Christmas Traditions From Around The World... A Sampling
Christmas is celebrated the world over. And each nation add their local color to the celebrations. From exchanging apples to having bonfires, remembering the birth of the Baby who was born to be King can be quite an event.
Roasted turkey, roasted pork, even goat meat, stuffed tomatoes, salads and Christmas bread and puddings like 'Pan Dulce' and Panetone are popular.
The celebrations run till midnight and then fireworks welcome in Christmas day. Globos (like Chinese lanterns) are released into the skies.
Some people stay awake all the night chatting and seeing friends and family and then spend most of Christmas Day sleeping.
In Argentina the main language spoken is Spanish (still called castellano by Argentines), so Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Feliz Navidad'.
Christmas is known as 'Borodin' (or 'Bara din') which means 'the big day' in Bengali.
In big towns and cities, shops and hotels will have 'western' style Christmas decorations. Christians who live in big towns and cities often try and go home to their villages to spend Christmas with their families.
Traditionally in Bengali churches, the men sit on one side of the church and women sit on the other. Popular Christmas songs include 'Aaj Shuvo Borodin bhai, aaj Shuvo Borodin' which means 'Today is Happy Borodin, friend/brother, today is Happy Borodin'.
Another type of traditional song from Bangladesh which is also sung at Christmas, in churches and homes, are 'kirtan'. In Bengali Christian culture, the kirtan is performed with a singer who leads the song and everyone else follows. The songs starts off slowly but gets faster and faster! The song is done with people in a circle - the leader stands in the middle. So when it starts you walk slowly around the circle but by the end you're dancing/running around! The leaders also sometimes dance in and out of the circle as it gets faster. Kirtans are also done in villages from house to house.
Following church services, especially in rural areas, it's traditional that everyone has Christmas dinner together at the church. This is called the 'Preeti-bhoj' or 'Prem-bhoj' which means 'love feast'. The meal often includes dishes like chicken and vegetable curries served with rice and vegetables.
However you celebrate Christmas, may the song of the angels be your song too: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
In Chinese Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Sheng Dan Kuai Le' in Mandarin. Only a few people have a Christmas Tree (or celebrate Christmas at all!). The strange thing is that most of the world's plastic Christmas Trees and Christmas decorations are made in China, but the people making them might not know what they are for.
A tradition that's becoming popular, on Christmas Eve, is giving apples. Many stores have apples wrapped up in colored paper for sale. People give apples on Christmas Eve because in Chinese Christmas Eve is called "Ping'an Ye" (night of peace). The word for apple in Mandarin is "píngguǒ" which sounds like the word for peace for the nation.
Ethiopia (and especially the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) still use the old Julian calendar, so they celebrate Christmas on 7th January.
Many people take part in a special Advent fast during the 43 days before Christmas. It starts on 25th November and is known as the 'Fast of the Prophets' (Tsome Neviyat). During this time, traditionally only one vegan meal is eaten each day.
At dawn on the morning of Ganna (Christmas day), people get dressed in white. Most people wear a traditional garment called a shamma. It's a thin white cotton piece of cloth with brightly colored stripes across the ends.
Everyone who goes to church for the Ganna celebrations is given a candle. The people walk around the church three times in a solemn procession, holding the candles. They then go to the second circle and stay standing during the service. The men and boys are separated from the women and girls. The center circle is the most important and holy place in the church and is where the priest serves the Holy Communion or mass.
Twelve days after Ganna, on 19th January, Ethiopians start the three day celebration of Timkat. It celebrates the baptism of Jesus. Children walk to church services in a procession. They wear the crowns and robes of the church youth groups that they belong to. Adults wear the shamma. The priests wear red and white robes and carry embroidered fringed umbrellas.
In Montenegro, Christmas Eve is on 6th January and Christmas Day is on the 7th.
Christmas Eve is called 'Badnji dan' during the day and 'Badnje veče' after sunset. It's a time where families prepare for Christmas. Many don't eat food that comes from animals on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve morning, it was traditional for men to go out into the woods and cut a type of Yule Log called a 'Badnjak' (Christmas Eve tree), normally from an oak tree. The Badnjak is brought into the house on Christmas Eve evening and is meant to burn through the evening and night.
Outside the churches, there are often large bonfires where people gather in the early evening on Christmas Eve. There are sometimes nativity and Christmas plays put on either outside or inside the churches. People can bring special Badnjak to put on the bonfires.