Cultural Holiday Traditions: Christmas Around the World
Raising culturally aware children has become more and more important today. The melting pot of cultures is what makes our lives rich with heritage and diversity. In recognition of the many traditions of Christmas, we wanted to find out how it was celebrated all over the world. How do other countries celebrate? What are their recognized holidays? What are some of their traditions? So join us for a Christmas Around the World celebration!
First Stop: Australia
How do Australians say Merry Christmas? English is the predominant language, therefore they say "Merry Christmas". But if you wanted to add a little flavor some say" 'Ave a good one, mate". The most popular event of the Christmas season is called Carols by Candlelight. People come together at night to light candles and sing Christmas carols outside. The stars shining above add to the sights and sounds of this wonderful outdoor concert. Australian families love to do things outside, therefore they even have their Christmas feast outside on the "barbie". BRRRR!!!! right? No need for winter children's hat, because they are in the southern hemisphere and their Christmas is a summer holiday. No white Christmas for them, unless you count the white sandy beaches.
Next Stop: China
Christians in China call Christmas "Sheng Dan Jieh", which means Holy Birth Festival. Families celebrate by lighting their houses with beautiful paper lanterns and decorating their Christmas trees with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns that symbolize happiness. Their Christmas trees are referred to as the "Trees of Light." Chinese Children hang muslin stockings and await a visit from Santa Claus, whom they call Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run) which means "Christmas Old Man." The popular icon Santa Claus is seen as a symbol of luck.
Stop 3: The Merry Ole England
Many holiday traditions from this country were infused into other countries with the settling of immigrants years ago. Christmas eve is filled with gift wrapping, baking, and hanging of stockings in preparations of their visit from Father Christmas. Caroling is a popular tradition and they are met with treats from the houses they visit. Children write their Christmas wishes on paper to throw into the fireplace so their wishes can go up the chimney to Father Christmas. Celebrations of Christmas day are filled with receiving gifts, family feasts and a special message from the Queen of England. One tradition unique to merry 'ole England is the Christmas cracker. It is popped open at dinner to reveal a paper hat to wear, a small trinket, and a riddle for the table to solve.
Next Stop: France
The celebrations begin on December 5, which is St. Nicholas Eve. It is a day for gift giving between friends and relatives. On that night, children leave their shoes by the hearth so Pere Noel, Father Christmas, will fill them with gifts. The family fasts all day, then everyone attends church. A few days before December 25th, the family sets up a nativity scene, called a crèche. It is the centerpiece of the Christmas celebration. Children gather around it each night to carols every night until Epiphany, on January 6. A traditional dish of this country is the Buche de Noel - a buttercream-filled cake shaped like a Yule log.
Last Stop: Germany
German families prepare for Christmas throughout four Sundays in December. The Advent wreath of fir or pine branches contains four candles which they light each Sunday. The Advent calendar is part of their traditions as well, it is used to count the days until Christmas. Lebkuchen, a native spicy cookie and marzipan confections are the traditional desserts for the holidays. On December 6th, St Nicholas day is celebrated by children writing their letter of all their wishes for the holiday. The Christ Child also bears gifts for German children and he receives these little letters of wishes as well. Christmas eve is considered a magical time, even the animals can talk on this night. The Christmas tree tradition was started in this country and is the heart of their celebrations. Some German children don't hang stockings, they fill their shoes with carrots and hay and leave them outside of the front door. These treats are for Santa's horse that helps him deliver the gifts. If they were good children that year, the next morning their shoes will be filled with apples, nuts and even candy. Celebrations don't end until January 6th, for the twelve days of Christmas many people beat drums to ward off spirits. Children dress up like the Three Kings carry a star on a pole then go through town caroling in remembrance of the Baby Jesus.
Many traditions from around the world can be found in our own family celebrations. Children learn by watching and participating in the family traditions. Peace, love and joy to the world - the reason for this worldwide celebration.