Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, considered to be the Son of God, by Christians and typically observed on December 25. Many countries and cultures around the world have their own Christmas traditions dating back many years. In this slideshow you will learn how a handful of countries celebrate this holiday.
Mexico: The Christmas season begins here in early December and is commemorated with a tribute to the Virgin of Guadalupe. This is followed with a tradition of “Las Posadas” (or “lodging” in Spanish), a march that reenacts Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn in Bethlehem. Poinsettias, a universal symbol of the holiday, were originally brought from Mexico to the U.S. in 1828 by American physician and diplomat Joel R. Poinsett.
England: Did you know an Englishman named John Calcott Horsley helped popularize the sending of Christmas cards? In the 1830s he began producing greeting cards with festive scenes and pre-written holiday messages. Caroling also began in England. Musicians would travel from town to town, visiting homes of the rich in hopes of receiving money or a hot meal in return for their performance.
Australia: Christmas falls in the middle of summer in Australia, so it is not unusual for some parts of the country to reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Christmas day. Children in Australia have their summer holiday from mid-December to early February so camping trips or beach time are common during the Christmas season here.
France: In France, Christmas is called Noel, which comes from the French phrase “les bonnes nouvelles” meaning “the good news.” Some people in southern France will burn a “yule log” from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. This tradition comes from farmers who would use part of the log to ensure good luck for the next year’s harvest.
Germany: Although decorating evergreen trees has been part of the winter solstice tradition in Germany, the first “Christmas trees” to be decorated for the holiday appeared in Strasbourg, on the French-German border, at the start of the 17th century. After 1750 they showed up in other parts of the country, in the 1820s German immigrants decorated Christmas trees in Pennsylvania, and in 1848 the custom spread to nearly every home in America.
United States: Americans celebrate Christmas in many different ways including decorating a Christmas tree, hanging lights outside their home, giving gifts and sending greeting cards to friends and family. Many Christians attend special church services as well. Christmas was one of the first federal holidays declared in America on December 25, 1870. Other traditions include a hot meal of turkey or ham and holiday treats.
China: Christmas is not a public holiday in China because only around 1 percent of the population is Christian; however, Christmas is a public holiday in Macau and Hong Kong. Although a majority of families hardly celebrate the holiday at all, it has gained big commercial success in the larger internationally-influenced cities and along the coast. One tradition that has evolved here is the giving of apples, since the word apple sounds like the word “peace” in Mandarin.
Greece: In Greece it is believed that “kallikantzaroi” or “bad spirits” appear during the 12-day period to cause mischief from Christmas to Epiphany, which is on January 6. The most important holiday dish for Greeks is Vasilopita – a cake that contains a hidden coin and is eaten on New Year’s Day. Whoever finds the coin is said to have good luck for the remainder of the year.
Brazil: Christmas or “Dia De Festas” as it is known in Brazil, means “the mother of all festivals.” Brazil is a Portuguese speaking country and many of the holiday traditions are inspired by Portuguese, Mexican and American culture. As part of the Brazilian Christmas tradition, Catholics attend midnight Mass at church, often referred to as “Missa de Gallo” (gallo means rooster). This is named as such because it is the rooster that announces the commencement of Mass, finishing in the wee hours of the morning.
More than 160 countries celebrate Christmas! From Canada to Japan to Russia, each country has its own special traditions. Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, what are your family’s traditions? Tweet us @USFunds!
Sources: History.com, TheCultureTrip.com, China Highlights, Indobase Holidays, U.S. Global Investors