How do people celebrate Christmas around the world? Well not really like the way Kevin did in Home Alone: Lost in New York, away from his family and roaming around the mean streets of the city with two thugs in hot pursuit! Christians all over the world celebrate Christmas in a myriad ways, but whatever be the form of the celebration, they ensure that the day is filled with kindness and compassion for others. Christmas around the world, in essence, is a celebration of love.
There is a certain similarity in the pattern of Christmas celebrations followed in certain quarters of the world. For instance, there is a belief in Father Christmas or Santa Claus amongst the people and that he brings gifts by the bagful. Christmas trees are adorned with glittering ornaments and twinkling lights and children hang their stockings or put out their boots to be filled in with goodies by Santa Claus. And dear old Santa Claus rides a sledge pulled by reindeers through the night and comes down through the chimney.
This is the accepted custom in many countries across Europe and America. But there are slight geographical variations in the intricacies of this tradition. For instance in Belgium, there is a separate day dedicated to Saint Nicholas, which is the sixth of December, while Santa Claus, who is known as de Kerstman or le Père Noël is believed to visit on Christmas Day.
In Brazil, the Christmas customs are not too different either, with a special Christmas meal consisting dried fruits, an assortment of meats and rice. In France and Germany, people welcome Christmas with quite a pomp and gusto. In France, the usual practice is to decorate the fir trees in the garden and some people prefer to deck up their Christmas trees with real wax candles and red ribbons. The people in Germany too go to great lengths to decorate their homes. They build wooden “cribs” that resemble the manger Jesus was born in, complete with mannequins of baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary and even the farm animals.
In Latvia, people believe in holding on to the joys and bounties of Christmas. This is why, here it is believed that Father Christmas brings in gifts and presents for all the 12 days starting from Christmas Eve. But this is not much of a wonder considering that Latvia has quite a stake in Christmas history, the very first Christmas tree being decorated here.
Christmas around the world takes on sundry forms. For the people in New Zealand, it is all about having a blast. They usually arrange for a lavish Christmas lunch, then host a barbecue party where the whole family gathers for a spot of hearty dining and drinking.
Children in Russia are a lucky lot when compared to their predecessors in the era of the Soviet Union when Christmas celebration was more or less a banned affair. In Russia, Christmas is celebrated either on December 25 or January 7 and on these days people engage in feasts of cakes, pies and meat dumplings.
Children hog the limelight in China on Christmas. They are given new clothes and toys, fed generously and are allowed to watch fireworks displays. Here Santa Claus or Dun Che Lao Ren is welcomed with vibrant ornaments, lanterns and flowers made from paper.
People have their inimitable way of celebrating Christmas around the world. While people in the United States herald Christmas morning with a sumptuous spread of cinnamon rolls or coffee cake, it is generally ham and plum pudding for dinner, the special Christmas meal in Sweden consists of ham (pork), herring fish, and brown beans.
And contrary to popular notion, Christmas around the world is not limited to the Christian countries only. the perceived Hindu nation of India celebrates its Christmas with glowing clay lamps and the beautiful poinsettia flower. Christians in India also decorate churches with red flowers.
Whether it is Iraq or Finland, Vietnam or Portugal, Hungary or Brazil, Christmas around the world has not lost on the spirit of charity, love and peace.