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Celebrating around the globe

December 3, 2010
By MIKE HUGHES, The Scene

The celebration of Christmas, a Christian holiday to honor the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, has a rich and storied tradition both in the United States and abroad.

The religious celebration expanded into a wealth of secular traditions from Santa Claus, his reindeer, the North Pole and all related traditions.

Many countries celebrate the Christmas season the same way Americans do. Some countries have slight variations while others have a completely different take on the holiday.

One thing is for certain, the Christmas season, whether the focus being on the religious reason for the season for simply reveling in the secular holiday splendor, is a joyous time throughout the world.

Germany

"Frohe Weihnachten!"

While preparations begin long before Dec. 1, the holiday season gets under way children opening the first date of their Advent calendars on the first of the month.

That is soon followed by Nikolaustag or St. Nicholas' Day. It is then that children place their shoes outside a door or window and St. Nicholas' comes by in the night to fill their shoes with little toys and treats if they have been good, or twigs if they have been naughty.

The Christmas tree, or Tannenbaum, is a must for any Christmas celebration in Germany. After all, the first appearance of Christmas trees was recorded in 1605 in Strasburg.

Traditionally, the children are not allowed to see the tree until its been decorated and ready to be presented on Christmas Eve.

A family's faith, or lack thereof, in Germany will dictate just who is bringing the gifts of Christmas Eve.

A secular Father Christmas, dubbed Der Weihnachtsmann, traditionally brings gifts to the northern and Protestant areas of Germany.

Ironically, the tradition of the Christkind, or Christ Child, is still carried on throughout much of Germany and by followers of the Catholic faith. It was actually the reformer Martin Luther that came up with the Christkind as a way to take away from the figure of St. Nicholas.

A child usually depicted with blonde hair and angelic wings, the Christkind also brings gifts to the children.

Ireland

"Nollaig Shona Dhuit"

The Irish share many Christmas-time traditions with Americans, but there are a few variations. There are also some unique to the Emerald Isle.

One difference is in where Father Christmas drops off his gifts. Where Americans hang "stockings by the chimney with care" children in Ireland sometimes use pillow sacks at the foot of their beds to be filled.

On Christmas Eve a candle is left lit in the window to signify hospitality and a welcome for the Holy Family, Mary and Joseph, as they traveled, looking for a place to stay for the night.

The celebrations end of January 6 with the Feast of the Epiphany. It is considered bad luck to take down Christmas decorations before Little Christmas has arrive on Jan 6.

St. Stephen's Day, Dec. 26, is also a major holiday. Traditionally, the wren procession, a group of young boys would traveling house to house with a wren affixed atop a pole, would go singing, dancing and playing music. While the tradition is not held as strongly, the custom of going house to house on Dec. 26 is still followed.

Mexico

Feliz Navidad

Mexican families prepare for the celebration of the Nativity with La Posada, a reenactment of the journey of the Holy Family before the birth of Jesus.

After finding lodging for the night at the house of the designated Posada host family, those gathered will pray the rosary around the nativity scene. Afterward, children will break the pinata.

On Christmas Even, or Noche Buena, Midnight Mass is attended , with large family gatherings to follow after the mass.

Traditionally, children do not celebrate by receiving presents until Three Kings Day on Jan. 6 as Christmas Day is left to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Secular celebrations, complete with Santa Claus and and Christmas-day presents have started to make their way into family celebrations.

Finland

"Hyvaa Joulua"

Father Christmas doesn't have far to travel to bring presents to the Finnish children because it's believed he lives in Korvatunturi, or Lapland, in the Northern part of Finland.

A large tourist theme park called Christmas Land attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Scotland

"Nollaig chridheil huibh"

While Scotland has adopted many of the Christmas traditions of their English counterparts in Great Britain and the United States across the pond, this has only been a relatively recent custom.

Christ's Mass was banned in the United Kingdom during the mid 1600s under the reign of Oliver Cromwell. A ban, issued by Parliament, last for 15 years. But after it was lifted, the Scottish Presbyterian Church continued to discourage Christmas festivities, including a formal mass, for nearly 400 years.

Well into the 1900s, most Scots still worked on Christmas Day and the holiday was marked by church services and hard work.

Children received small gifts and tokens. It was only during the 1950s when Christmas, and the United Kingdom Holiday of Boxing Day, became recognized national holidays.

Japan

Shinnen Omedeto

Only roughly one percent of the Japanese population are practicing Christians. But the Japanese people have come to celebrate the secular traditions of Christmas with a fervor rivaling those of largely Christian nations.

After all, they had been helping produce the toys and decorations for other countries to celebrate the season. Why not get in on the act?

Hoeiosho, the Japanese equivilant of Santa Claus, is a Buddhist monk who brings gifts for the children. The Japanese also partake in the normal traditions of Christmas trees, turkey dinners with all the trimmings, nativity scenes and mistletoe.

For the Japanese Christians, the time is spent in worship and charity for the poor and sick.

Zimbabwe

Merry Kisimusi

Christmas celebrations start in Zimbabwe following a church service, with people going house to house in celebration at parties, visiting family and friends as they go.

At each house presents are exchanged and food is eating.

People wear their best clothing and the children are visited by Santa Claus early in the morning so they can show off their freshly-gotten Christmas loot to their friends by the time the Christmas church service rolls around.

The main dish for the Christmas meal is chicken and rice, being that chicken is expensive and is reserved as a special holiday treat.

The celebration of Christmas, a Christian holiday to honor the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, has a rich and storied tradition both in the United States and abroad.

The religious celebration expanded into a wealth of secular traditions from Santa Claus, his reindeer, the North Pole and all related traditions.

Many countries celebrate the Christmas season the same way Americans do. Some countries have slight variations while others have a completely different take on the holiday.

One thing is for certain, the Christmas season, whether the focus being on the religious reason for the season for simply reveling in the secular holiday splendor, is a joyous time throughout the world.

 
 

 

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