At the risk of sounding like a giddy five-year-old, I am so excited about Christmas that I wanted to explore how it is celebrated in other countries.
Australia – with temperatures of around 30°C, the Christmas day celebrations are the polar opposite to how we celebrate in the UK. Australian’s might wander over to the beach or at least spend the day outdoors after opening their presents. As for the Christmas menu, forget turkey dinners, it’s more likely to be a BBQ.
Japan – Like in the UK, children in Japan have to make sure they behave themselves all year round, or they might not receive their ‘O-toshidama’. This is an envelope containing money that is given to them by their families on New Year’s Day, or ‘O-shogatsu’. On the eve of O-shogatsu, temple ceremonies are televised and a gong is struck 108 times to wipe away the 108 sins of the past year. The next day, Japanese families dress in their Kimonos and visit the temple. They might then visit the temple market, go home to eat, play traditional games, the children often fly kites and the adults practice calligraphy.
Mexico – In Mexico, ‘Las Posadas’ are celebrated, a festival which takes place between 16-24 December. Each night, members of the neighbourhood form a procession carrying statues of Joseph, Mary and an Angel, and visit a different house each night. They carry candles, sing prayers and ask for ‘lodging’ in the different homes. Food and drink is shared and at the end children take it in turn to try and break the piñata with a stick. They are blindfolded and the other children tell them where the piñata is. When it is broken, sweets fall out for them to share.
Spain – In Spain, the gift-giving festivities actually take place on ‘El día de los Reyes’ (Kings day) which celebrates the day of the three Kings, Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior. On the 25 December, Christmas day is more and more celebrated due to commercial influence, but the tradition is to celebrate Reyes on 6 January. Legend has it that if children leave their shoes outside on the eve of Reyes, then the Kings will fill them with gifts.
Sweden – In Sweden, it is the Christmas gnome Tomte who emerges from his home under the floor and leaves gifts for everyone. One significant celebration during the holiday season is the Queen of the Light festival on 13 December when processions take place, carols are sung and everyone thanks the Queen of Light (St Lucia) for bringing hope during the darkest time of the year. The eldest daughter of each family dresses in white with a red sash and wears an evergreen wreath on her head with several lit candles. This is to mark the day of St. Lucia, a Christian saint who carried food to Christians in hiding, lighting her way by placing candles on her head.
If you enjoyed reading this blog, then you may also like our next blog, which focuses on some more countries.
So, in the run-up to the big day, I hope that you are all feeling very festive and I wish you a very merry Christmas! Please comment with more interesting facts about how the festive season is celebrated in your country.