Christmas around the world

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The Christmas season is celebrated in different ways around the world, varying by country and region.



China, Hong Kong and Macau

A large artificial  outside a shopping mall in
A large artificial Christmas tree outside a shopping mall in Hong Kong

In Mainland China, December 25 is not a legal holiday. The small percentage of Chinese citizens who consider themselves Christians unofficially, and usually privately, observe Christmas.<ref name=autogenerated1>How Christmas Started in China - LoveToKnow Christmas (</ref> Many other individuals celebrate Christmas-like festivities even though they do not consider themselves Christians. Many customs, including sending cards, exchanging gifts, and hanging stockings are very similar to Western celebrations.<ref name=autogenerated1 />

Both Hong Kong and Macau designate Christmas as a public holiday on December 25. Both are former colonies of Western powers with (nominal) Christian cultural heritage.

However, commercial Christmas decorations, signs, and other symbolic items have become increasingly prevalent during the month of December in large urban centers of mainland China, reflecting a cultural interest in this Western phenomenon, and, sometimes, as part of retail marketing campaigns.


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The new Cheonggyecheon river in Seoul, South Korea at Christmastime

South Korea recognizes Christmas as a national holiday. Christian and non-Christian Koreans engage in some holiday customs such as gift-giving, sending Christmas cards, and setting up decorated trees in their homes; children, especially, appear to have embraced Santa Claus, whom they call Santa Haraboji (Grandfather Santa) in Korean, Local radio stations play holiday music on Christmas Day and a few days before, while television stations are known to air Christmas films and cartoon specials popular in the Western countries. In addition, increasing numbers of stores and buildings are displaying Christmas decorations.

As in the West, Christian churches in Korea hold Christmas pageants and conduct special services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Young people especially enjoy the fellowship these observances provide; after the Christmas Eve services, for example, they go caroling to the homes of older church members, where they are usually treated to hot drinks and snacks.

South Korea is the only East Asian country to recognize Christmas as a national holiday.


Being a British colony till 1947, many British traditions stayed on in India<ref></ref>.Christmas is a state holiday in India, though only 2.3% <ref></ref> of the population is actually Christian. Sincere devotees attend the church services. In many of the schools that are run by the Christian missionaries, the children actively participate in the programmes. Christmas is officially celebrated at the Rashtrapati Bhavan by the President of India. The celebrations continue and merge with New Year's celebrations. Christmas often coincides with the Winter Solstice as celebrated in India (Makar Sakranti).

In India, most educational institutions have a mid-academic year vacation, sometimes called Christmas vacation, beginning shortly before Christmas and ending a few days after New Year's Day. Christmas is also known as bada din (the big day). Commercialization and open markets are however bringing more secular Christmas celebration to the public sphere, even though it is not widely celebrated as a religious holiday.

Christmas is particularly well celebrated in Bengal and South India where the Christian population is relatively high.


Israel is a Jewish state so the Jewish majority does not celebrate Christmas. They celebrate Hanukkah instead. In the Palestinian territories and in some areas under Israeli control a Christian minority exists. They celebrate Christmas. This is especially prevalent in Bethlehem and Nazareth.


Encouraged by the commercial sector, the secular celebration of Christmas is popular in Japan, though Christmas is not a national holiday. A unique feature of Christmas in Japan is the Japanese type of Christmas cake, often a white whipped cream cake with strawberries.

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Christmas lights in Tokyo, Japan

The first recorded Christmas in Japan was celebrated with a Mass held by Jesuit missionaries in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1552, although some believe that unrecorded celebrations were held prior to this date, starting in 1549 when Saint Francis Xavier arrived in Japan to begin missionary work. Starting with the expulsion of missionaries in 1587, Christianity was banned throughout Japan beginning in 1612, a few years into the Edo Period, and the public practice of Christmas subsequently ceased. However, a small enclave of Japan Christians, known as Kakure Kirishitan ("hidden Christians"), continued to practice underground over the next 250 years, and Christianity along with Christmas practices reemerged at the beginning of the Meiji period. Influenced by American customs, Christmas parties were held and presents were exchanged. The practice slowly spread in major cities, but its proximity to the New Year's celebrations makes it a smaller focus of attention. During World War II, all celebrations and customs, especially those from America, were suppressed. From the 1960s, with the aid of a rapidly expanding economy, and influenced by American TV dramas, Christmas became popular, but mostly not as a religious occasion. For many Japanese, celebrating Christmas is similar to participating in a matsuri, where participants often do not consider which kami is being celebrated, but believe that the celebration is a tribute nevertheless. From the 1970s onwards, many songs and TV drama series presented Christmas from a lover's point of view, for example 'Last Christmas' by Exile.

The birthday of the current emperor, Akihito, on December 23 is a national holiday. Shortly thereafter businesses close for the New Year's holidays, usually reopening on the first weekday after January 3.


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Christmas tree in Downtown Beirut, Lebanon (notice mosque in the back)

Christmas is a state holiday in Lebanon. Most Lebanese Muslims celebrate Christmas with Christian friends. A poll showed that around two thirds of the population celebrate Christmas, while only 45% of the population is Christian. Commercialization and open markets are bringing a more secular celebration of Christmas to the public. Churches are open all night for praying and people go to visit friends and families, often to villages in the mountains. Christmas concerts are popular, not to forget to mention the wide popularity of both local and western Christmas Carols. Prayers and carols start to be said and sung around mid-December and continue till the New Year's Eve. Internationally famous fashion designer, Elie Saab, donates a giant Christmas tree of 25m high for public display every year in Downtown Beirut.

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Christmas lights in Charles Malek Street in Achrafiyeh, Beirut, Lebanon

It is recognized that Christmas controversies such as the replacement of the greeting "Merry Christmas" by "Happy Holidays" or the usage of the word Xmas "taking Christ out of Christmas" are popularly criticized, Christmas in Lebanon is a purely Religious holiday where everybody prays, as well as being the Gift Giving season.

Lebanese Christmas food is a mixture of European and Middle Eastern fare, for example, Tabbouleh, Kibbeh, Turkey and wine, and for dessert a "buche de Noël". Most of Christmas Greetings are spoken in French like "Joyeux Noël" or English. Christmas lights fill the roads. Houses are also decorated and beneath the Christmas tree, families place a nativity scene or crêche with a unique style, representing Jesus, St. Mary, St Joseph, the Three Kings, shepherds men and miniature animals.


Christmas is a public holiday in Malaysia, however, much of the public celebration is commercial in nature and has no overt religious overtones. Occasionally, Christian activist groups do buy newspaper advertorials on Christmas or Easter but this is largely only allowed in English newspapers and permission is not given every year. The advertorials themselves are usually indirect statements.

In 2004, the government organized a national-level Christmas celebration but allegedly imposed an unofficial ban on all Christian religious symbols and hymns that specifically mention Jesus Christ.<ref>Rev Lim: Excluding carols with Jesus' name is scandalous (</ref> The event was jointly organised by the Arts, Culture and Heritage ministry, the government of the state of Selangor and the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM). It has been reported that the Sultan of Selangor and his consort, the Prime Minister as well as assorted cabinet ministers will be in attendance. It will also be televised on TV in a majority Muslim country.

OC Lim, a former lawyer turned Jesuit priest and director of the Catholic Research Centre (also assistant parish priest of St. Francis Xavier's Church) has lodged a formal complaint. He has also stated that "To exclude (such) carols and to use (Christmas) for political gain is outrageous, scandalous and sacrilegious." He also said "To call it a cultural event (as rationalised by Christian politicians who are more politician than Christian) is to downgrade Jesus to a cultural sage such as Confucius."

CFM general secretary Rev Dr Hermen Shastri stated that the government wanted "nothing that insults Islam" during the open house.

