With less than a week to go until Christmas day we thought it was a good time to look at how the world celebrates Christmas. For Christians Christmas is a time to honour the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem – “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11).
Christmas has also come to be a time when we share gifts, food and family time together and Father Christmas gets a great look in too!
But over the world there are many other celebrations going on.
Like here in New Zealand the weather is warm over Christmas in Argentina. Houses are decorated with lights and wreaths of green, gold, red and white flowers. Christmas Trees are also popular, and they are often decorated by 8th December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The Nativity scene or ‘pesebre’ is also an important Christmas decoration in Argentina. The pesebre is placed by the Christmas tree.
Christmas Cards aren’t common in Argentina and although some people give and receive presents, it’s normally only between close family and friends.
The main Christmas celebrations take place on Christmas Eve when the Christmas feast is served, often about 10pm or 11pm. At midnight the fireworks go off and the ‘globos’, paper decorations with a light inside that float into the sky (like Chinese Lanterns) are set free.
In Argentina the main language spoken is Spanish (still called castellano by Argentines), so Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Feliz Navidad’.
Finnish people believe that Santa Claus or Father Christmas lives in the north part of Finland called Korvatunturi (or Lapland), north of the Arctic Circle.
In Finland, Santa is known as Joulupukki! This really means ‘Christmas Goat’ as it was traditional in Finland that there was a Yule Goat who was scary and asked people for presents – and certainly didn’t give any out! Over time the goat became the gift giver and then Santa took over the gift giving duties but the name of the Christmas Goat was still retained in Finland! Joulupukki rides with reindeer and leaves gifts under the Christmas tree.
In Finnish Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Hyvää joulua’. In North-Sami, spoken in northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, it’s ‘Buorit Juovllat’.
Animals are given their own Christmas in Finland, with farmers sometimes hanging a sheaf of wheat on a tree to be eaten and pecked at by the birds. Nuts and pieces of suet are also hung on trees in bags from the branches.
Christmas Eve is the most important day over Christmas. It’s traditional to eat rice porridge and plum fruit juice for breakfast and the Christmas feast is eaten in the evening.
Because it gets dark very in most parts of Finland around this time of year, it has become traditional to go cemeteries and visit the graves of family members. Candles in hanging lanterns are left around the grave and the cemetery is alight with glowing lanterns shining in the snow.
Christmas has only been widely celebrated in Japan in the last few decades. Christmas in known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day, it’s become a romantic day, when couples spend time together and exchange presents.
The traditional Japanese Christmas food is Christmas cake, it’s not a rich fruit cake, but is usually a sponge cake decorated with strawberries and whipped cream.
Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan. However, often schools are closed on Christmas Day.
In Japanese Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Meri Kurisumasu’ and Santa is known as santa-san (Mr Santa).
However, you choose to celebrate Christmas this year we hope it is a great one!