It is time for Christmas

December 17, 2018Niry Fidelis

Christmas Traditions Around the World

Christmas is just behind the corner and before you dive into your Christmas destination find out how Christmas is celebrated in some countries around the world. It is really crazy that every country has its own way to celebrate Christmas. Beside of commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, it is also a cultural celebration and most of the time it is synonymous with holidays and gifts.

As for us let me start by saying that we have finally bought our tree last Saturday at the “Mondo Verde Garden Centre” in Taneto di Gattatico and Alessandro has fixed it already while I was just sitting on the sofa watching him at work. Now it is waiting for its gifts. 

People around the world celebrate Christmas in different ways, for some, it is all about food, for some others, it is about decorations and gifts and sadly at this generation only for few it is about holiness. Norwegian Christmas traditions, for example, are focused on Christmas Eve than the Christmas day itself.

Christmas Card

Although Sri Lanka is a mostly Buddhist country since it has only 7% of Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a public holiday by everyone of any religion. Sri Lanka was ruled by the Portuguese from 1505 to 1650, the Dutch from 1658 to 1796 and the British from 1815 to 1948; for this reason Christmas traditions in Sri Lanka are a mixture of western and native customs. It is then very normal to see the streets decorated with colourful lights and shopping malls having large Christmas Trees in them. In the year 2016 Sri Lanka so proudly presented the world’s tallest artificial Christmas tree which was built on the Galle Face Green in Colombo; the tree was 72.1m (236 ft. 6.58 in) tall and opened on Christmas Eve 2016.

Big companies celebrate Christmas parties with dinners, music and dance. For Christians going to Midnight Mass is very important and it is usual wearing a new dress for this occasion. On the 25th they invite friends, both Christian and non-Christian to their homes for parties, lunch or dinner.  They also visit relatives for giving their Christmas wishes. In Sri Lanka, the holiness comes first and everything turns around it!

Merry Christmas in the Sinhalese language is said, ‘Suba Naththalak Wewa’ and in Tamil “Nathar Walthukkal”.  

Christmas quotes

Contrary to what we all could believe, one of the most important ways of celebrating Christmas in Italy is dinner and lunch; for Christmas eve they always eat fish dishes and meat only the 25th. Yes, it is often food centred.   Most of the time everything comes after this! Having a Nativity crib and a Christmas tree in the house is very popular which are traditionally put out on the 8th of December. But the figure of the baby Jesus isn’t put into the crib until the evening/night of December 24th! Gifts are opened on the 24th night after dinner. 

During the Christmas period, a special cake called Panettone is sold everywhere, it is also used to exchange wishes among the people. If you are close to Modena and If you ever have a chance to buy one I’ll suggest you the homemade Panettone from Reverberi’s Bakery of Sassuolo. All the companies celebrate Christmas by giving a gift box with yummy treats to their Employees. In Italian Merry Christmas is said ‘Buon Natale’. 

Epiphany is also important in Italy. On Epiphany night, children believe that an old lady called ‘Befana’ brings presents for them. Children put stockings up by the fireplace for Befana to fill. 

Christmas Wish card

People in the Philippines like to celebrate Christmas for as long as possible, yes the Christmas season starts in September but the formal Christmas celebrations start on 16th December when many people go the first of nine pre-dawn or early morning masses.  The Christmas celebrations continue until the First Sunday in January when the Feast of the Three Kings is celebrated. In the Philippines, the early masses held before Christmas are called the ‘Misa de Gallo’ or ‘Simbang Gabi’ in Filipino. Most Filipinos are Christians with about 80% of people being Catholics. It’s the only Asian country with so many Christians. Because of this, Christmas is the most important event in the Philippines. 

Like in Sri Lanka, Christmas customs in the Philippines are a mixture of western and native traditions since Christianity became widely known in the country in the 1500s when missionaries from Spain travelled and conquered the country. So people in the Philippines have Santa Claus, Christmas trees, Christmas gifts, Christmas cards and Christmas carols same like in the western countries! Nevertheless, they also have their own Christmas traditions such as the ‘parol’ which is a bamboo pole or frame with a lighted star lantern on it. It’s traditionally made from bamboo strips and coloured Japanese paper or cellophane paper and represents the star that guided the Wise Men. 

It is the most popular Christmas decoration in the Philippines. Christmas Eve is very important in the Philippines. Many people stay awake all night into Christmas day! During Christmas Eve evening, Christians go to church to hear the last ‘simbang gabi’ or the Christmas Eve mass. This is followed by a midnight feast, called Noche Buena which is wish dropping event. Carol singings are permitted only in certain days on December. The Philippines has eight major dialects and they commonly use Merry Christmas for wishes. 
Auguri di Buon Natale

Poland is a largely Catholic country, as it is, the Polish have plenty of traditions around Christmas. So so so many that sometimes it gets very late before the kids can finally open their gifts. Advent is the beginning of the Christmas season and it is a kind of fasting period. I mean they don’t exceed with food drinks and parties. Some people also go to Church quite frequently. They have special masses at dawn dedicated to Mary for receiving the good news from the angel Gabriel.

During Advent, people also prepare their houses for Christmas. Everything must be clean for the Christmas day! For example, people wash their doors, windows, cars and clean their carpets very thoroughly. 

One of the popular event before Christmas is “Jasełka”, a Nativity Plays for children.