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Dr Rais Yatim later denied that any such ban had been "issued officially or unofficially". He also added that there is "nothing wrong in singing songs such as Silent Night and Merry Christmas" as they are "joyous songs for the festival".

Lee Min Choon, legal advisor to the CFM and the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship issued a statement which said "It means that churches can celebrate Christmas as they have been doing all along. Otherwise, the very meaning of the occasion will be lost." "Now, everybody should take the government at its word and celebrate Christmas the way they normally celebrate and express their religious faith."


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In Pakistan, December 25 is a public holiday because Christians constitute approximately 1 percent of the population, In Christian households, cards and presents are exchanged. People wear their best new clothes and visit friends houses.


Main article: Christmas in the Philippines

[[File:Parols For Sale.png|thumb|250px|left|Parols are an iconic display in the Philippines during its long Christmas season]]

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The University of Santo Tomas - UST Main Building illuminating the nights of December 2007

Christmas in the Philippines, one of two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia (the other one being East Timor), is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar. The country has earned the distinction of celebrating the world's longest Christmas season, with Christmas carols are heard as early as September and the season lasting up until Epiphany.

The Philippines has earned the distinction of celebrating the world's longest Christmas season. Although faint traces of the holiday arise beginning from early September, it is traditionally ushered in by the nine-day dawn Masses that start on Dec. 16. Known as the Misas de Aguinaldo (Gift Masses) or Misa de Gallo (Rooster's Mass) in the traditional Spanish. These Masses are more popularly known in Tagalog as the Simbang Gabi. Christmas Eve on December 24 is the much-anticipated "noche buena" — the traditional Christmas feast after the midnight mass. Family members dine together on traditional noche buena fare, which includes the quéso de bóla ("ball cheese", usually edam cheese) and jamón (Christmas ham). Usually, aside from the already legal holidays which are Rizal Day (December 30) and New Year's Eve (December 31), other days in close proximity such as Christmas Eve (December 24), Niños Innocentes (December 28), and the Epiphany (traditionally, January 6) are also declared as non-working days. In Asia, Christmas is also the liveliest in the Philippines, since the country is one of the few predominantly Christian nation in the continent besides Russia, East Timor, Georgia and Armenia.

As in many East Asian countries, secular Christmas displays are common both in business establishments and in public, including lights, Christmas trees, depictions of Santa Claus (despite the warm climate), and Christmas greetings in English and Tagalog, as well as in Chinese and other Philippine languages and dialects. Occasionally such displays are left in place even in summer for example the parol representing the "Star of Bethlehem" which led the Three Kings to the newborn Baby Jesus.

In the capital Manila, Christmas Day is the start of the annual Metro Manila Film Festival during which locally produced films are featured in the city's theatres.

For Filipinos, Christmas Eve ("Bisperas ng Pasko"/Spanish: Vísperas de la Navidad) on December 24 is celebrated with the Midnight Mass, and immediately after, the much-anticipated Noche Buena – the traditional Christmas Eve feast. Family members dine together around 12 midnight on traditional Noche Buena fare, which includes: queso de bola (Spanish: "ball of cheese"; this is actually edam cheese), "Tsokolate" (a hot chocolate drink) and jamón (Christmas ham). Some would also open presents at this time.

On December 31, New Year's Eve ("Bisperas ng Bagong Taon"), Filipino families gather for the Media Noche or midnight meal – a feast that is also supposed to symbolize their hopes for a prosperous New Year. In spite of the yearly ban on firecrackers, many Filipinos in the Philippines still see these as the traditional means to greet the New Year. The loud noises and sounds of merrymaking are not only meant to celebrate the coming of the New Year but are also supposed to drive away bad spirits. Safer methods of merrymaking include banging on pots and pans and blowing on car horns. Folk beliefs also include encouraging children to jump at the stroke of midnight so that they would grow up tall, displaying circular fruit and wearing clothes with dots and other circular designs to symbolize money, eating twelve grapes at 12 midnight for good luck in the twelve months of the year, and opening windows and doors during the first day of the New Year to let in the good luck.

Christmas officially ends on the Feast of the Three Kings (Tres Reyes in Spanish or Tatlong Hari in Tagalog), also known as the Feast of the Epiphany. The Feast of the Three Kings was traditionally commemorated on Jan. 6 but is now celebrated on the first Sunday after the New Year. Some children leave their shoes out, so that the Three Kings would leave behind gifts like candy or money inside. Jan. 6 is also known in other countries as Twelfth Night, and the "Twelve Days of Christmas" referred to in the Christmas carol are the twelve days between Christmas Day (December 25) and the coming of the Three Kings (January 6).


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Singapore Orchard Road is lit up every year during the Christmas season
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Christmas tree in Singapore- Raffles City

In Singapore, Christmas is a public holiday celebrated by almost everyone (Christian or otherwise). Typically it is also the boom time for retailers as Christmas season is also the time most people get their year-end bonuses. The entire shopping district like Orchard Road and Marina Centre areas is decorated with colorful lights from early or mid November till early January. In recent years, a charitable organization called Celebrating Christmas in Singapore Ltd (with links to the National Council of Churches of Singapore) organized the "Celebrating Christmas in Singapore" during Christmas period with carolling, concerts and parade down Orchard Road. As Christmas is not a native festival here, there is nothing local except for maybe the warmer tropical climate. Christmas celebration in Singapore tends to be borrowed heavily from the American version with turkey dinner and decoration. As Christians only comprise 14% of the population, most of the celebration tends to be secular and commercial in nature. Local companies normally arrange gift exchange programs on the last working day before Christmas.


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Christmas tree on the Taipei 101 building in Taipei.
In Taiwan, Christmas is not officially celebrated or legally recognized. However, coincidentally, December 25 is the date of the signing of the Constitution of the Republic of China in 1947, officially the Constitution Day (zh:行憲紀念日). Hence there was already an official holiday on that date designated in 1963 by the Executive Yuan,<ref>Government Information Office of the Republic of China: Constitution Day (</ref> which is largely, though unofficially, treated as if it were Christmas. In order to avoid having too many legal holidays when phasing in two-day-off-per-week plan, the Constitution Day is no longer a full legal holiday with a day off since 2001. Some people have become disappointed that December 25 has ceased to be a holiday, but there are still unofficial celebrations of Christmas.

North America


Mexico's Christmas traditions are based on Mexico's form of Roman Catholicism and popular culture traditions also called posadas. Over nine days, groups of townspeople go from door to door in a fashion reminiscent of when the parents of unborn baby Jesus looked for shelter to pass the night when they arrived at Bethlehem, and are periodically called inside homes to participate in the breaking of a gift-filled piñata.

Mexican Christmas is not influenced by American ChristmasTemplate:Citation needed since it is filled with over 30 traditions found only within Mexican Christmas. Nowadays, American Christmas is influencing the holiday more, specially in cities north from Mexico City where, as an example, Santa Claus is more popular among the kids than "Niño Dios" or Baby Jesus as the person who brings the gifts.

In many Mexican places, children receive gifts not on Christmas but on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, when, according to tradition, the Three Wise Men bring gifts not only to baby Jesus but also to children who have placed written requests in their shoes.

At midnight on Christmas, millions of families place the figure of baby Jesus in their nacimientos (Nativity scenes), as the symbolic representation of Christmas as a whole.

Mexican Christmas festivities start on December 12, with the birthday of La Guadalupana (Virgin of Guadalupe), and end on January 6, with the Epiphany. Children usually do not attend school on this date; and, when they go to their rooms, they find not only the toys but also that the Three Magic Kings have appeared at El Nacimiento. Since the 1990s, Mexican society has embraced a new concept linking several celebrations around Christmas time into what is known as the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon.

