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Christmas in other Countries

Thursday, 4 December 2014
Christmas in other Countries

Now that the month of December is fastly approaching, HOW takes a look at how Christmas is celebrated around the world.

Sweden = In Sweden, one of the biggest celebrations is St Lucia’s Day (or St Lucy’s Day) on December 13th, which comes from stories told by monks who brought Christianity to Sweden. St Lucia was a martyred Christian girl killed for her faith in 304 AD. Legend has it that she would bring food to persecuted Christians living in Rome, hiding in the catacombs underneath the city. The event was preceded by a Pagan festival of lights and is now celebrated by a girl in a white dress (with a red sash around her waist and a crown of candles on her head.

Spain = The most important aspect of a Spanish Christmas is Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, which is preceded by the main Christmas meal. A traditional Spanish Christmas dinner consists of turkey stuffed with truffles. After the midnight service, a procession takes place through the streets involving people carrying torches and playing various instruments.

Russia = Christmas in Russia is now celebrated on the 7th of January, as the date is different because the Russian Orthodox Church uses the old calendar for religious celebrations. Russians also celebrated Advent, which runs from the 28th November to the 6th of January.

Poland = In Poland, Christmas starts with Advent. Excess is prohibited during this time, and people often give up their favourite food and drinks and parties are also scarce during this time. Christmas Eve in Poland is traditionally a day of fasting, although a special meal is eaten after the first star appears in the sky. Meat cannot be eaten on this day and the meal usually consists of beetroot soup, pasta and fish.

The Netherlands = Dutch children traditionally receive presents on the 5th of December and major celebrations are also held on this day. St Nicholas’ Day takes place on the 6th and involves St Nicholas travelling around the country – sometimes he even travels to the Palace in Amsterdam!

Mexico = Christmas is celebrated from the 12th of December to the 6th of January in Mexico. During this time many “Posadas” (processions) are held, celebrating the part of the Christmas story where Mary and Joseph are looking for room in an inn. This involves several children calling at the homes of neighbours and friends, they then sing a song and are told there is no room and that they must leave. Eventually they come to a house where they are told there is room and they go in to say a prayer of thanks and they then have a party with food, games and fireworks.

France = In France, Nativity scenes are widely used to decorate houses. They also burn Yule Logs (usually made of Cherry Wood), which are sprinkled with red wine to make them smell nice when burning. They are kept burning during the night with food and drinks left out in case Mary and the baby Jesus visit during the night. In French tradition, Santa is dressed in black. Rather than the traditional Christmas pudding served in the UK, the French tend to eat chocolate yule log cake.

China = China is a mostly secular country with only a small minority of Christians. When Christmas is celebrated it is usually in the major cities and in a similar fashion to Western society, with Christmas trees, lights and Santa’s grottos on display. Giving apples on Christmas Eve is becoming a popular tradition (this is because Christmas Eve in Chinese is known as “Ping An Ye” – meaning silent night – and the Chinese word for apple is “Ping Guo” so they sound similar).

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