The Christmas Eve is a very important day for the Polish and traditionally it was a day of hard fasting. Like in Italy, the Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia. The 24th supper is eaten only when the first star is seen in the sky! The beetroot soup here is one of the most important dishes is and it’s obligatory to have it. Meat is not allowed to be eaten. Carp is often the main dish of the meal. Traditions want the fish to be bought alive a few days earlier and it is kept alive in the bath basin until it’s killed by the lady of the house! The young generation seems not following this tradition anymore. It is strongly believed that scales of the carp brings fortune and many keep it for the whole year. Some old ladies put it in their bras during the supper and give it the next day to the guest for a good luck!

At the beginning of the supper, a large unholy wafer which has a picture of Mary, Joseph and Jesus on it is passed around the table and everyone eats a piece of it as a symbol of wish exchanging. At the meal table, a seat is often left empty for an unexpected guest. Carol singings are followed by the supper and followed by that the presents are opened.

The Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve. In some houses, there is also a custom of breaking one of the Christmas Tree decorations out of the house to scare the evil for the whole next year! Christmas Eve ends by going to the Midnight Mass. In Polish Merry Christmas is said ‘Wesołych Świąt’. Polish Children also often get dressed up and go carol singing on Epiphany, January 6th.

Christmas wishes

Due to its multi-cultural nature, the United States of America has many different ways to celebrate Christmas. Because of this as well also the Christmas meal depends on people’s origins. Nevertheless, most of the time, eating turkey or ham with cranberry sauce is very common. For Christmas Eve, they use to have supper with the respective households and then they go to the church. Meanwhile, the lunch of the 25th is extended to all the other members of the family where the owner of the house prepares the main dish and everyone brings something. Gifts are opened only after lunch. Most of the Americans decorate the Christmas tree on the day before Christmas, only a few do it earlier: it depends on how much religious you are.
Many churches have special Christmas Carol services and events where the birth of Jesus is told
In some of the American States like Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, there are shops called ‘Christmas Shops’ that only sell Christmas decorations and toys all along the year!
More than anywhere else, Americans like to decorate the outsides of their houses with lights and sometimes even Santa’s statues, Snowmen and Reindeer. Some cookies and glass of milk are often left out as a snack for Santa on Christmas Eve!
The official opening of the Christmas season starts with the Christmas parade which is a celebration of the arrival of Santa. The parades usually include themed floats, dancing or marching groups and bands playing Christmas songs. Santa always appears in the last float and keeps on giving candies to the people. They are moving pageants that typically end near the Centre of a city.
Americans like to send out Christmas cards and Carol singing they also have a Christmas Pickle traditionan ornamental pickle is placed on a Christmas tree as one of the Christmas decorations. On Christmas morning, the first child to find the pickle on the tree would receive an extra present from Santa Claus or would be said to have a year of good fortune.
In Hawaii, Santa is called Kanakaloka!
Free Christmas Cards

That is all for this year! Me With My Suitcase is giving out some Christmas e-cards for free, you can use them for your wishes. Contact me in case you want me to customize a card for free. For this Christmas, please, take your time and write MERRY CHRISTMAS and not MERRY ‘XMAS! 

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Comments (13)

  • Stacie

    December 17, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    This was such a great read! I love Christmas, and I love to learn about other cultures. This was a two-fer for me!

  • Unknown

    December 17, 2018 at 9:06 pm

    I love Christmas! thanks for sharing such a wonderful post!

  • BrittnieNicole

    December 18, 2018 at 2:58 am

    I love traveling in December and seeing Christmas celebrated in so many different ways. It's so much fun seeing the decorations and cultures adding their own traditions.

  • Stephanie Jeannot

    December 18, 2018 at 3:40 am

    Seeing the decorations on the oustide of people's houses makes me smile. Just adds a sense of this beauty to my day and makes me feel joy inside. I love caroling. We eat the turkey on Christmas day. I sometimes go to the Christmas eve service but mostly on Christmas day.

  • Lisa

    December 18, 2018 at 9:01 am

    This makes me feel all Christmassy after reading this. I just returned from the Philippines, and they love Christmas there, in fact they start celebrating from 1 November! Merry Christmas!

  • Catherine Santiago Jose

    December 18, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Celebrating Christmas is so wonderful and I agree with you that Philippines is celebrating Christmas as long as it possible and you really feel the spirit of Christmas when you are in this country.

  • Yeah Lifestyle

    December 18, 2018 at 10:04 am

    It was such an interesting read, did not know that Sri Lanka only has 7% of Christians and Christmas is a public holiday there

  • With Love M

    December 18, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    Wow… I loved learning so much. I had no idea of tis at all. Great research.

  • Rachel @ Love, Rachel

    December 18, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    Wow, this post was so informative!! I had no idea about most of these traditions. SO cool

  • Becca Wilson

    December 19, 2018 at 12:25 am

    I loved reading about all these traditions. I had no idea that there were so many different ones!

  • Dear Mummy Blog

    December 19, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    What a fascinating post and we love hearing about other cultures Christmas traditions x

  • CourtneyLynne

    December 20, 2018 at 9:56 pm

    Ooooo fascinating to hear about all the different Christmas traditions! Crazy that every country does Christmas their own way

  • Natalia A

    December 21, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    This was such an interesting and informative read! I loved learning about different Christmas traditions around the globe! I come from Argentina and here the tradition is mostly about the reunion. Of course as we have much Italian and Spanish influence food and drinks are also very important. But as we are in the middle of Summer with very high temperatures, we drink more than we eat, we celebrate more during nightime (lower temperatures) of the 24th, after midnight, sometimes celebrations include joyful music and dance (and more fresh drinks). On the 25th we sleep in! lol

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