United States and Canada

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Christmas at Rockefeller Center, located in New York City, USA
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Christmas in Ottawa, Canada

In the United States and Canada, the Santa Claus traditions are essentially the same, except in Quebec and other French speaking areas, with its réveillon and the Père Noël ("Father Christmas" in French).

The Celebration of Boxing Day on the day after Christmas Day is a tradition practiced in much of English-speaking Canada, as it is in the Commonwealth.

Many Christmas-related tourist attractions, such as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and elaborate animated department store windows in New York City are heavily visited by tourists from all over the world.

South America

Religious themes predominate in Christmas celebrations in heavily Roman Catholic South America. The secular customs and gift-giving in these countries are an admixture of traditions handed down from European and Native American forebears, plus the increasing influence of American culture.

Gift giving traditions include Chile's "Viejo Pascuero" (Easter Old Man), and Brazil's "Papai Noel", the latter two resembling Santa Claus in many ways. South American "Santas" dress more lightly in keeping with the warmer Christmas there, and have adopted a number of means, from ladders to trampolines, to enter homes at night. Gift giving in Argentina occurs both in Christmas and on January 6, "Kings' Day", when children leave shoes under the Christmas tree to be filled with snacks or small gifts by the Magi, who stop off on their way to Bethlehem.

Nativity scenes are a strong feature of South American Christmas, both in homes and in public places. In regions with large numbers of Native American descendants, such as Peru, the figures are often hand-carved in a centuries-old style. As in Mexico, village processions acting out the events surrounding the birth of Christ are also common. Family Christmas meals are very important, and their contents are as varied as the number of countries on the continent. Christmas lights are a near-universal holiday feature, and with the summery weather, fireworks displays are also found, especially over the cities of Brazil and Argentina.


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Christmas display in a Brazilian shopping mall

In most of Brazil, the Christmas is particularly a family celebration and it carries the European traditions, particularly from Portugal, brought by the Jesuits. Between December 24 and January 6, there is an event in the most traditional regions called Folia de Reis, which consist in processions through the city singing Christmas carols for the "Menino-Deus" (The "Baby Jesus") and the Three Kings.

However, in most of the southern cities, as well as in the largest cities of the Southeastern Region, like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte the celebrations resemble in many ways the traditions in Northern Europe and North America, with the Christmas Tree, the exchanging of gifts and Christmas cards, the decoration of houses and buildings with electric lights and the Nativity Scene. In some cities like Curitiba, there are some decoration contests, when judges go to some houses to look at the decoration, inside or outside of the house, and decide the most beautiful house. The Christmas Eve is the most important day. In the midnight between December 24 and December 25, the churches celebrate the "Misa del Gallo" (the Rooster's Mass).


Christmas in Colombia is primarily a religious holiday. Presents are brought by El Niño Dios (Baby Jesus) instead of Papá Noél (Santa Claus), whose gift giving role has been downplayed some by the Church. However, Santa Claus is still an important Christmas figure, as Santa decorations are common, and Santa can be seen posing for pictures at shopping malls.

While Christmas decorations may be put up as early as the beginning of November, the unofficial start of Colombian Christmas festivities takes place on December 7, Día de las Velitas, or "Day of the Candles." At night, the streets, sidewalks, balconies, porches, and driveways are decorated with candles and paper lanterns, which illuminate cities and towns in a yellow glow to honor the Immaculate Conception on the following day, December 8. Activities such as musical events and firework displays are planned by cities and held during this time.

In many cities, and even in small rural towns, neighborhoods get together and decorate their whole neighborhood or street, turning streets into virtual "tunnels of light." Many radio stations and local organizations hold contests for the best display of lights, making the competition for the best light show a serious event.

Fireworks were a common item during the holiday season in Colombia, often going on at any time of the day everyday in many cities, but a recent ban of fireworks has decreased the use of fireworks, and now only cities or towns are able to hold firework displays.

December 16 is the first day of the Christmas Novena, a devotion consisting of prayer said on nine successive days, the last one held on Christmas Eve. The Novena is promoted by the Church as a staple of Christmas, and is very similar to the posadas celebrated in Mexico. It is a call for an understanding of the religious meaning of Christmas, and a way to counter the commercialism of the Christmas season. Individual traditions concerning the Novena may vary, but most families set up a pesebre (manger scene), sing religious Christmas carols called villancicos accompanied by tambourines, bells, and other simple percussion instruments, and read verses from the Bible as well as an interpretation which may change from year to year. From December 16 to 18, some people play games called aguinaldos. The games include Hablar y no contestar, Dar y no recibir, Si y no, Tres pies, Beso robado, and Pajita en boca.

Churches offer nightly masses during the nine days of the novena, culminating with the Misa de Gallo (Rooster's Mass) on Christmas Eve at midnight.

Christmas Eve is the most important day of Christmas in Colombia. Families and friends get together to pray the last Novena and wait until midnight to open the presents, parties are held until sunrise on Christmas Day, kids stay up late playing with their new presents, and fireworks fill the skies. Because Christmas Eve is the most important day, little goes on on December 25.

El día de los innocentes, or the Day of the Innocents, falls in the Christmas season and is celebrated in Colombia as a day for pranks, equivalent to April Fool's Day. Prank victims are known as innocentes, or "innocent ones."

January 6, the day of the Revelation of the Magi, used to be a day of gift giving, but is celebrated less now. Some families still give presents, and it is also the day when godparents give Christmas presents.


In Venezuela Christmas is celebrated as a religious holiday. As in Colombia, the presents are brought by “El Niño Jesus” (Baby Jesus) instead of “Papá Noél” (Santa Claus), that still has an important role during this season.

The unofficial start of the Christmas festivities is after the celebrations of "Feria de la Chinita", second half of November. The origin of this festivity is the cult to Virgin Mary of Chiquinquirá, when various religious activities, processions, and music festivals with the typical "Gaita (music style)" to honor "La Chinita" (nickname of this Virgin). This event takes place in the Zulia Region, specially in Maracaibo (the regional capital). After this festivity, the Christmas Spirit is every where and many activities take place including musical events of Gaita (music style), firework displays, and many other events planned by other cities across the country.

In many cities, small rural towns and neighborhoods get together for the "patinatas" night festivals where kids go and play with skateboards, roller blades and bicycles. This events are usually sponsored by the local church, where neighbors organize themselves and sell typical Christmas food, hot chocolate, hallaca, cookies, etc. Also still in some neighborhoods there is the "Parranda" where people goes from one house to house with music and xmas songs. The singers stops at neighbors houses to get some food and drinks. Also in the Venezuelan Andes there is the same tradition of this kind of event but they carry an image of "baby Jesus" and this is called "Paradura del Niño" Children write request letters to Baby Jesus. The presents are sent by Baby Jesus at midnight, and most people have a party, which goes on until sunrise.



In Australia, as with all of the Southern Hemisphere, 25 December occurs during the height of the summer season.

According to tradition, children are told Santa Claus visits houses on Christmas Eve placing presents for children under the Christmas tree or in stockings or sacks which are usually hung by a fireplace. Gifts are opened the next morning, 25 December. In recent decades many new apartments and homes have been built without traditional combustion fireplaces, however with some innovation the tradition persists. Biscuits, Christmas cake and milk (sometimes liquor) may be left out for Santa to consume during his visit.

Traditionally, extended families gather on 25 December for a Christmas lunch similar to a traditional United Kingdom Christmas meal that includes decorated hams, roast turkey, roast chicken, salads and roast vegetables, accompanied by Champagne, and followed by fruit mince pies, trifle, and plum pudding with brandy butter. Christmas crackers are a feature of the meal. Candy canes are a popular confectionery in Australia in the Christmas period. More recently, as appropriate to the sometimes hot weather on the day, lighter meals featuring fish and seafood may be served, along with barbecue lunches. However, the typical roast remains popular.

