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Christmas around the World

Written by Jana Klinderová, Educational Specialist at Lipa

We all know our own Christmas traditions, but have you ever wondered how the rest of the world celebrates? What customs and traditions are they connected with and what are they actually celebrating? Join us on a small excursion around the world to better understand this holiday of peace, family, and love.




Czech Republic

At Christmas, people in Czechia decorate their homes with mistletoe, various conifers, and an Advent wreath with four candles. On every Advent Sunday, one candle is lit. People bake traditional Christmas sweets full of vanilla and cinnamon, and a day before Christmas Eve they bake a sweet bread with raisins called vánočka (Vánoce means Christmas in Czech). Christmas Day is actually celebrated on the 24th of December, when people usually eat fish soup with vegetables and fried carp with potato salad. After dinner, adults and children unwrap gifts brought by the Baby Jesus (Jezisek). Baby Jesus is often portrayed as a baby or a little boy. Families spend time together, sing Christmas carols and at midnight, many go for a midnight mass to a church.

 

Italy

In Italy, gifts are brought by Babbo Natale (similar to Santa Claus) or Gesú Bambino (Baby Jesus). In some parts of Northern Italy, gifts are brought by Saint Lucy. For dinner, Italians often feast on lamb or turkey, and for dessert, figs and dates with various fillings, and the sweet bread panettone. But there are many regional differences. Christmas celebrations often culminate on the night before the 6th of January, when fires are lit in many town squares across Italy. People walk the streets, children go caroling and receive small gifts and treats from their parents. On the 6th of January, an old but kind witch, Befana, flies from house to house and brings gifts to children through the chimney.

 

Russia

According to the orthodox calendar, Christmas in Russia is celebrated on the 6th and 7th of January. But now they are celebrated hardly anywhere; after the ban on Christmas was imposed in 1918, many traditions and customs were forgotten. Nowadays most Russians celebrate the New Year with yolka (spruce) and gifts from Ded Moroz. The celebrations are often majestic and apart from Ded Moroz, Snegurka (Snow White), children’s favourite fairy-tale princess, can also be seen paying a visit to the Christmas tree. At Christmas Eve dinner, people eat vegetarian dishes and fish. A favourite meal is vareniky, a yeast pastry with various fillings.

 

Mexico

In the Christian world, Mexican Christmas celebrations are among the most boisterous and cheerful. Christmas in Mexico begins between the 16th and the 24th of December. During this time, “posadas” are performed, when people form processions in the streets and perform the scene of how Joseph and a pregnant Mary were looking for a shelter on their way to Bethlehem. The streets are full of colorful stalls with toys and other treats, such as fish and birds made of pumpkins and other characters made of straw or clay, which can be filled with sweets. Christmas trees can also be seen in Mexico, but much more common is a “piñata”, a huge clay jug for water decorated with a paper collar and feathers, and filled with sweets or gifts. On Christmas day, people often go for a midnight mass and the festive dinner takes place late in the evening. All families get together and eat what everyone likes. The aim of the celebrations is to be together, have fun, and visit as many people in the community as possible.

Every region and country has its traditions and customs, without which Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas. Although these customs are often very different, the celebrations of the Nativity of Jesus have the same purpose everywhere – to be together with our loved ones, to share a pleasant atmosphere, and to symbolically celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

 

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