Christmas Around the World

Around the world people celebrate Christmas with different traditions according to their culture, so we thought we would share a few of those with you. No matter where people live or how they have been raised, they all need to hear the story of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only that, they need to hear about His death, burial, and resurrection and believe on Him so they can have life everlasting. That is why GMI exists. That is why we send missionaries around the world to foreign countries…so people can hear that life-giving gospel.

Christmas in Zambia:

Many churches in Zambia have nativity plays and a crib in the church. One or two days before Christmas, Zambians like to go carol singing around the local streets for charity.

On Christmas day, children are encouraged to bring a present to church for children who are in hospital or might not get a present because they are less fortunate. After church, on Christmas day, it is a custom that all the children go to one house and all the adults go to another house to have a party and to eat.

Christmas in Bolivia:

In Bolivia, Christmas is celebrated from Christmas Eve until Epiphany (January 6).

Most of the population of Bolivia is Catholic and many people go to a Midnight Mass service on Christmas Eve called the “Misa de Gallo.” At midnight people like to let off firecrackers!

Families often eat the main Christmas meal after the Misa de Gallo. The traditional meal is “picana,” a stew or soup made from chicken, beef or lamb and pork which is served with potatoes and corn. There might also be salads, roast pork or roast beef, and lots of tropical fruit.

After the meal families might exchange presents, although gift giving isn’t very common.

Some people exchange presents at Epiphany, remembering the Wise Men who brought presents to Jesus. Children also might get a set of new clothes at New Year’s.

Nativity scenes are quite common Christmas decorations in Bolivia. Churches often have large scenes outside. The baby Jesus is put in the manger after the Misa de Gallo.

Christmas trees are becoming more popular although often only in large towns and cities.

For many poor people and often in rural areas, Christmas isn’t widely celebrated and it’s just a normal working day.

In Bolivia workers get double or three times the normal salary in December! This is called “El Aguinaldo” and is a government law and has to be paid for by the employers. Many workplaces also give a “Canastón de fin de Año” or “End of the year basket” to their employees. It’s a large basket or container full of things like grocery items, a bottle of cidra (non-alcoholic sparkling cider) and a panetón (sweet fruit bread).

Christmas in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Christmas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is more of a religious festival than being commercial. Most people won’t have any presents.

Christmas Eve is very important with Churches having big musical evenings (many churches have at least 5 or 6 choirs) and a nativity play. These plays last a very long time. They start at the beginning of the evening with the creation and the Garden of Eden and end with the story of King Herod killing the baby boys.

People taking part in the play really like to show off their “best” acting skills and tend to go over the top and “ham it up”! King Herod and the soldiers are often figures of fun (like pantomime “baddies”) and Mary is often well advanced in labor before she arrives!

The birth of Jesus is timed to happen as close to midnight as possible and after that come the shepherds, the wise men and the slaughter of the innocents. This means the play normally finishes about 1am. However, in some places there will be further singing until dawn! The Christmas day service then starts at 9am with lots more singing.

On Christmas day, most families try to have a better meal than usual. If they can afford it, they will have some meat (normally chicken or pork). The rest of the day is spent quite quietly, maybe sleeping after a busy and late night on Christmas Eve!

People go back to work on the 26th (Boxing Day).

Christmas in Russia:

In the days of the Soviet Union, Christmas was not celebrated very much. New Year was the important time. Now Christmas is normally celebrated on January 7th (only a few Catholics might celebrate it on the 25th December). The date is different because the Russian Orthodox church uses the old “Julian” calendar for religious celebration days. The Orthodox Church also celebrates Advent. But it has fixed dates, starting on 28th November and going to the 6th January, so it’s 40 days long. The official Christmas and New holidays in Russia last from December 31st to January 10th.

In Russian Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘s rah-zh-dee-st-VOHM’ (C рождеством!) or ‘s-schah-st-lee-vah-vah rah-zh dee-st-vah’ (Счастливого рождества!). Some people fast on Christmas Eve, until the first star has appeared in the sky. People then eat “sochivo” or “kutia,” a porridge made from wheat or rice served with honey, poppy seeds, fruit (especially berries and dried fruit like raisins), chopped walnuts or sometimes even fruit jellies!

Kutia is sometimes eaten from one common bowl, this symbolizes unity. In the past, some families like to throw a spoonful of sochivo up on the ceiling. If it stuck to the ceiling, some people thought it meant they would have good luck and would have a good harvest!

The Russian word for Christmas Eve “sochelnik” comes from the word “sochivo.”

Some Orthodox Christian Russian also don’t eat any meat or fish during the Christmas Eve meal/feast.

Other popular Christmas Eve foods include beetroot soup (borsch) or vegan potluck (solyanka) served with individual vegetable pies (often made with cabbage, potato, or mushroom); salads often made from vegetables like gherkins, mushrooms or tomatoes, and also potato or other root vegetable salads.

Sauerkraut is main dish in the Christmas Eve meal. It can be served with cranberries, cumin, shredded carrot and onion rings. It might be followed by more pies or porridge dishes such as buckwheat with fried onions and fried mushrooms.

Dessert is often things like fruit pies, gingerbread and honeybread cookies and fresh and dried fruit and more nuts.

