Christmas Around the World
Christmas is one of the most important celebrations among Christians throughout the world. it is both a religious and cultural celebration most often observed on December 25. Traditions range from gift exchanges and family meals to Christmas trees and Nativity displays. At its heart, however, Christmas is a time to recall the beautiful story of Christ’s birth, to draw near to family and friends and bask in the peace and serenity of the season.
For many religions in the U.S. and abroad, Midnight Mass is a highlight of the year. Celebrated on Christmas Eve, it is a peaceful tradition filled with prayer, reflection and music to herald the arrival of the Christ Child
In France, the families gather on Christmas Eve for Reveillon, the holiday meal that typically includes roast turkey with chestnuts, oysters and a variety of cheeses. Nearly every home is decorated with a Nativity crib filled with clay figures of the Holy Family, Wise Men and angels. A Yule log burns in the fireplace through the night.
Peace in China:
Only about one percent of China’s population is Christian, so holiday trees and decorations are rarely seen. However, those who are Christian attend special church services, and in a rapidly growing tradition, give decorated apples to friends and family. Symbols of peace, the apples are wrapped in colored paper and are exchanged on Christmas Eve (called Ping’an Ye), which means “peaceful evening.”
In most German homes, families display Advent calendars as they prepare their hearts to receive Christ in the days leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, the family reads the Bible and sings songs. In families with young children, mothers secretly decorate the Christmas tree while the children are asleep.
Procession of candles:
In Ethiopia, the Christmas celebration is called Ganna, and since it is based on the Julian calendar, it is celebrated on January 7. Most people dress in white cotton garments called shammas and attend Ganna services at 4 a.m. Each churchgoer is given a candle, then takes part in a solemn procession, circling the church three times as they contemplate Christ’s birth.
When in Spain:
The streets come alive in Spain on Christmas Eve. People attend midnight services, then walk through the streets carrying torches, singing, and playing guitars and tambourines. On January 6, the Epiphany is celebrated with the Festival of the Three Kings. On Epiphany Eve, children leave their shoes on windowsills or balconies and find them filled with sweets, walnuts and small gifts the next morning.