Christmas Around the World


Santa, stockings, large dazzling trees, warm fires crackling in the fireplace while frost gathers on the window pane, peppermint dancing through the air, hot food steaming on the table, laughter and joy echoing throughout the house. All the presents pile up and dreams run high. Everyone knows that I’m talking about a traditional American Christmas, but what is a traditional Chinese Christmas, or a traditional French Christmas like?

Chinese Christmas traditions are somewhat like the American traditions in the way that a tree with lights are put up along with stockings, and the children await Dun Che Lao Ren to bring them their presents. Dun Che Lao Ren means “Christmas old Man.” The Chinese New Year is a bigger celebration than Christmas is. The Chinese New Year is brought in with presents, big feasts, new clothes, and fireworks.

A French Christmas is quite different than the Christmas that you and I are accustomed to celebrating. Instead of a Christmas tree, mangers are set out and mistletoe is strung from every possible hanging place because it is thought to bring good luck. Stockings don’t take up the fireplace hearth.  Instead, rows of shoes are set out in hope of presents. Children don’t expect a plump jolly fellow to come sliding down their chimneys.  They look instead for a slim, tall man wearing a long red coat trimmed with fur. This is their Pere Noel, “Father Christmas,” gift giver to all of France.

Christmas in Italy lasts three weeks and starts eight days before Christmas. This period is called Novena. Children go around from door to door reciting Christmas poems and singing. Some children dress as shepherds, play musical instruments at door steps, and are paid to buy presents. A large feast is held twenty-four hours before Christmas Eve and every person receives one present. At noon on Christmas day the Pope gives his blessing to all. On January 6th, Epiphany, Italian children get the rest of their presents. According to the Italian tradition, all presents are delivered by a kind, ugly witch on a broomstick named Befana. The story goes that she was told by the three Kings that the baby Jesus was born, but she was delayed visiting the baby. She missed the star, lost her way, and has been flying around ever since, leaving presents at every house in case the baby is there. She slides down the chimney and leaves her goodies for the good children. The bad children receive lumps of coal.

Christmas in shorts, with Santa arriving on a surfboard, is how Australians celebrate Christmas. A big lunch is served on December 25th, midday, consisting of ham, turkey, pork, and Christmas plum pudding. Each batch of pudding holds a special treat baked within it, and whoever finds it is said to have good luck for a year. Instead of a Christmas tree, Australians surround themselves with the native plant called the Christmas Bush. The Christmas Bush is a small plant with little red berries on it.

Christmas in Antarctica? Christmas comes to Antarctica in the austral summer. Most people are too busy to celebrate Christmas because they are preoccupied with scientific advancements, or they are on a cruise to a more inviting climate.

In Zimbabwe most of the residents are Christians and celebrate Christmas with reverence and high spirits. Their Christmas falls in the summer. They celebrate the typical European customs, with fancy food, gifts, and most people’s favorite part, school closing and shops staying open 24/7.

In Argentina toasting  is a big part of Christmas. On Christmas Eve people gather together to dance, sing songs, and make a toast. The next day a variety of food is placed on a table to enjoy.  Everyone makes a toast again. After everyone has made a toast, the family gathers around to enjoy some chat time, while some of them play games. Their Santa is called “Father Christmas” and boots are placed on every door for him. The houses are decorated with white and red garlands.  Lights and ornaments are placed on every tree.

This Christmas, as you gather around your table to enjoy your feast with your family, think of how your neighbors across the world are celebrating. Even with all of our diversity, we still have a lot in common, more so than some might think.

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