“Vzvar” (meaning “boil-up”) is often served at the end of the meal. It’s a sweet drink made from dried fruit and honey boiled in water. Vzvar is traditionally at the birth of a child, so at Christmas it symbolizes the birth of the baby Jesus.

Following the meal, prayers might be said and people then go to the midnight Church services. They often don’t wash the dishes until they get home from Church – sometimes not until 4.00am or 5.00am!

The New Year celebrations are still very important to Russians (sometimes more than Christmas).

This is when – when “Father Frost” (known in Russian as “Ded Moroz” or Дед Мороз) brings presents to children. He is always accompanied by his Grandaughter (Snegurochka). On New Year’s Eve children hold hands, make a circle around the Christmas tree and call for Snegurochka or Ded Moroz. When they appear the star and other lights on the Christmas tree light up! Ded Moroz carries a big magic staff. The traditional greeting for Happy New Year is “S Novym Godom.”

Christmas in Germany:

A big part of the Christmas celebrations in Germany is Advent. Several different types of Advent calendars are used in German homes. As well as the traditional one made of card that are used in many countries, there are ones made out of a wreath of fir tree branches with 24 decorated boxes or bags hanging from it. Each box or bag has a little present in it. Another type is called an “Advent Kranz” and is a ring of fir branches that has four candles on it. This is like the Advent candles that are sometimes used in churches. One candle is lit at the beginning of each week in Advent.

Christmas trees are very important in Germany. They were first used in Germany during the Middle Ages. If there are young children in the house, the trees are usually secretly decorated by the mother of the family. The Christmas tree was traditionally brought into the house on Christmas Eve. In some parts of Germany, during the evening the family would read the Bible and sing Christmas songs such as O Tannenbaum, (Ihr Kinderlein Kommet) and Stille Nacht (Silent Night).

Sometimes wooden frames, covered with colored plastic sheets and with electric candles inside, are put in windows to make the house look pretty from the outside.

Christmas Eve is the main day when Germans exchange presents with their families.

In German Happy/Merry Christmas is “Frohe Weihnachten.” Germany is well known for its Christmas markets where all sorts of Christmas foods and decorations are sold. Perhaps the most famous German decorations are glass ornaments. The glass ornaments were originally hand blown glass and were imported in the USA in 1880s by the Woolworth stores. The legend of the glass “Christmas Pickle” is famous in the USA, but it’s that, a legend. Most people in Germany have never heard of the Christmas Pickle!

In some parts of Germany, mainly the southeast of the country, children write to the “Christkind/Christkindl” (“The Christ Child” in English) asking for presents. The letters to the Christkind are decorated with sugar glued to the envelope to make them sparkly and attractive to look at. Children leave the letters on the windowsill at the beginning of or during Advent.

The Christkind is often described as a young girl with “Christ like” qualities. In Nürnberg a young girl is chosen every year to participate in a parade as the Christkind. She wears a long white and gold dress, has long blond curly hair and wears a gold crown and sometimes wings like an angel. This is similar to St Lucia is Sweden (and it can seem a bit confusing calling the “Christ Child,” Jesus, a girl!).

The Nürnberg Christkind officially opens the Christmas market on the Friday before Advent starts. And before Christmas she has over 150 “official duties,” including visiting hospitals, old people’s homes and children’s nurseries! She also has to give TV interviews and visit other cities.

Santa Claus or Father Christmas (der Weihnachtsmann) brings the presents on December 24th. You might also write a letter to Weihnachtsmann in other parts of Germany. December 6th is St. Nicholas’ Day and “der Nikolaus” brings some small gifts, such as sweets and chocolate, to the children. He comes in the night between the 5th and the 6th and puts the presents into the shoes of the children, who usually place them by their doors on the previous evening. In some regions of Germany, there is a character called “Knecht Ruprecht” or “Krampus” who accompanies Nikolaus (St. Nicholas) on the 6th of December. He is big horned monster clothed in rags and carries a birch. He will punish the children who were bad and will give them a birch as a present. He is usually the one who scares the little children. In other parts of Germany, St. Nicholas is followed by a small person called “Schwarzer Peter” (Black Peter) who carries a small whip. Black Peter also accompanies St. Nicholas or Sinterklaas in Holland. In northwest Germany Santa is joined by Belsnicke, a man dressed all in fur.

Some people say that Santa/Father Christmas (Weihnachtsmann) brings the presents and some say it is Christkind!

At small work places and school parties, secret presents are often exchanged. A door is opened just wide enough for small presents to be thrown into the room. The presents are then passed around among the people until each person has the correct present! It is thought to be bad luck to find out who sent each present.

Another tradition is the Sternsinger (or star singers) who go from house to house, sing a song and collect money for charity (this is a predominantly Catholic tradition). They are four children, three who dress up like the wise men and one carries a star on a stick as a symbol for the Star of Bethlehem. When they’re finished singing, they write a signature with chalk over the door of the house. The sign is written in a special way, so Christmas 2015 would be: 20*C*M*B*16. It is considered to be bad luck to wash the sign away – it has to fade by itself. It has usually faded by the 6th of January (Epiphany). The Sternsingers visit houses between December 27th and January 6th.

http://www.gracem.org

Credit to http://www.whychristmas.com

Picture credit to http://openwalls.com/image?id=20919

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