We all have our Christmas and Holiday Season traditions. Some of the traditions that I think of are Secret Santa, White Elephant and the Seven fishes. With Christmas right around the corner, we thought that we could talk about some of the other traditions from around the world practiced during this time of the year.
In the United States, we do things like the aforementioned Secret Santa and White Elephant gift exchanges. These are perfect for groups of friends or co-workers that want to keep everyone involved and have a little suspense. If you are not familiar with the Seven Fishes, it is a traditional Italian-American tradition of having different fishes and seafood served during the Christmas Eve dinner. The use of seafood during the feast is due to the tradition of abstaining from red meat until Christmas in the Catholic Church, which is the faith of many Italian-Americans.
December 26th is a significant day in the UK, Australia and Canada because this is Boxing Day. According to an article from Time Magazine, Boxing Day is a day for charity and has been an official holiday since 1871. The day was intended for workers to have a day off after Christmas and to give to those less fortunate than us after Christmas has ended. Just like Americans watching football and eating heaps of food on Thanksgiving, Boxing Day gives those in the UK, Australia and Canada an opportunity to eat their leftovers from Christmas and also watch football, but of a different variety.
Although less than one percent of the Japanese population is Christian, Christmas is still a big day in Japan. According to WorldofChristmas.net, Christmas is not seen as a family holiday and many use the time off to do social work or acts of charity. And from the same website I learned that in China children receive various gifts just like children in the US and other parts of the world and Santa is known as “Dun Che Lao Ren” meaning “Christmas Old Man.”
With over 350 million Christians in the great continent of Africa, there are many different traditions for this time of year. From one.org I found out that in Ethiopia, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th since most people in the country follow the ancient Julian calendar. In Liberia they don’t have Santa but they have Old Man Bayka, the county devil who begs for presents from people on Christmas rather than giving them out. Also they have a different phrase than our “Merry Christmas” here in the US, they say “My Christmas on you.” According to the website, this saying means “please give me something nice for Christmas.” I’m not sure how this phrase hasn’t caught on here in the US.
With a large Christian population in Central and South America, their Christmas celebrations rival those here in the US. From the MatadorNetwork.com’s article on Christmas traditions from Latin America, I learned of the Brazilian Folia de Reis, a tradition honoring the three wise men that is unique to every city but usually includes choirs and dancing clowns. Nativity scenes are also taken very seriously in Latin America.
No matter what traditions you may practice this holiday season, I pray that you will all experience a peace and joy that passes all understanding!