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Christmas Customs Around The World

By Freda J. Glatt, M.S., Sat Dec 10th

December is well-known for Christmas but do you know how people in countries around the world celebrate it? Here are some customs from various parts of the world.


Greeting - Merry Christmas Santa's Name - Santa Claus. Children leave him a piece of cake or biscuits and a glass of milk or abottle of beer. Food - Many Christmas dinners include roastedmeats and vegetables, special fruit cakes, and puddings with acoin baked inside. Since the temperature can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, people are starting to eat cold meats and salads,tropical fruits like mangoes, and stone fruits like plums.Often, the main meal is eaten for lunch. Gifts - These are left under the Christmas tree and opened Christmas morning.Decorations - Shops and homes are decorated with tinsel,Christmas trees, decorations for the holiday, and speciallights. Customs - Traditional and Australian carols are sung bycandlelight on Christmas Eve and are broadcast on television. On Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, two sporting events takeplace: The Boxing Day Test Match (cricket game) and the start ofthe Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.


Greeting - Feliz Natal Santa's Name - Papai Noel (Father Noel),who is dressed in a red, silk suit with boots. Food - Many people eat a traditional feast with roast turkey and vegetables,while others eat chicken and rice or beans. Beer and wine arealso served. Some regions begin eating around 9 PM on Christmas Eve, while others eat around midnight. Gifts - Local charitiestake in donations but do not seem to have enough presents forall the children. Decorations - Brazil has a mixture of people so Christmas is celebrated in different ways. In then ortheastern area, it is common to find Nativity Scenes; in thesouthern part, snow is simulated with little pieces of cotton onpine trees. Customs - Brazilians sing a number of Christmas carols.


Greeting - Eftihismena Christougenna Food - Special holiday cakes are baked. Gifts - Most Greek people exchange gifts on Saint Basil's Day, January 1. Customs - To honor Saint Basil,the holiday cakes have gold coins hidden inside them. The cakes are cut at midnight on New Year's Eve. Whoever has a gold coinin his piece of cake will have good luck the following year.


Santa's Name - Actually, the Baby Jesus is said to bring presents on Christmas Eve. A bell sounds signaling that the Angels have brought the tree and gifts. Customs - On December 5,children leave out their shoes. During the night, Mikulas and Black Peter come to fill them with goodies for well-behaved children and switches for naughty children.


Decorations - Sometimes, houses are decorated with mango leaves;mango or banana trees are also decorated. Small, clay,oil-burning lamps are placed on the edges of flat roofs asdecorations.


Greeting - Chag Semeach (Happy Chanukah) Santa's Name -Actually, parents, grandparents, and other family members givepresents to the children. Food - Because oil is an importantpart of the holiday, many foods are prepared with it. A favoriteis potato latkes (pancakes). Gifts - Since Chanukah lasts foreight days, children may receive one present each night.Decorations - Jewish stars, blue or silver foil garlands,dreidels (spinning tops), Chanukah gelt (chocolate coins), andpictures of the Macabees (Jewish army that recaptured the HolyTemple and Jerusalem from the Assyrian Greek King Antiochus) arefound around the house. Customs - The menorah (candelabra) islit each night. On the first night, one candle is lit; on, thesecond night, two candles; and so on until all the candles arelit on the eighth night. After lighting the candles, families eat a festive meal, dance, play games, and open presents. They also attend Chanukah parties.


Greeting - Kurisumasu Omedeto Santa's Name - Santa Kurohsu. Hedoes not appear in person but is pictured in advertisements as akind old man with a round sack on his back. Food - Depending upon the family's custom, they eat turkey on Christmas Day or on Christmas Eve. Japanese families also eat Christmas cake. Gifts- Stores sell merchandise for men, women, and children; and onChristmas Day, families exchange gifts. Decorations - More andmore artificial Christmas trees are beginning to appear. Theyare decorated with small toys, gold paper fans, dolls, lanterns,paper ornaments, and wind chimes. A popular ornament is theorigami swan. Other decorations are mistletoe, evergreen,tinsel, and lights. An amulet is put on the front door for goodluck and children exchange 'birds of peace,' pledging there mustnot be anymore war. Customs - The daiku, or Great Nine, refersto Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and is performed many places.


Greeting - Feliz Navidad Customs - Beginning on December 15,some families carry colorful lanterns and walk from house tohouse in their neighborhoods, each night, until Christmas Eve.This is called La Posada, which means 'the procession.' On each of the nights, the families are invited into different houseswhere they become guests at a party. There is plenty to eat and drink. Children play the pinata game, trying to break open thepapier-mache figure with a stick while blindfolded; when it iscracked open, candies and small gifts fall out.


Greeting - Hartelijke Kerstroeten Santa's Name - Sinterklaas(St. Nicholas), who wears a red bishop's hat and bishop's cloakand has white hair and a white beard. He arrives on a whitehorse with his servant, Black Pete, to put small gifts inchildren's wooden shoes. Food - The Dutch people eat lots ofmarzipan, spiced ginger biscuits, tall chocolate letters, and'bankletter' - initials made of pastry and filled with almondpaste. When they are around the Christmas tree singing songs,they eat 'Kerstkrans' - a Christmas ring. Gifts - On December 6,after hearing a knock at their door, children find a bag full oftoys, nuts, and gifts. Decorations - The Christmas tree is knownas the Paradise Tree. Decorations of the season include dolls,musical instruments, fruit, candies, and lights. Customs - The Dutch sing carols, the most popular one being "O Christmas Tree,O Christmas Tree."


Greeting - God Jul Food - Coffee, cakes, and special buns areserved on Santa Lucia Day, December 13. Customs - Santa Lucia Day honors Saint Lucy, who helped blind people. The oldest daughter in each Swedish household dresses in a white gown witha red sash, wears a crown of evergreen with seven candles in it,awakens the family with a song, and serves the coffee, cakes,and buns. Each town and city also chooses a young woman to beLucia for the day. She then serves coffee and food to thetownspeople at schools, hospitals, and other public buildings.From these women, a national Lucia is chosen; followed by aparade, feast, and dance.

Now that you have this data, let your children put theinformation in a comparison chart. Label the left side with thenames of the countries and the bottom with the variousinformation (ie: Greeting, Food, and so on). Then fill in theboxes!

Let your children do research to find out the information I leftout.

Conduct research to find out the same customs for other countries, especially the heritage countries of students in yourclass or your own family.

However you celebrate the holidays, have a safe, wonderfulseason and a Happy New Year!

I hope these ideas are useful and inspire your own creativethinking.

And remember...Reading is FUNdamental!

About the author:Freda J. Glatt, MS, retired from teaching after a 34-year careerin Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Her focus, now, isto reach out and help others reinforce reading comprehension anddevelop a love for reading. Visit her site at Reading is FUNdamental!

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