Christmas is truly a worldwide celebration! The customs and traditions observed by various countries can make for fascinating reading. And the best part about learning about other countries’ Christmas traditions is that you may find one you want to become part of your Christmas celebration! Here are some special Christmas traditions from around the world-
•Africa-Christmas day begins with groups of carolers walking through the villages, along the roadway, by the houses of the missionaries, singing the lovely carols that are known the world around. Most families will attend a worship service together where everyone places their gift upon the altar. Afterwards families gather for Christmas dinners preparing tables out in front of their home and inviting many of their closest friends to share in the meal. This meal usually is the traditional dinner of either turkey, roast beef, mince pies, or suckling pig, yellow rice with raisins, vegetables, and plum pudding, concluding with crackers and paper hats. It is interesting to note that Christmas in South Africa is a summer holiday. Schools are closed, and camping is the order of the day. Homes are decorated with pine branches, and most have the decorated Christmas fir in a corner, with presents for the children around the tree. At bedtime on Christmas Eve, children may also hang up their stockings for presents from Father Christmas. On the west coast of Africa, in Liberia, most homes have an oil palm for a Christmas tree, which is decorated with bells. On Christmas morning, people are woken up by carols. Presents such as cotton cloth, soap, sweets, pencils, and books are exchanged. Also in the morning a church service is held in which the Christmas scene is enacted and hymns and carols are sung. Dinner is eaten outdoors with everyone sitting in a circle to share the meal of rice, beef and biscuits. Games are played in the afternoon, and at night fireworks light up the sky.
•Brazil-The people of this vast country are a mix of different ethnic people, and as a former Portuguese colony, they have many Christmas customs which originate from this heritage. One of these traditions is to create a nativity scene or Presepio. Papai Noel or Father Noel is the gift-bringer in Brazil. According to Brazilian legend, he lives in Greenland. When he arrives in Brazil, he is pictured to be wearing silk clothing due to the summer heat. A huge Christmas dinner is served that includes turkey, ham, colored rice, and wonderful vegetables and fruit dishes. Devout Catholics (the majority of religious participants in Brazil) often attend Midnight Mass. Decorations that are used include fresh flowers picked from the garden. Fireworks are lit in the skies over the cites and huge Christmas “trees” of electric lights can be seen against the night skies in major cities such as Brasilia, San Paolo, and Rio de Janeiro.
•China- Even in the predominantly non-Christian nation, Christmas is celebrated. The Christian children of China decorate trees with colorful ornaments. These ornaments are usually made from paper in the shapes of flowers, chains and lanterns. They also hang muslin stockings with hopes that the “Christmas Old Man” will fill them with gifts and treats. Chinese Christmas trees are called “Trees of Light” and Santa Claus is known as Dun Che Lao Ren which means “Christmas Old Man.” While many would think that only a few would celebrate Christmas in China, the non-Christian Chinese call this season the Spring Festival and celebrate with many festivities that include delicious meals and paying respects to their ancestors. The children become the main focus of these celebrations while they receive new clothes and toys, eat delicious food and watch fireworks displays.