Christmas is celebrated all over the world in a multitude of countries, and each one has its own version on the traditions and customs followed to celebrate this festive season. Some families see the season as a time to spend valuable time with their partner and children, and also as a celebration of their religion by going to church. Catholics attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve, whilst Christians might go on Christmas morning or any of the services held on each of the twelve days of the season. Bethlehem is a popular holiday destination for the special Midnight Mass and the place of Jesus’ birth in the ancient Church of the Nativity.
Other popular semi-religious ceremonies at Christmas are singing carols, both in church and door-to-door in the locality and lighting candles both in church and around the house, and giving donations to various charities. In some countries, primarily where the Eastern Orthodox Church is popular, it’s normal to observe the festivities at the beginning of December, generally around the 6th, due to their use of the older calendar for figuring religious celebrations. Other countries observe the full twelve days of Christmas by giving gifts every day, right from the eve to the final day.
There’s always lots of celebrations and parties leading up to the 25th itself, for both adults and kids. Often someone dresses up as Father Christmas and handout little presents to the children in advance. Santa Claus is a character recognized and loved by people all over the world, he has a number of names he goes by, in the UK children are more inclined to call him Father Christmas, in Brazil he’s Papai Noel, in Germany Der Weihnachtsmann, and in Belgium, Sinterklaas. A figure of good spirit and benevolence he is popular with kids as they believe him to be the one to bring gifts on Christmas Eve. In the UK a stocking is hung from the fireplace, after landing his reindeer’s on the roof he makes his way down the chimney and fill the stockings with gifts. In Hungary it’s slightly different as Santa comes on December 6th and leaves candy or small toys in the children’s’ shoes.
Christmas dinner is also not the same everywhere and depends on the country you are in as to when it’s eaten and what is eaten. In England the main meal is eaten at lunchtime on the day itself and consists of turkey and all the trimmings, whilst New Zealanders munch on a special dish made of salted, dried codfish with boiled potatoes at midnight on Christmas Eve, and then will either have the traditional meal or even a barbeque on Christmas Day. In Germany, they prefer Carp or Goose, and Russian Christmas dishes include cakes, pies, and dumplings with meat. A special meal is served on Christmas Eve in Sweden consisting of ham, herring, and brown beans, and the Finns love to eat rice porridge on Christmas Eve, and for dinner will have something like a casserole with macaroni, carrots, potato, and rutabaga.
The term Christmas tree originates from the German-speaking world, Tannenbaum translates into fir tree, or Weinachtenbaum, Christmas tree. From here the custom was introduced to England by Prince Albert during the sovereignty of Queen Victoria. Other popular holiday plants include holly, mistletoe, cactus, and red amaryllis. Christian tradition links the holly tree with a crown of thorns, and the story is that the leaves were white until stained red by the blood of Christ. Along with a Christmas tree, the inside of a home can be adorned with these plants, together with wreaths and evergreen flora.
It’s customary to bedeck the outside of houses with fairy lights and illuminated displays like snowmen, sleighs, and other seasonal figures and some householders go way over the top in their decorations. Local councils often sponsor decorations for the villages and towns they provide services to with banners hung in the streets and Christmas trees sited in the town square. Other traditional decorations comprise of stockings, bells, candy canes, wreaths, candles, and angels.