Happy Holidays from around the world! Each year we get wrapped up in our own holiday world, enjoying family and traditions that we all love and keep alive for generations. Isn’t it strange that we tell small children that a fat man who eats cookies slides down a chimney (I was in fact one of those kids without a chimney, and I still didn’t catch on to my parents until later in life) to leave them presents for no reason? Whether it be singing carols after dinner or watching It’s A Wonderful Life for the 9,000th time, these traditions are unique to everyone and hold a solid ground during the holiday season. While we’re positive that you already have some fantastic traditions already planned, we’ve decided to enlighten our readers with some new traditions from around the world. Take a look at the the different festivities that people of international cultures take part in to celebrate their holiday season!
Many Hungarians celebrate Christmas as a two day event. Interestingly enough, a traditional Hungarian Christmas is only celebrated with immediate family. Instead of traveling to see extended family, Hungarians keep the holiday within their own home. Like many other cultures, Hungarians celebrate with a Christmas tree that is decorated on “the holy night” (December 24th). Instead of decorating the tree as a family though, Hungarian elders decorate the tree, as a surprise for the children in the morning, who usually believe angels brought the tree.
Many European countries celebrate Christmas night, but they also celebrate the religious day that the Three Wise Men made it to Bethlehem. In Spain, the people celebrate Christmas night by attending a midnight mass and then having a feast. Following the feast, the people rush to the streets to dance and celebrate the night together. Usually they take part in a dance called the jota. The Children receive presents on January 6th, the Three Wise Men’s day. They leave straw or barley in their shoes for the tired camel who have to carry the Three Wise Men. By morning, the straw should be replaced with presents.
India is largely populated by different religious backgrounds, but their Christmas is quite different than what is a Hallmark “traditional” Christmas. The people of India decorate banana or mango trees as their Christmas trees and place red flowers, usually poinsettias, in their churches and homes. They also use oil lamps to bring light to their homes during the holiday season. The people who live in India give Baksheesh or presents to their family members, and many families give charity to the poor instead of presents to their family.
A Venezuelan Christmas is typically traditional of a Latin American Christmas barring a few differences. In Venezuela, the people are expected to attend at least one of nine caroling sessions leading up to the last session on Christmas Eve. During these sessions, bells are sounded and fire crackers are shot into the night’s sky from the time the people go to sleep to just before dawn. Children in Venezuela celebrate similarly to that of children in Spain. They believe the Magi will leave them a gift if they leave food for their camels at their bedside. One difference between the traditions is that the Venezuelan children believe if they wake up with a black mark of ask on their face that Balthazar, an Ethiopian king, kissed them while asleep.
A majority of the Japanese people do not believe in Jesus Christ, yet they still celebrate Christmas, however it is a much different Christmas. The Japanese people believe in a Buddhist god, Hotei-osho, who acts very similarly to Santa Claus, leaving the children gifts. It is common for children to behave in the hopes of his gifts because some believe Hotei-osho has eyes in the back of his head. One of the ways the Japanese people celebrate the holiday season is to give back to the community by helping others, especially the sick.
While a German Christmas has some parallels to an American Christmas, there are many rich traditions during this holiday season. The Germans take cooking for the holiday season to the next level. They set aside December 6th as a day to begin their preparations for the holiday season. All different types of desserts are baked for the coming weeks ahead. In Germany, it is believed that God sends a white-robed angel as a messenger on Christmas Eve. The messenger is known as Christkind, and is usually followed by a present bearing man, Weihnachtsmann, who Germans equate to Santa. In some part of Germany, the people believe a beautiful woman in a crown Christkindl, who is the Christ’s Child, brings present filled baskets for the children.