As we prepare to celebrate Christmas despite the difficult times, here is a reminder of the traditions across countries.
By Riya Mehrotra
It’s that time of year when celebrations reign supreme around the world. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas despite the difficult times, here is a reminder of the traditions across countries.
Mexico celebrates Christmas with Las Posadas, a procession-style devotional prayer that reenacts the story of Joseph and Mary. Las Posadas is also held in Latin America, Guatemala, Cuba, Honduras, and Spain from mid-December until Christmas Eve. Church members also play plays in the form of Pastorellas to tell the Christmas story. Pastorellas are the theatrical representation of the shepherds on their way to see the newborn Jesus. Mexico’s Christmas carols are called villancicos, and they are also translations of the English songs.
The Philippines annually celebrates the Giant Lantern Festival in mid-December in San Fernando. The festival includes a competition for giant decorative lanterns. Because of the festival, San Fernando is also called the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”. It is also broadcast on TV channels. The Giant Lantern Festival or Ligligan Parul is believed to have started in San Fernando in 1904. Before the start of the festival, a religious activity called “lubenas” was held. Lanterns were much smaller at that time and were made from locally available materials. Gradually over time, the lanterns changed in design and shape and became larger.
Unlike the rest of the world, it’s summer in December in New Zealand, and so the festival is often celebrated with a simple seaside picnic or a barbecue. They also have a different Christmas tree. The pohutukawa tree blooms with bright crimson red flowers. While some still use an artificial Christmas tree or a real pine tree, the pohutukawa tree commonly found there is also decorated with festive cards and messages. The tree also provides shelter for families celebrating in public spaces. The hymns are sung in both Maori and English.
In Austria, Advent, or the time when preparations for the Nativity of Christ begin, is celebrated with a number of folklore and people dressed as folklore figures walking around the city and knocking on doors. The good, Saint Nicholas, along with his evil companion Krampus comes to ask if the children are well during the year. If they do, they are rewarded with sweets, peanuts, and tangerines while the hooligans receive a word of warning. The Christmas trees here are decorated with gold and silver ornaments and gingerbread cookies.
In Denmark, December is a celebration where both Danish Jule, a festival historically celebrated by the Germanic people, and Christmas with a number of traditions are celebrated. The main event of Jule is Christmas Eve which falls on December 24th. The houses are decorated with Nisses, a mythical creature from Norse folklore and a Christmas tree is placed in the middle of the room, around which families dance and sing carols. The Christmas tree, which is a spruce, is decorated with real candles. Santa Claus in Danish is called Julemanden and he comes with a set of Nisse, an elf.
On the French Caribbean island of Martinique, located in the eastern Caribbean, Christmas is a warm place and represents one of the best holidays. People gather and sing hymns together in the streets. This is called no reboot. Different versions of Christmas carols are sung when they read the words written on their hand. Also on New Year’s Eve, people celebrate together by sharing drinks and food with families and neighbours.
South Africa has its own Christmas traditions. Families gather together to cook outdoor food known as braaing during the holiday. Marinating means grilled meat cooked over an open fire, like a barbecue. The feast is the main attraction and the main course includes marinated steak and sausage followed by malva pudding or liqueur pudding with custard. Fir trees are decorated as Christmas trees with hand-embroidered traditional African motifs. Cape Town is the main attraction during Christmas as it lights up with night markets and decorations.
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