The Australian traditions and decorations are quite similar to those of the United Kingdom and North America, and similar wintry iconography is commonplace. This means a red fur-coated Santa Claus riding a sleigh, carols such as Jingle Bells, and various snow-covered Christmas scenes on Christmas cards and decorations appear in the middle of summer. The traditional Christmas tree is the most crucial decorative item, while strings of lights and tinsel are common. Decorations appear in stores and on streets starting in November, and are commonplace by early December. The tradition of sending Christmas cards is widely practised in Australia; the price of a Christmas postage stamp is lower than that for a standard letter; senders are required to mark the envelope "Christmas card only" when using the lower priced stamps. As novelties, some Australian songwriters and authors have occasionally depicted Santa in "Australian"-style clothing including an Akubra hat, with warm-weather clothing and thongs, and having his sleigh pulled by kangaroos, (e.g. Six White Boomers by Rolf Harris) but these depictions have not replaced mainstream iconography.

As Christmas falls in summer, the watching of television is not a strong part of Australian Christmas traditions, unlike in the United Kingdom, in which it is one of the most important days for television ratings. Television ratings in Australia are not taken during the summer and schedules are mostly filled with repeats of old programmes or previously cancelled shows. Some Australian-produced programs have a Christmas special, though often it will be shown early December and not on Christmas Day itself. Many television stations rerun old Christmas-themed films in the weeks leading up to and including Christmas Day, such as Miracle on 34th Street, and various film versions of A Christmas Carol.

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Giant Christmas bulb sculpture in Melbourne, Australia

Some homeowners decorate the exterior of their houses. Displays range from the modest to elaborate, sometimes with hundreds of lights and decorations depicting seasonal motifs such as Christmas trees, Santa Claus, reindeer, or nativity scenes. Particular regions have a tradition for elaborate displays, and attract a great amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic during the Christmas season.

Carols by Candlelight is a tradition that started in Melbourne in 1938 and has since spread around Australia and the world. At the event people gather on Christmas Eve, usually outdoors, to sing carols by candlelight in a large-scale concert style event. The Vision Australia's Carols by Candlelight which takes place at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne on Christmas Eve, is televised nationwide and it has become a tradition for many Australians to watch the performance. Carols in the Domain takes place in Sydney the Saturday before Christmas.

A popular tradition celebrated in Adelaide is the Adelaide Christmas Pageant. This parade is the largest of its kind in the world, attracting crowds of over 400,000 people. Begun in 1933, the pageant is staged in early November every year, usually on a Saturday morning, marking the start of the Christmas season. It comprises a procession of floats, bands, clowns, dancing groups, and walking performers, all culminating in the arrival of Santa Claus. At the terminus of the pageant Santa proceeds to the Magic Cave in the David Jones department store where he can be visited by children. Smaller scale pageants are also held in regional centres.

Special events for international tourists away from their families are held on Bondi Beach in Sydney. These may involve a turkey barbecue and such humorous stunts as a fake Santa dressed in a Santa suit surfing in to appear to the crowd.

Most workplaces conduct a "Christmas Party" some time during December, but rarely on Christmas Eve itself. As many people take their holidays between Christmas and New Year's Day, and many workplaces completely close for that period, these parties are effectively an end of year or break-up party and frequently feature little or no reference to Christmas itself. Often they will not even be named the "Christmas Party" but called the "end of year party" or a "break-up party".

Two major sporting events traditionally commence on the day after Christmas Day in Australia: the Boxing Day Test cricket test match, and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

New Zealand

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The Sky Tower illuminated in Christmas colours during the month of December.

Many of Australia's Christmas traditions also apply to New Zealand: as with its larger neighbour, New Zealand celebrates Christmas with traditional Northern Hemisphere winter imagery, though to some extent the symbols of the holly and ivy common to the British and North American Christmas are replaced by the Pōhutukawa tree, which blossoms annually in late December and is thus often called the "New Zealand Christmas tree". This does not stop New Zealand homes being decorated with the more standard pine tree however. Children in New Zealand are also told of the surreptitious visit of Father Christmas to leave presents.

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Traditional Christmas Pudding, can be doused in brandy and set a-light if desired.
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Santarchy at Whitcoulls in New Zealand

Traditional winter-styled hot roast food also has a role in New Zealand's festivities, Christmas dinner is also the place where Christmas Crackers are used, people will pull a cracker with another before eating. Traditional (generally British) Christmas desserts are also consumed, i.e. Christmas Pudding, Trifle, Christmas Cake and Mince Pies. Also served is the traditional dessert of pavlova.

House decoration is also popular in New Zealand and people put up strings of lights on windows, roofs, decks and fences. Store chain, The Warehouse hosts a competition to find the best-decorated house of the year.

As with Australia, the watching of television is not a strong part of New Zealand Christmas traditions, though some Christmas-specific programmes are usually shown, usually including a mix of religious programmes and special one-off episodes of regular television series (many of them British or American shows). The Queen's Christmas message is also broadcast at around 6pm on Christmas evening.

The Australian tradition of Carols by Candlelight is popular in New Zealand, especially in Auckland and Christchurch, where there is usually a large outdoor carol-singing gathering known as Christmas in the park.

In keeping with the festive season a number of parades are held in the major centers of New Zealand (not including local parades around the country). The most popular of these would be the Auckland Santa Parade down Queen Street with numerous floats and marching bands attracting large crowds every year, although it is held during late November (to accommodate the holidaymakers), it is seen as the preamble to the later festivities.


Central Europe

In countries of Central Europe (for this purpose, roughly defined as the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary and possibly other places) the main celebration date for the general public is Christmas Eve (December 24). The day is usually a fasting day; in some places children are told they'll see a golden pig if they hold fast until dinner. When the evening comes preparation of Christmas Dinner starts. Traditions concerning dinner vary from region to region, for example in the Czech Republic the prevailing meal is fried carp with potato salad and fish soup. However, in some places the tradition is porridge with mushrooms (a modest dish), and elsewhere the dinner is exceptionally rich, with up to 12 dishes.

What's common is that people usually stay in close family circle. Staying alone during Christmas Eve is considered very sad, and many families "bring home" their grandparents at least for Christmas.

After the dinner comes the time for gifts. Tradition varies with region, commonly gifts are attributed to Christkind (Little Jesus) or their real originators (e.g. parents). Children usually find their gifts under the Christmas Tree, with name stickers. An interesting example of complicated history of the region is the "fight" between Christmas beings. During communism, when countries of Central Europe were under Soviet influence, communist authorities strongly pushed Russian traditional Ded Moroz ("Grandfather Frost") in the place of Christkind. Little Jesus won. Now Santa Claus is attacking, by means of advertising and Hollywood film production.

Many people, Christians as well as people with just a Christian background, go to Roman Catholic churches for Midnight Mass. It's not uncommon to go to a church only one time a year, for this Christmas Mass.

Other attributes of Christmas include Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas garlands, Bethlehem Cribs (

Czech Republic and Slovakia

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Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic- Christmastime.

Christmas Eve (December 24) is the celebrated as Štědrý den , which means "open-handed day", when the gifts are given in the evening. However, the December 25 and 26 are also holidays. According to tradition, gifts are brought by Ježíšek, or "baby Jesus". Many very old Christmas traditions are followed, mostly for fun. People are taught to fast on Christmas Eve until a ceremonial dinner is served, in order to be able to see a "golden pig". Carp is a popular dish for the dinner. The gifts are displayed under the Christmas tree (usually a spruce or pine), and people open them after their Christmas dinner.

