ACCORDING TO the Christian faith, Christmas started with the birth of baby Jesus in a manor in 0 A.D. Since then, Christians and non-Christians alike have celebrated Christmas around the world. Familiar ways of celebrating include exchanging gifts, eating a special dinner with family members and receiving presents from Santa Claus. However, different regions and nations also spend this holiday in very unique ways. .
The traditional white Christmas with Santa in a thick red suit is highly unlikely in the southern hemisphere, where Christmas is celebrated in the middle of summer. However, Australians have designed their own unique way of celebrating over the years. Many depictions of Santa Claus in the country show him wearing shorts and brightly colored shirts in a sleigh pulled by six Kangaroos, not reindeers. There are many adaptations like these, such as surfing competitions held on Christmas and a Christmas “bush” instead of a tree decorated on the day. One of the most interesting traditions held on this day is putting a coin inside a steamed pudding before baking it. The one who finds the coin in his or her portion will have good luck the following year.
Venezuela is a country with a predominantly Catholic population, so Christmas is celebrated in a religious fashion. Masses are held every morning from Dec. 16 until Christmas Eve, when a special mass called Misa de Gallo is held at midnight. Children expect gifts on Christmas morning, but instead of Santa Claus, baby Jesus is told to be the gift bearer. In some regions of the country, roads are closed on Christmas day, making it a tradition to rollerblade to church in the morning while setting off fireworks and yelling “Jesus is born!” The celebrations last until Jan. 6, Day of the Reyes Magos, when children again receive toys and gifts.
In Japan, Christmas celebrations are quite lavish considering that less than 1% of the total population is Christian. An interesting aspect to note is that Christmas Eve is a time for celebration, while Christmas day is rarely celebrated at all. On Christmas Eve, numerous young couples are seen on the streets where a romantic atmosphere is created with festive music and beautiful lights and decorations. On a typical Christmas Eve, couples and their friends would roam the fluorescent streets, and possibly come back home with a fried chicken dinner - yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken. However, it is not the usual grab-and-go chicken drums that KFC offers on their bestselling night in Japan. The Christmas Eve special dinners are often luxurious, served with wine and proper plate settings.
In Ethiopia, Christmas is held on Jan. 7 in accordance with the Julian calendar. Unlike most traditions around the world in which “eating well” is an essential part of Christmas, Ethiopian Christmas ganna celebration starts with a day of fasting, followed by church services in the morning. After services, churchgoers are typically served stew with sourdough bread. In addition, there is no Christmas gift exchange in Ethiopia. Instead, people spend the day playing games and sports and talking with their friends and family.
Christmas festivities start on a Sunday four weeks before Christmas Eve in Austria. On this day, families hang wreathes decorated with ribbons and four candles in living rooms across the country. At dinner on each Sunday leading up to Christmas Eve, one candle on the wreath is lit at a time. Austria is known especially for its Christmas markets, including a very renowned one in Vienna, which started in 1298. At these markets, held throughout December, people can buy Christmas items as well as everyday ones, or enjoy a sip of the famous Gluehwein, or mulled wine. Young men also dress up as Krampus, a devil-demon creature with rods, and scare children in the markets as part of the Christmas spirit.
* * *
Christmas is celebrated in so many different ways around the world. There is no set “definition” as to what constitutes a perfect Christmas. So gather together with friends and family this Christmas and celebrate it your own way. If the celebrations bring out joy and warmth to your heart, it is the perfect Christmas.