People around the world celebrate Christmas, but they often do so by following their own customs and traditions. Here are some interesting ways that different countries celebrate the holiday.
Members of the Armenian Apostolic Church don’t celebrate Christmas on December 25. Instead, they celebrate on January 6, a day that they recognize as the Epiphany when it was revealed that Jesus was the true son of God.
Some Armenian Christians fast during the week leading up to Christmas. They break the fast on Christmas Eve with light meals of fruit, nuts, fish, and rice. This small meal prepares them for a larger Christmas feast, a feast that traditionally includes glazed ham, dried fruits, and a festive pudding.
Since Armenians value the religious nature of Christmas, they exchange gifts on December 31 so they can observe Christmas’s deeper meaning on January 6. On the last day of the year, children receive gifts from Kaghand Papa or Gaghant Baba, which are similar to Santa Claus.
Image via Flickr by misterbisson
Sweden has several unique Christmas customs that draw inspiration from Nordic traditions. The Yule Goat is perhaps the most famous of Sweden’s unique customs. Since 1966, people have erected a large goat sculpture in the town of Gavle. While the goat is meant to represent the Christmas spirit, some people see it as an opportunity to start a big fire.
Locals dress up as elves in attempts to sneak past guards. If successful, they set the goat on fire. So far, the Christmas arsonists have succeeded more than 50 percent of the time.
Less than one percent of Japan’s population identifies as Christian, so the Christmas holiday isn’t as religious as it is in many countries. Despite this, many Japanese people decorate their homes with lights, Christmas trees, and ornaments. Unlike Americans, who traditionally eat goose or turkey on Christmas, the Japanese typically enjoy fried chicken.
Christmas celebrations are held on Christmas Eve instead of December 25. On Christmas morning, young children wake to find presents left by Hotei-osho, a monk with eyes in the back of his head that lets him watch children carefully.
Young men and women often spend the holiday with their significant others. For them, Christmas has become a romantic holiday similar to Valentine’s Day.
Only about 15 percent of Egyptians are Christian. Unlike Japan, the larger culture does not celebrate the holiday. This has protected the holiday from many outside influences, allowing the Christians in Egypt to develop a unique version of Christmas. Over recent years, though, more people in Egypt have started to recognize Christmas as a secular holiday for giving gifts.
Egyptian Christians recognize Christmas on January 7 instead of December 25, but they begin the holiday with a month of observance that includes weekly singing before Sunday services. The Advent starts on November 25. Many Christians follow a strict rule during the 43-day period, eating only vegan foods that do not contain any animal products.
After a large religious service on January 6, families indulge in a variety of regional dishes, including sweet biscuits and a lamb soup called Fata. People spend January 7 visiting each other and exchanging gifts. Children leave windows open the night before so Baba Noël can climb through and leave them presents.
For many people in the United States, the Christmas season lasts for nearly a month. It begins just after the Thanksgiving holiday. At this time, people begin decorating their homes with lights, trees, and other ornaments. Many public spaces also decorate. The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center holds more than 45,000 LED lights. Families and stores can find a variety of decorations at low prices from sites like ChristmasLightsEtc.com.
Traditions vary from family to family, but most people gather to celebrate throughout December 25, the day that children find presents left for them by Santa Claus. Americans often hold lavish feasts that include pies, turkey, and ham.
Since the United States includes families from diverse backgrounds, many continue to celebrate with traditions from their homelands. It’s common to find customs from European countries integrated into the holiday.
What’s the most interesting Christmas tradition that you know? Have you ever visited another country during the holiday?