Other Czech and Slovak Christmas traditions involve predictions for the future. Apples are always cut crosswise; if a star appears in the core, the next year will be successful, while a cross suggests a bad year. Girls throw shoes over the their shoulders; if the toe points to the door, the girl will get married soon. Another tradition requires pouring a little molten lead into water and guessing a message from the shapes that appear when it hardens.

German-speaking areas of Europe

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Christmas market in front of the town hall in Vienna, Austria

The Christmas market, Striezelmarkt, in Dresden is one of Germany's oldest documented Christmas markets. Striezelmarkt, in Germany's Dresden region, is arguably a worldwide Christmas gift production center which continues for nearly one month. This is the time when Dresden Stollen fruitcake, Pulsnitzer gingerbread, wood carvings from the Erzgebirge Mountains, Dresden Pflaumentoffel,(chimney sweep's boy) <ref>Dresden Pflaumentoffel (</ref> Lusatian indigo print, Silesian ceramics, Bohemian glass, and Meissen porcelain dominate the lives of visitors who come from all over to thoroughly immerse themselves in Christmas time plesures.

Knecht Ruprecht is a companion of St Nikolaus in many different German speaking areas of Europe.

In some German-speaking communities, particularly in Catholic regions of southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein, as well as in other Catholic regions of Central Europe, the character of Santa is replaced by the Christkind (literally "Christ child"). He brings the presents not on the morning of December 25, but on the evening of December 24 (Holy Evening or Heiliger Abend). The Christkind is invisible; he is never seen by anyone. However, he rings a bell just before he leaves in order to let children know that the Christmas tree and the presents are ready.

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Old Bavarian Crib found in St Mang Basilica Füssen Bavaria

It is a tradition to lavishly decorate a Christmas tree in the days directly before Christmas or on the morning of Christmas Eve. On late Christmas Eve, after the bell ring, the tree is shown to the children and presents are exchanged.

In Protestant Churches there is a service in the late afternoon intended to immediately precede the Christmas Eve meal and the exchanging of gifts. This service, called "Christvesper", consists most often of scriptural readings, the Christmas Gospel from Luke 2, a "Krippenspiel" (nativity play), favourite Christmas carols and festive music for organ and choirs. In some regions the tradition of "Quempas singing" is still popular.

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Pflaumentoffel, a chimney sweep's boy as lucky charm.

Some Lutheran Churches also celebrate a candlelight service at midnight besides the Christmas Vespers in the afternoon or early evening.

Many Catholic Churches also have a first Mass of Christmas on "Heiliger Abend" about 4 p.m. for the children and parents to attend before the families return home for their meal. The crib is a very important part of the celebrations in Catholic areas especially Bavaria.

See Saint Nicholas for information about Saint Nicholas Day, a festivity similar to Christmas from which many English and American traditions derive.


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Räuchermännchen, toys from the Christmas market
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Christmas tree in Berlin, Germany

Template:Commons cat In Germany Christmas traditions vary by region. On Saint Nicholas' Day, the 6th of December, Saint Nicholas puts goodies in children's shoes. Sometimes St. Nicholas visits children in kindergartens, schools or at public events. They have to recite a short poem or sing a song in order to get sweets or a small gift. "Knecht Ruprecht" (the servant Ruprecht - dressed in dark clothes with devil-like traits and with a stick or a small whip in the hand) sometimes accompanies St. Nicholas. His duty is to punish those children who haven't behaved during the year. Usually he doesn't have much to do. He merely stands near St. Nicholas as a warning to be good and polite. This festival is for the most part a children's festival. The actual Christmas gift-giving (German: "Bescherung") usually takes place on Christmas Eve. This tradition first began with the Reformation, since Martin Luther was of the opinion that one should put the emphasis on Christ's birth and not on a saint's day and do away with the connotation that gifts have to be earned by good behaviour. The gifts should be seen as a symbol for the gift of God's grace in Christ <ref>Ernst, Eugen: Weihnachten im Wandel der Zeiten, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2. Aufl. Darmstadt 2000, pp. 34 - 35</ref>. In the meanwhile this tradition is also common in predominantly Catholic regions. The Christmas Tree is first put up and decorated on the morning of the 24th. The gifts are then placed under the tree. Often after Christmas Vespers in the church and an evening meal the father usually goes into the room where the tree is standing, lights the candles and rings a little bell. Then the children are allowed to go into the candlelit room. In many families it is still a custom to sing Christmas songs around the tree before opening up the presents. Some families, especially Catholic families, attend a midnight church service after the evening meal and gift-giving. The culinary feast either takes place at supper on Christmas Eve or on the first day of Christmas, and usually involves poultry (typically roast goose). Some families prefer a lighter and simpler meal on Christmas Eve. They eat potato salad and sausages, carp or a hearty soup and eat goose, duck or pork roast on Christmas Day. The gifts may be brought by the Weihnachtsmann (translation, "Christmas man"), who resembles either St. Nicholas or the American Santa Claus, or by the Christkind, a sprite-like child who may or may not represent the baby Jesus. After the gifts are opened the children often stay up as late as they like, often till the early hours of the morning.

Hungary and Hungarian-speaking areas of Europe

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Christmas decorations in Budapest, Hungary

In Hungary and in the Hungarian-speaking areas of Europe (in Austria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine), celebrations begin with Christmas tree decoration and gift packaging during daytime on 24 December, then comes a family dinner with traditional Christmas meals, and in the evening (Christmas Eve, in Hungarian: Szenteste) the Angel or the Little (Baby) Jesus (Hungarian: Kisjézus or Jézuska) delivers the presents. This is the most intimate moment of Christmas, featuring warmly lit Christmas tree and candles, soft Christmas music, family singing of Christmas or religious songs and gift pack openings.There is also a popular folk custom during December and especially on Christmas Eve, in which children or adults present the birth of Jesus. The custom is called 'playing Betlehem' (Hungarian: Betlehemezés), and it is an acting performance, where the 'actors' are wearing costumes, and telling stories about the three kings, the shephards, Mary, Joseph and of course the birth of the Holy Child. A Christmas crib and a church are used as the scene. The actors go from house to house, and they receive gifts for their performance.

NOTE: in Hungary (and equally in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Transylvania, Austria, and other catholic Central European countries or regions), Santa Claus (Hungarian: Mikulás, Czech: Mikuláš, Slovak: Mikuláš) has nothing to do with Christmas. He visits families earlier, in the dawn of 6 December, and puts presents and candy-bags for the well-behaving children (to be put in their well polished shoes they put in the windows previous evening). Hungarian Mikulás never parks his sleigh on roofs and never climbs chimneys, but is usually accompanied by a diabolic-looking servant named Krampusz (in Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia: Krampus, in Czech and Slovak regions he is simply "čert", i.e. devil, without any name) who gives golden coloured birches for so called badly-behaved children. Actually all children get both gifts and golden birches in their shoes, no matter how they behaved themselves.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>


Main article: Christmas in Poland

In Poland, Christmas Eve is a day first of fasting, then of feasting. The feast begins with the appearance of the first star, and is followed by the exchange of gifts. The giftbearer in Poland is Swiety Mikolaj or Saint Nicholas. The following day is often spent visiting friends. Poland is a land of intriguing traditions, superstitions, and legends. Its people have always combined religion and family closeness at Christmastime. Although gift giving plays a major role in the rituals, emphasis is placed more on making special foods and decorations.

