Christmas Around the World

Christmas Around the World

Kavya Weaver '20, Staff Writer

Twinkling strings of lights, fluttering snowfall, and steaming mugs of cocoa mark the most beloved holiday of all: Christmas. In the United States, Christmastime is the most heavily romanticized time of the year. Millions of families around the country celebrate the birth of Christ with the classic and familiar traditions we all know and love – decorating a Christmas tree, hanging stockings over the fireplace, and feasting on platters of gingerbread men. With an average annual expenditure of $465 billion, the U.S. is one of the biggest Christmas capitals of the world. However, the enthusiasm and love for Christmas is not unique to the U.S. – many other countries celebrate Christmas with their own sets of distinctive traditions and customs.

Farolitos decorate the front of a home in Mexico.

In Mexico, homes are decorated with lilies and evergreens, and paper lanterns known as farolitos are placed along walls, sidewalks, and windowsills to illuminate streets with the Christmas spirit. The religious festival Las Posadas is celebrated in December to honor Mary and Joseph’s journey to find shelter for Mary to give birth to Jesus. Las Posadas is celebrated by a community procession through the streets of the town. The procession is led by a child dressed as an angel, and the march visits selected homes to ask the occupants for refuge. The hosts traditionally refuse to lodge the members of the parade, but refreshments are provided and Christmas carols are sung at each stop.

Boots filled with gifts on St. Nicholas Day.

Germany is known for its vibrant Christmas markets where a variety of traditional Christmas foods and decorations are sold. One of the most famous German products that is sold at these markets are delicate and colorful handcrafted glass ornaments. In addition to Christmas Day, St. Nicholas Day is also a very important holiday in Germany. On December 6th, children all over Germany place a pair of boots outside their bedroom doors in the hope that St. Nicholas will place candy, fruit, or nuts in their shoes. However, not all children receive gifts. In some parts of Germany, men dressed in demonic costumes play the Krampus, a frightening character who marches from house to house and tries to frighten children into good behavior (with their parents’ permission.) This tradition is centuries old, and the monster stands as the counterpart to St. Nicholas’s jolly and kind manner.

Malva pudding.

Because of its location in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas in South Africa is celebrated during the summer. Schools are closed, and many families go camping. Due to the holiday’s summertime date, South Africans celebrate the vitality and bounty of the season with a festive week of feasting, singing, dancing, and picnicking. For many, the holiday is spent mostly outside. Christmas dinner is typically eaten outdoors and includes plum pudding, mince pies, vegetables, turkey, yellow rice, roast beef and other traditional dishes. One popular Christmas dessert is Malva Pudding, a spongy cake that contains apricot jam and is served with a cream sauce.

Filipino parols.

As a majority Christian country, Christmas is a very important holiday in the Philippines. Most Filipinos attend nine early morning masses, leading to the final mass on Christmas Day. The celebrations continue until Epiphany, the first Sunday of January. Like in America, popular traditions in the Philippines include the arrival of Santa Claus, setting up Christmas trees, and singing carols. However, Filipinos also celebrate Christmas with their own unique traditions. On Christmas Eve, many communities gather for the Noche Buena midnight feast. This meal consists of a vast array of dishes, including roasted pig, ham, fruit salad, rice cakes, and sweets. Another iconic Filipino Christmas tradition is the parol. Parols are star-shaped lanterns traditionally made of bamboo and colorful paper. The lanterns pay homage to the Star of Bethlehem that led the Magi to the manger. They also represent the victory of light over darkness, hope, and goodwill.