Guest post by Lindy Howard
December is the one time of the year when people throughout the world join together to celebrate Christmas. Although it may be referred to in different terms, Christmas is a time for celebration and hopes of ‘peace on earth’. It is a time that many spend with family and friends. All countries have unique, traditional ways of celebrating. Here are six different cultures around the globe and how they spend the festive season:
Hong Kong: Church Services are Prevalent
Hong Kong celebrates Christmas with hundreds of church services complete with choirs and candlelight, conducted in Chinese. There are dozens of other church services held in English for international speakers. The people spend a lot of time decorating their Christmas cards and the cards show the ‘Holy Family’ in a Chinese setting.
Most of the homes are decorated with the Nativity scene along with Poinsettias. In many places Lan Khoong, or Dun Che Lao Ren, who we recognise as Santa Claus makes his presence.
Syria: A Unique Christmas Celebration
Many Syrians gather together on December 6 for a special mass is held in churches throughout the country. This is to honour Saint Nicholas Thaumaturgas, a legend who was said to have been a kind and generous man. On Christmas Eve, families gather outside their homes with each person holding a candle. The youngest child reads the Christmas story and then a bonfire is lit. Then, depending on the direction the flames spread, this informs the family about the luck of the house during the coming year. During the burning, psalms are sung. When it nears the end of the flames, everyone leaps over the embers as they make a wish.
Guatemala: A Celebration with Parades and Processions
This Central American country offers a number of religious statues which are put in an elaborate parade. Then, at the rear of the procession, there is an image that represents God. However, this white-bearded man also has a resemblance to Santa Claus.
The night before Christmas the festivities end at midnight with a Misa de Gallo – or the Mass of the Rooster. Although the churches and other public places offer manger scenes throughout the season the Christ child is not put on display until Christmas Eve.
Germany: Celebrations throughout December
People begin celebrating Christmas in Germany on December 6. Families spend a lot of time between this date until Christmas Eve baking all kinds of goodies; particularly ginger bread houses and spice cakes along with little dolls made from candy.
The tradition is that the Christ child had a messenger. This messenger brings toys to the children. The messenger appears in the form of an angel.
Children write decorated letters to the angel and place them on the window sill. Each home locks one room in the house. This is the special room where the presents are kept until the big day arrives. On Christmas Eve, at midnight, the parents wake their children. They take each child to the locked room. When the door is opened the children find all kinds of presents sitting under a beautiful Christmas tree.
In Germany, where Christmas trees are really loved, most every house has more than one tree. The family also keeps an advent calendar and the children track how many days remain until Christmas.
India: Christmas is Sacred Yet Joyful
The Christians in India decorate the banana or mango tree. They light small oil burning lamps as Christmas decorations and celebrate in the week preceding advent. They fill their churches with red flowers and some put on nativity plays, often performed by young children, and carols are sung before Santa comes out to give out sweets. In their native language, Father Christmas is called ‘Christmas Thaathaa’ (Tamil) and ‘Christmas Baba’ (Hindi). Family members receive gifts as do the poorer members of society. Most Christian homes in India display a nativity scene in their front window and more remote tribal Christians spend the week carolling in nearby villages to spread the Christmas story
Japan: Christmas Cake and Hotei-osho as Santa Claus
The Japanese decorate their homes and offices with evergreens during the season. They also exchange gifts as part of the celebration. They have a Buddhist deity figure called Hotei-oshi who, I suppose, is the equivalent of Santa Claus. The story is that the gentle old Japanese god takes presents to each house where he leaves them for the children. Like Santa Clause, Hotei-Osho has a large belly and carries around a linen bag (called hotel) which he uses to distribute gifts.
Although Christmas in Japan adopts many western influences, probably the most traditional Christmas food in Japan is fried chicken and Christmas cake. The Japanese usually go to great lengths to decorate their Christmas cakes, often covering it extravagantly in ornaments, bright colours and textures.
Christmas in Japan is not a day for the family and there is rarely turkey involved. But the Japanese do love any excuse to give each other lots of presents…but don’t we all!
This guest post was contributed by Anytrip.com, which offers Christmas deals including cheap hotels in London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mumbai and in over 70 countries worldwide for all those who want to spend Christmas a little differently this year.