Eastern Europe

Since the 1880s, the Christmas customs of Eastern Europe and Slavic countries have included a similar character known as Ded Moroz ("Grandfather Frost"). According to legend, he travels in a magical troika — a decorated sleigh drawn by three horses. With his young, blond assistant Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden, said to be his granddaughter) at his side, he visits homes and gives gifts to good children. He only delivers presents to children while they are asleep, and unlike Santa, he does not travel down chimneys, coming instead to the front door of children's homes. It is traditional for children to leave food for Ded Moroz.

This Ded Moroz is not identified nor in any way associated with St. Nicholas of Myra, who is very widely revered in Eastern Europe more for his clerical and charitable works as a Bishop. In all likelihood, Ded Moroz is actually in Slavic tradition like Santa Claus or some similar figure, any connection to the original saint long since disappeared.


Armenians celebrate Christmas ( surb tsnund ) on January 6. There are many dishes that moms and grandmas make especially for that day- rice with raisins, fish and many other things, accompanied with red wine. The Christmas tree (tonatsar) is either natural or artificial. The idea of Santa Claus existed before the Soviet Union and he named ( kaghand papik), but the Soviet Union had a great impact even on Santa Claus. Now he is named ( dzmer papik) literally meaning "grandfather winter".


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Children at the Alilo march in the streets of Tbilisi

Georgians celebrate Christmas (Template:Lang-ka, shoba) on January 7 (December 25 on the Julian calendar). It is traditional in Georgia is to go on Alilo (a modified pronunciation of Alleluia), a mass walk in the streets, dressed in special clothing to celebrate and congratulate each other the holiday. Most members of the Alilo march are children and they are given sweets by the adults. The Alilo carols vary across the provinces of Georgia. In most songs these words are used: "ოცდახუთსა დეკემბერსა, ქრისტე იშვა ბეთლემსაო'" (otsdakhutsa dekembersa qriste ishva betlemsao) - "on December 25 Christ was born in Bethlehem". A local variant of the Christmas tree, called Chichilaki, is made of soft wooden material with curled branches. Sometimes it is hazelnut branch which is carved into a Tree of Life-like shape and decorated with fruits and sweets. The Western custom of a Christmas tree (nadzvis khe) is also popular and have been imported through Russia. The Georgian equivalent of "Santa Claus" is known as tovlis papa (or tovlis babua in western Georgian dialects), literally meaning a "Grandfather snow", and is traditionally portrayed with long white beard, dressed in national costume "chokha" and wearing a fur cloak "nabadi".


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Newyear decorations in Nizhny Novgorod

Christmas celebration in Russia is not as widely followed as in Western countries in favor of the New Year celebration. Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January (which corresponds to December 25 in the Julian Calendar). The tradition of celebrating Christmas has been revived since 1992, after decades of suppression by the communist government. It is centered on the Christmas Eve "Holy Supper", which consists of 12 servings, one to honor each of Jesus' apostles. The Russian traditions were largely kept alive by shifting some of them, including the visit by gift-giving "Grandfather Frost" and his "Snowmaiden", to New Year's Day. Many current Russian Christmas customs, including their Christmas tree, or "yolka"(spruce, sometimes pine instead of it), were brought by Peter the Great, after his western travels in the late 17th century.

In Eastern Europe, Slavic countries have the tradition of Ded Moroz ("Grandfather Frost"). He is accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka ("Snowmaiden"). According to legend, he travels in a magical decorated sleigh drawn by three white horses, and delivers gifts to children. He is thought to descend more from Santa Claus than from Saint Nicholas, having been promoted by the Soviets as a non-religious alternative.


Main article: Christmas traditions in Ukraine

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Christmas tree in Kiev, Ukraine.

Sviata Vecheria or "Holy Supper" is the central tradition of the Christmas Eve celebrations in Ukrainian homes. The dinner table sometimes has a few wisps of hay on the embroidered table cloth as a reminder of the manger in Bethlehem.

When the children see the first star in the eastern evening sky, which symbolizes the trek of the Three Wise Men, the Sviata Vechera may begin. In farming communities the head of the household now brings in a sheaf of wheat called the didukh which represents the importance of the ancient and rich wheat crops of Ukraine, the staff of life through the centuries. Didukh means literally "grandfather spirit" so it symbolizes the family's ancestors. In city homes a few stalks of golden wheat in a vase are often used to decorate the table.

A prayer is said and the father says the traditional Christmas greeting, "Chrystos rodyvsya!" which is translated to "Christ is born!", which is answered by the family with "Slavite Yoho!" which means "Let Us Glorify Him!". In some families the Old Slavic form "Сhrystos rozhdayetsya!" is used.

At the end of the Sviata Vechera the family often sings Ukrainian Christmas Carols. In many communities the old Ukrainian tradition of caroling is carried on by groups of young people and members of organizations and churches calling at homes and collecting donations.

Traditionally, Christmas Day opens for Ukrainian families with attendance at Church. Ukrainian Churches offer services starting before midnight on Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning. Christmas supper, without Lenten restrictions, does not have as many traditions connected with it as Sviata Vechera. The old tradition in Ukraine of giving gifts to children on St. Nicholas Day, December 19, has generally been replaced by the Christmas date.

In Ukraine, at Christmas Eve when everyone is at the table, Angels bring presents which they leave near the Christmas tree.

It is also customary to include a spider among the decorations on the Christmas tree.<ref>[1] (</ref>

Northern Europe


Main article: Jul (Denmark)

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Traditional Danish Christmas dinner.

Danes celebrate on December 24, which is referred to as Juleaften (literally "Yule Eve"). An evening meal with the family consists of either roast pork, roast duck or roast goose and eaten with potatoes, red cabbage and plenty of gravy. For dessert, rice pudding is traditionally served, at midnight Christmas Eve, everyone looks forward to dessert when the rice pudding is served in which a single almond is hidden. Whoever finds the almond will have good luck for the coming year, and the lucky finder of this almond is entitled to a small gift. After the meal is complete, the family gathers around the Christmas tree and sings Christmas songs. When the singing is complete, traditions vary. In some traditions, the family will select one child to hand out the presents. All children take turns handing out presents in other traditions. They are opened and this is followed by more snacks, candy, chips and, sometimes, a traditional Christmas drink called Gløgg.

The Danish are somewhat famous for their Julefrokost, literally meaning "Christmas lunch", which includes various traditional Danish dishes, frequently accompanied by beer and Snaps. These Julefrokoster are popular and held within families, as well as by companies and other social groups. They would traditionally have taken place leading up to Christmas, but due to time constraints and stress during the Christmas month they are nowadays commonly held during November and January. The family Julefrokoster however are normally held between Juleaften and New Year's Eve.

Another more recent Danish tradition is the concept of TV Julekalendere, special Christmas-themed, advent calendar type TV shows with a daily episode shown on each of the first 24 days of December, thus culminating on Juleaften. Several TV stations produce their own, most, but not all of which are targeted at child viewers. Some of the TV advent calendars become extremely popular and go on to be reprised in subsequent years.

In Denmark, Santa Claus is known as Julemanden (literally "the Yule Man") and is said to arrive in a sleigh drawn by reindeer, with presents for the children. He is assisted with his Yuletide chores by elves known as julenisser (or simply nisser), who are traditionally believed to live in attics, barns or similar places. In some traditions, to maintain the favor and protection of these nisser, children leave out saucers of milk or rice pudding or other treats for them and are delighted to find the food gone on Christmas morning.


In the weeks preceding Christmas or Jõulud, children place a shoe or slipper in their windows and receive a piece of candy or some other sweets from visiting elves ("päkapikud"). Estonians celebrate Christmas on December 24, which is referred to as Jõululaupäev ("Christmas Saturday").

The evening meal typically includes pork with sauerkraut or Estonian sauerkraut ("mulgikapsad"), baked potatoes, white and blood sausage, potato salad with red beet, and pāté. For dessert, Estonians eat gingerbread "piparkoogid") and marzipan. The most highly regarded drinks during this holiday have been beer and mulled wine or glögi and hõõgvein ("glowing wine").

