Christmas is not that far off and I’ve decorated my house already, although I haven’t started shopping. Gift giving is the most commonly known Christmas tradition, but there are so many others. In my family for instance, we open gifts on Christmas Eve, as do many Europeans. In fact, traditions are ever evolving and have traditions now that previous generations did not. Elf on the shelf anyone? That little guy never showed up for Christmas at my house.
Christmas is many people’s most favourite holiday, but there are so many different ways to celebrate Christmas that don’t involve gifts, Santa or candy canes. Let’s take a trip around the world together now and find out about some absolutely wonderful traditions.
The Book Flood, Iceland
I feel cheated that I live in Canada, not Iceland because this is one Christmas tradition that is perfect for me. Iceland sells more books per capita than other nation in the world and the bulk of these sales is near Christmas, which they call the Book Flood. That’s because it’s a tradition for everyone to receive at least one book for Christmas to take to bed with them on Christmas Eve. So they spend Christmas Eve reading. This sounds so cozy and exciting! Waiting to see what books you get, reading into the early morning hours.
A Lover’s Holiday, Japan
I was surprised to learn that in Japan, Christmas is thought of as a romantic holiday. Couples will often spend Christmas Eve together enjoying dinner at a special restaurant and also, admiring the many light illuminations that lit up to celebrate the winter season. Christmas is more like the North American Valentine’s Day than a holiday for family. Couples do exchange gifts as well.
The Biggest Holiday, Italy
My parents were born in Italy and immigrated to Canada back in the 1960s. Christmas was always a huge event for me growing up and for Italians, Christmas is a holiday about family and about Jesus’ birth. You will see nativity scenes everywhere, along with wreaths and other decorations. Italians do not eat meat on Christmas Eve but rather eat fish and many attend midnight mass. Christmas Day is a gathering of family and friends and a meal including meat and traditional sweet breads. And, the celebrating doesn’t end here. December 26 is St. Stefano and families once again gather to eat leftovers. How you exchange gifts in Italy depends on where you live. La Befana, the Christmas witch (who is good obviously) may give you gifts, or Babbo Natale may bring gifts. Christmas is quite the holiday in Italy!
The Light of the World, India
We may not think of India as an especially Christian nation, however in areas were Christians do reside, Christmas is devoutly celebrated. Families walk together to church for midnight mass, clay pots are lit on the flat roofs for homes to remind neighbours that Jesus is the light of the world, and paper lanterns in the form of stars are hung. Meals are eaten together with family, and some even decorate trees. Father Christmas or Santa Claus comes to visit children with gifts in a cart and horse.
A Family Holiday, Nigeria
In Nigeria Christmas is, like it is for so many cultures, a family holiday. People will travel great distances to visit family. Traditional meals of goat, sheep or chicken are served as well as turkey. Firecrackers are popular during this season, and church choirs may visit to sing carols. Children are also dressed up in new outfits to see Santa Claus. It is also not uncommon for Nigerians to ask those perceived as being a bit higher up on the economic ladder to assist with Christmas celebrations. This also a time of rest and relaxation as prices are discounted during the season to attract commerce to resorts.
A Joyful Time
For so many of us, Christmas is a joyful time, a time to gather with family and friends, to express gratitude and a season of hope. Why else do we light up trees and windows and display sparkling decorations?
Did you learn something new in this post? Share in the comments below.