Christmas in Different Countries
Celebration of the beautiful and solemn holiday of the nativity of Jesus is not the same in different countries. Each nation bears the imprint of the customs and traditions of their ancestors.
Christmas in Italy
In Italy people throughout the country make an especially great clear-out before Christmas. On the festive night, the city life is quiet and calm, and it is impossible to find an opened shop, restaurant, or bank. Public transport also practically does not work.
Christmas service begins exactly at midnight and lasts for an hour and a half. In the Vatican, the mass is served by the Pope. In each church must be installed a nativity scene – a miniature nursery with the figure of newborn Jesus. According to tradition, Christmas service must be attended by the whole family, without exception. But over the past years, the percentage of believing Italians has fallen dramatically. For today, they are only 20 percent of people that regularly attend the mass. Therefore, not all people go to church.
Italians traditionally cook for Christmas dinner the following dishes: pork legs, sausages, baked fish, pasta, and panettone (cake with candied fruits and raisins.) Each family member receives gifts early in the morning on December 25. Previously, Italians loved to receive extremely useful things, but now you can present anything to make the person pleased.
Christmas in Spain
It’s a very cheerful Christmas in Spain. The central streets of Madrid, Barcelona, and other cities are crowded with people on December 25. Local people dress up in national costumes, and start dancing and singing all the time. Tranquil fun is accompanied by widely spread illumination, and Christmas trees on every corner accompanied with wandering Santa Clauses, magicians, and jugglers. Before the Christmas Mass, it is common to gather at the central entrance to the church and dance, holding hands. Almost everyone visits the church, but usually for a short time. The main time is spent in the company of friends and relatives eating festive food in a restaurant, with a lot of wine and champagne.
The stores close on the 24th of December about six o’clock in the evening. But all night long, souvenirs (Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, national flags and T-shirts of favorite football teams) and confectionery shops are profitable. People’s festivities do not end with the morning. On December 25, the holiday continues, and again in the restaurant, “where it is impossible to get in just from the street (reservation must be made in advance).
Christmas in Czech Republic
In Prague,Czech Republic, people decorate the Christmas tree with special care on the evening of the 24th of December. This time of the day is called generous. First, they give gifts to each other for a good mood and then they have supper with the whole family.
After supper, they begin the tradition of predicting their futures. The most common method is make predictions with apples. The fruit is cut across, and if the right asterisk is obtained from the seeds, then the coming year will be happy. In addition, it is customary to launch lighted candles in the shells of walnuts on the water. If the candle won’t sink, then the person will live one happy year.
Christmas in Austria
In Austria, on 24th of December, the whole family goes to church. Only after the solemn service the Austrians return home and allow themselves a little refreshment. Each house is pleased with the large tree decorated with chocolate and marmalade. Over dinner, at first they eat national soup noodles, and on the second – carp. During the meal the Austrians are not accustomed to closing the entrance doors. At any time, relatives, friends, and just acquaintances can join the owners. On Christmas Eve, it is customary to dress in the best costumes and dresses.
Christmas in Germany
Christmas in Germany is called Weihnachten and is an unforgettable holiday when the whole family gathers together. Here Christmas is not limited to Christmas Eve and two festive days. It begins four weeks before Christmas. This period is called Adventszeit, which can be translated as “advent season.” Christmas stores open their doors and offer all kinds of home decorations and presents.
Christmas in France
Christmas in France is celebrated on the 25th of December with a traditional dinner with family.The Christmas dinner is usually served with bird (a goose in the north-east of France, and a turkey with chestnuts in Burgundy) and the best wine or champagne, truffles, foie gras, and oysters. In Brittany, the Christmas dinner is also served with buckwheat cakes with sour cream, and in Provence the dinner is served with thirteen desserts which symbolize Christ and the Twelve Apostles. A traditional Christmas dessert is a cake in the form of a log, which is called la bûche de Noël.
Houses are customarily decorated with Christmas trees and flowers that are placed throughout the house in the form of bouquets. The symbol of the holiday is mistletoe. According to the legend, it is able to bring good luck in the upcoming year. Le Père Noël (the equivalent of Santa Claus) gives presents to most of the children. Adults receive presents on the New Year.
Christmas in Switzerland
Christmas in Switzerland begins with a church Christmas mass, which takes place in all cities and villages. Religious Christmas chants continue at home around the festive Christmas tree. By the way, toys, bells, and bows for the Christmas tree in every family are handmade (they don’t purchase ready toys). Generally, the Swiss are beginning to prepare a month before the very day: a special wreath table is laid out of branches and flowers and every Sunday they lit a candle. The appearance of the fourth candle means the onset of Christmas. And on any festive table rests traditional salmon and a special recipe cooked roast.
Christmas in Japan
Christianity is one of the minority religions in Japan, but even non-Christians like Christmas (called “Curismasu”). The seligious component of Christmas is almost invisible, so this holiday is more like a colorful festival. The celebration of Christmas in Japan is not connected with the birth of Jesus Christ and exists outside the biblical context, only Christians attend the Christmas service.
Christmas in Japan is spent either with friends or with a beloved one. This holiday is associated with a cheerful and noisy party or a romantic date. Since Christmas is a working day, the most interesting things happen on the eve. Christmas Eve is considered a more romantic and festive day than Christmas itself. For the Japanese it is unorthodox to give Christmas presents. But there are two exceptions: parents give presents to small children and couples exchange presents with each other. In general, for couples, Christmas is an important holiday, comparable to a birthday, anniversary, or even a wedding.
Maddox, Richard. “Unwrapping Christmas.” Sociology of Religion, 22 Dec. 1994.
Restad, Penne L. “Home for Christmas: Christmas Trees and Christmas Giving.” Christmas in America, June 1997, pp. 57–74.
Stalcup, Ann. “Welcome to Germany.” Faces: People, Places, and Cultures, 1 Oct. 2013.
From the GPALabs Team
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