Estonians leave the leftover food from Christmas dinner on the table over night, in hopes that the spirits of family, friends, and loved ones will visit and also have something to eat. It is also customary to visit graveyards and leave candles for the deceased.

Each year on December 24, the President of Estonia declares the Christmas Peace and attends a Christmas service. The tradition was initiated by the order of Queen Christina of Sweden in the 17th century. Estonian children are visited by Jõuluvana (Old Man Christmas) on Christmas Eve and must sing songs or recite Christmas poems before receiving their gifts.

December 25 or "Jõulupüha" is a relaxed day for visiting relatives.


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Christmas tree in Rovaniemi, Finland.

Finnish people clean their homes well before Christmas and prepare special treats for the festive holiday season. Fir trees are cut or bought from a market and taken to homes on or a few days before Christmas Eve and are decorated beautifully. A sheaf of grain, nuts and seeds are tied on a pole, which is placed in the garden for the birds to feed on. Christmas dinner traditionally begins with the appearance of the first star in the sky. Candles are lit on the Christmas tree, which is traditionally decorated using apples and other fruits, candies, paper flags, cotton and tinsel. Just before the Christmas festivities begin, people traditionally go to the sauna and dress up in clean clothes for the Christmas dinner, which is usually served at 5 pm to 7pm.

Christmas gifts are usually exchanged after the dinner. Children do not hang up stockings in Finland but Santa visits the household with a Christmas elf to help him distribute the presents. The main traditional dish of the Christmas dinner is boiled codfish (soaked beforehand in a lye solution for a week to soften it) served snowy white and fluffy, roast suckling pig or a roasted fresh ham and vegetables. It is accompanied by allspice, boiled potatoes, and cream sauce. Christmas Day services begin early at six in the morning and people visit families and reunions are arranged on this day. Everybody wishes each other "Merry Christmas."


Main article: Jul (Norway)

The major day of celebration in Norway, as in most of Northern Europe, is December 24. Although it is legally a regular workday until 16:00<ref>[2] (</ref>, most stores close early. Church bells toll in the Christmas festival in the afternoon, and many people attend the church service thereafter. In some families the Christmas story from Luke 2 will be read from the old family Bible. The main Christmas meal is served in the evening. Common main dishes include pork rib, "pinnekjøtt" (pieces of lamb rib steamed over birch branches), and in some western areas burned sheep's head. Many people also eat "lutefisk" or fresh, poached cod. Rice porridge is also popular (but most commonly served the day after rather than for the main Christmas dinner), an almond is often hidden in the porridge, and the person who finds it wins a treat or small gift. In some parts of Norway it is common to place porridge outside (in a barn, outhouse or even in the forest) to please "Julenissen". In many families, where the parents grew up with different traditions, two different main dishes are served to please everyone.

For a lot of Norwegians, especially families, television is an important part of the earlier hours of Christmas Eve. Many Norwegians do not feel the Christmas spirit until they have watched the Czech-German fairy tale Three Nuts for Cinderella (Norwegian title: Tre nøtter til Askepott) and the Disney Christmas cavalcade.Template:Citation needed

If children are present (and they have behaved well the last year), "Julenissen" (Santa Claus) pays a visit, otherwise gifts stored under the Christmas tree.

December 25 is a very quiet and relaxed day. Church services are well attended. The old tradition of a very early morning service before breakfast has been replaced in most areas by a service in the later morning. Afterwards many families get together for a large festive meal.

December 26 is also a day of many festivities. Cinemas, night clubs and bars are full, and there are lots of private gatherings and parties, where all kinds of traditional Christmas cookies and sweets are enjoyed. Fatty, tasty dinners are also part of it. The time between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve is called romjul. During this time children in the western parts of Norway dress up with masks and go "Julebukk" - "Christmas goat" - asking for treats, much the same way as in the American Halloween. January 13 (20th day of Christmas, called St. Knuts Day) is the official end of Christmas.


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Christmas lights
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Julbock, a giant Christmas goat at the Gävle town market, Sweden

Swedish Christmas celebrations begin with the first of Advent. Saint Lucy's Day (locally known as Luciadagen) which is the first major Christmas celebration before Christmas itself. Electric candles and glowing stars are placed in almost every window in December month in Sweden. As in many other countries in Northern Europe, the Jultomte (or simply Tomte) brings the presents on December 24, Christmas Eve, the day generally thought of as Christmas, see Yule. The Jultomte was originally a small invisible Christmas house gnome or dwarf from the Nordic mythology, who watched over the house and its inhabitants. An old superstition still calls for feeding the Tomte on Christmas Eve with a small bowl of porrige. If a bowl of porrige is not laid out for him somewhere in or outside the house, he will bring bad luck to everyone in the house the next year.

The modern Jultomte, nowadays is a version of Santa Claus in red cloth and white beard, except that he doesn't enter the house through the chimney, but knocks on the door and asks "finns det några snälla barn här?" (are there any good children here?)

Christmas is, as everywhere else, a holiday celebrated with food. Almost all Swedish families celebrate on December 24 with a Christmas table, called Christmas smörgåsbord (julbord), a display of several Christmas food items. Almost all julbord has Christmas ham, (julskinka) accompanied of other Christmas dishes, such as small meatballs, pickled herring, spareribs, small hot dogs, lutfisk, pork sausage, salmon, Janssons frestelse (potatocasserole with anchovy), and rice pudding. The Christmas julbord is served with julmust and beverage like mulled wine, Christmas beer or snaps. A Scandinavian speciality is the glögg (mulled and spiced wine with almonds and raisins), which is served hot in small cups. The different dishes of the julbord may vary throughout Sweden, from South to North. Businesses traditionally invite their employees to a julbord dinner or lunch the weeks before Christmas, and people go out privately to restaurants which are customarily offering julbord during December, as well.

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Christmas tree in Stockholm, Sweden

Examples of candies and treats associated with Christmas are marzipan, toffee, knäck (quite similar to butterscotch), nuts and fruits: figs, chocolate, dates and oranges decorated with cloves.

Television also plays a big role in most families, the Disney Christmas special and Karl Bertil Jonssons julafton (animated short) are regarded by many to be the most important highlights of the Christmas television programming.

After the julbord on Christmas Eve, the presents are distributed, either by Jultomten or a family member, and usually from a sack or from under the Christmas tree where they have been lying all day or for several days. Many Swedes still adhere to the tradition that each present should have a rhyme written on the wrapping paper, to hint at the contents without revealing them.<ref>With food, drink and candles, Sweden embraces Christmas (, retrieved 2008-12-02</ref> In older days a yule goat was an alternative to Jultomten, nowadays it is used as an ornament, ranging from sizes of 10 cm to huge constructions like the giant straw Gävle goat, famous for being vandalized and burned down almost every Christmas.

If one has two families to celebrate Christmas with, it is common that one of the families move their celebrations to Christmas Day or the day before Christmas Eve (commonly referred to as little Christmas Eve).

After Christmas Eve, the Christmas celebrations have more or less come to an end. Some people attend the julottan, an early morning church service on Christmas Day. Christmas Day and Boxing Day are of no big significance to Swedish celebrations. On January 13 (locally known as knutdagen), 20 days after Christmas, the Christmas celebrations come to an end and all Christmas decorations are removed.

Southeastern Europe (Balkans)


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TZUM department store at Christmastime,TZUM ( Sofia, Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, Christmas (Template:Lang-bg, Koleda or more formally Рождество Христово, Rozhdestvo Hristovo, "Nativity of Jesus") is celebrated on [[25 December] and is preceded by Christmas Eve (Бъдни вечер, Badni vecher). Traditionally, Christmas Eve would be the climax of the Nativity Fast, and thus only an odd number of lenten dishes are presented on that evening. On Christmas, however, meat dishes are already allowed and are typically served.

