We as Americans have our own Christmas traditions, and some of us are adding to that list making new ones with our family each year.
I thought it would be fun to take a peek at how some other Countries celebrate the holiday in their own special way. You might be surprised on what day the holiday is celebrated, or the interesting food that is eaten.
You might even want to incorporate some of these special traditions into your own home this year!
Houses are beautifully decorated with lights and wreaths of green, gold, red and white flowers. Red and white garlands are hung on the doors of houses. Christmas Trees are also very popular and they are often decorated by 8th December (the feast of the Immaculate Conception - when Catholics celebrate when Mary was conceived). Some people like to put cotton balls on the Christmas Tree to represent snow! Any tree might be made into a Christmas Tree - not just the traditional fir tree!Another Christmas Eve night tradition are 'globos', paper decorations with a light inside that float into the sky (like Chinese Lanterns). The sky is filled with them on Christmas Eve after midnight.
As in The Netherlands, children in Belgium believe that 'Sinterklaas/St. Niklaas' (Flemish) or 'Saint Nicholas' (Walloon) brings them presents on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day.
Children put their shoes in front of the fireplace, together some for Sinterklaas like a drawing or biscuits; they might also leave a carrot for Sinterklass's horse and something for Zwarte Piet (Black Peter, Sinterklass's assistant). Then in the night, Sinterklaas arrives on the roof on his horse with Zwarte Piet. Zwarte Piet climbs down the chimney and leaves the presents in and around the shoes. Sinterklaas has a book in which he keeps all the names of the children and tells if they've been bad or good. Some people celebrate Advent and have Advent Wreaths/Crowns made from fir or leylandii greenery. The wreaths have four candles and a candle is lit each week counting down to Christmas.
In France, a Nativity crib is often used to help decorate the house. French cribs have clay figures in them. During December some towns and cities, such as Marseilles, have fairs that sell Nativity figures. As well as having the normal Nativity figures in them, French scenes also have figures such as a Butcher, a Baker, a Policeman and a Priest.
Yule Logs made out of Cherry Wood are often burned in French homes. The log is carried into the home on Christmas Eve and is sprinkled with red wine to make the log smell nice when it is burning. There is a custom that the log and candles are left burning all night with some food and drinks left out in case Mary and the baby Jesus come past during the night. Another celebration, in some parts of France, is that 13 different desserts are eaten! All the desserts are made from different types of Fruit, Nuts and Pastries.
The Christmas day meal is usually prepared on Christmas Eve. The traditional Jamaican Christmas meal include fresh fruits, sorrel and rum punch and meat. The Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee and saltfish, breadfruit, fried plantains, boiled bananas, freshly squeezed fruit juice and tea. Dinner is usually served in the late afternoon and this may include chicken, curry goat, stewed oxtail, rice and peas.
Jamaican red wine and rum fruitcake is traditional and is eaten in most homes. The fruits in the cake are soaked in red wine and white rum for months before Christmas.
Poland is a largely catholic country and Christmas Eve is a very important and busy day. It's now often the most important day over Christmas - even though it's not a holiday but Christmas and the 26th of December are holidays! Traditionally it was a day of fasting and abstinence (not eating anything) and meat is not normally allowed to be eaten in any form. Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia (pronounced vee-GHEE-lee-uh). The main Christmas meal is eaten in the evening and is called "Kolacja wigilijna" (Christmas Eve supper). It's traditional that no food is eaten until the first star is seen in the sky! So children look at the night sky to spot the first star!
At the beginning of the meal, a large wafer biscuit called an 'Oplatek', which has a picture of Mary, Joseph and Jesus on it, is passed around the table and everyone breaks a piece off and eats it. Sometimes a small piece may be given to any farm animals or pets that the family may have. A place is often left empty at the meal table, for an unexpected guest. Polish people say that no one should be alone or hungry, therefore if someone unexpectedly knocks on the door they are welcomed. In some houses, the empty place is to commemorate a dead relative or for a family member who couldn't come to the meal.Sometimes straw is put on the floor of the room, or under the table cloth, to remind people that Jesus was born in a stable or cow shed.