have participated for decades. German children look forward to “Sankt Nikolaus Tag,” or Saint Nicholas Day on December 5th. Before bed, children clean their shoes and leave them outside the door before going to sleep, waking up to their shoes filled with candy and small toys. But there is a dark side to this holiday, too, as “Krampus,” the Christmas antagonist, patrols the streets and punishes naughty children for their behavior.
“Weihnachtsmärkte” is a popular tourist and resident attraction in many parts of Germany. Weihnachtsmärkte translates to “Christmas Markets,” which is a long-lasting tradition in the German culture. Tracing back to the Middle Ages, these little shop set-ups are littered with small twinkling lights and hand-made gifts including ornaments, jewelry, clothes, and baked goods. Sold at these markets is a popular and traditional drink; like eggnog to Americans, “Glühwein” is a sort of steaming drink with flavors of spices and citruses. Similar to the U.S., Germans set up Christmas trees, hang wreaths and stockings, and exchange presents with their families on the day of December 25th, although the celebrations can start weeks before and last days after.
The Philippines: A land of beautiful beaches, unrivaled fruit, and the country who wins our Christmas celebratory spirit. Some Filipinos love to celebrate Christmas as long as possible, with celebrations often starting as early as September. Many people attend early masses or “Misa de Gallos” starting on December 16th and go to church until The Feast of the Three Kings takes place on January 6th. One of the most important decorations is the “parol,” which is a bamboo stick with a lighted star on top. It is supposed to represent the star that guided the Wise Men to Jesus Christ. And on Christmas Eve, many Filipinos stay up all night and eat a midnight feast called the Noche Buena. The feast includes many family and friends coming together and eating Lechon, ham, and other sweets. Christmas cheer fills the air on Christmas day when Santa R-Kayma Claus, a Filipino citizen, brings presents and other goods to poorer children and families that may not be able to celebrate the holiday as much as others.