Among the Bulgarian Christmas traditions is koleduvane, which involves boy carolers (коледари, koledari) visiting the neighbouring houses starting at midnight on Christmas Eve, wishing health, wealth and happiness and patting the backs of the people with decorated cornel sticks (сур(о)вачка, sur(o)vachka). Another custom is the baking of a traditional round loaf (пита, pita).

As in other countries, a Christmas tree is typically set up and the entire house is decorated. The local name of Santa Claus is Dyado Koleda (Дядо Коледа, "Grandfather Christmas"), with Dyado Mraz (Дядо Мраз, "Grandfather Frost") being a similar Russian-imported character lacking the Christian connotations and thus popular during the Communist rule. However, it has been largely forgotten after 1989, when Dyado Koleda again returned as the more popular figure.


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Christmas tree at Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece

The festive period in Greece lasts from 25 December (Christmas) to 6 January (Epiphany). Most families set up Christmas trees and shops have decorations and lights. Presents are placed under the Christmas tree and are opened on New Year’s Day. In Greek tradition, Basil’s (of Caesarea) name was given to Father Christmas and is supposed to visit children and give presents on New Year’s Day (when Basil's memory is celebrated), unlike other European traditions, where this person is Saint Nicholas and comes every Christmas. Carol singing is another tradition on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The Christmas meal usually includes lamb or pork and desserts such as kourabies (κουραμπιές) and melomakarona (μελομακάρονα).


Christmas (Romanian Crăciun – presumably from Latin creatio, -onis meaning "birth") in Romania falls on December 25 and is generally considered the second most important religious holiday, after Easter. Celebrations begin with the decoration of the Christmas tree during daytime on 24 December, and in the evening (Christmas Eve, in Romanian: Ajunul Crăciunului) Moş Crăciun (Father Christmas) delivers the presents.

The singing of carols is a very important part of Romanian Christmas festivities. On the first day of Christmas, many carolers walk through the streets of the towns and villages, holding a star made of cardboard and paper on which are depicted various scenes from the Bible. Romanian tradition has the smallest children going from house to house, singing carols and reciting poems and legends during the whole Christmas season. The leader of the group carries with him a star made of wood, covered with metal foil and decorated with bells and coloured ribbons. An image of the Nativity is painted on the star's centre, and this piece of handiwork is attached to the end of a broom or other long stick.

Serbia, Republika Srpska, and Montenegro

Main article: Serbian Christmas traditions

The Serbs celebrate Christmas for three consecutive days, beginning with Christmas Day. The Serbian Orthodox Church uses the traditional Julian Calendar, as per which Christmas Day (December 25) falls currently on January 7 of the Gregorian Calendar. This day is called by Serbs the first day of Christmas, and the following two are accordingly called the second, and the third day of Christmas. During this festive time, one is to greet another person with “Christ is Born,” which should be responded to with “Truly He is Born.” The Serbian name for Christmas is Božić (Cyrillic: Божић, Template:IPA-sh), which means the young or little God.

This holiday surpasses all the other celebrated by Serbs, with respect to the diversity of applied folk customs and rituals. These may vary from region to region, some of them having modern versions adapted to the contemporary way of living. The ideal environment to carry them out fully is the traditional multi-generation country household. In the morning of Christmas Eve an oak tree is felled, and a log cut from it is in the evening ceremoniously put on the domestic fire. A bundle of straw is taken into the house and spread over the floor. The dinner on this day is festive, copious and diverse in foods, although it is prepared in accordance with the rules of fasting. Groups of young people go from house to house of their village or neighborhood, congratulating the holiday, singing, and making performances; this continues through the next three days.

On Christmas Day, the celebration is announced at dawn by church bells and by shooting. A big importance is given to the first visit a family receives that day. People expect that it will summon prosperity and well-being for their household in the ensuing year; this visit is often pre-arranged. Christmas dinner is the most celebratory meal a family has during a year. A special, festive loaf of bread is baked for this occasion. The main course is roast pork of a pig which they cook whole by rotating it impaled on a wooden spit close to an open fire. It is not a part of Serbian traditions to exchange gifts during Christmas. Gift giving is, nevertheless, connected with the holiday, being traditionally done on the three consecutive Sundays that immediately precede it. Children, women, and men, respectively, are the set gift-givers on these three days.

Southern Europe


Christmas (or Il-Milied, as it's known in Maltese) in Malta is mainly a religious affair since most of the population is Roman Catholic. However over the years, the island has adopted other popular Christmas customs and traditions such as the Christmas tree and Father Christmas.

Christmas cribs are a popular Xmas tradition with some nativity scenes being literally works of art.

Christmas Day in Malta is a time to spend with family. Christmas lunch usually consists of turkey served with potatoes and vegetables. A local Christmas specialty are the "Qaghaq ta' l-Ghasel" or Honey Rings. These Maltese Christmas Sweets are eaten as a dessert during the Christmas season but can also be purchased all year round.


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Christmas decorations in Milan, Italy.

Modern traditions combine with holdovers from their Roman forebears in the celebrations of Natale, the Italian Christmas. The pagan feast of Saturnalia coincides with the Christian advent, and the holiday season there spans from these weeks through Epiphany, a Christian holiday on January 6 celebrating the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus. Christmas is celebrated in Italy similarly to other Western European countries, albeit with a stronger emphasis given by the media to the Christian meaning of the holiday and its celebration by the Roman Catholic Church, also reinforced by the still widespread tradition of setting up the presepe, a tradition initiated by Saint Francis of Assisi. On Christmas Eve ("Vigilia di Natale") dinner traditionally consists of seafood, with the "feast of the seven fishes" surviving mostly in the South, and is followed by typical Italian Christmas sweets, such as pandoro, panettone, torrone, panforte, struffoli, caggionetti or others, depending on the regional cuisine. In Italy they don't eat meat 24 hours before Christmas Eve. The way to say "Merry Christmas" in Italian is "Buon Natale". Italians decorate a ceppo which is a wooden frame and at the bottom it has a manger scene. On midnight, tradition holds that presents are left for good-behaving children under the family Christmas tree either by Babbo Natale (literally "Father Christmas", the local name of Santa Claus in his common Coca Cola-inspired depiction) or by Gesù Bambino (baby Jesus) himself, and these will be opened on Christmas morning. Adults exchange gifts too, and if no children are present, these may be opened at midnight, after the Christmas Eve dinner, or when coming back home from the Midnight Mass, for those who attend it. December 26, St. Stephen's Day, is also a public holiday in Italy. The festivities naturally extend to the end of the year and then to the Epifania (Epiphany), in which "la Befana", the benevolent hag, is said to bring sweets and gifts to good children and charcoal or bags of ashes to naughty children in the night between the 5th and 6th of January.


Christmas in Portugal is widely celebrated and is associated with family gathering. On Christmas Eve the traditional dish is usually cod. the three wise men deliver presents not santa.


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Calle Porta de l'Angel , at Christmastime, Barcelona, Spain

In Spain, the Christmas holidays last from December 24 to January 6 and are referred to as "Navidad". Most homes and churches display a Nativity scene. A large family dinner is celebrated on Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) and can last until 6 o' clock in the morning. Even though there is still the traditional Misa del Gallo at midnight, few Spaniards continue to follow the old custom of attending. Children will usually receive one or two presents on Christmas Day, brought by "Papá Noel" (Father Noel), which is a non-traditional imitation of the American Santa Claus. On December 31 (Nochevieja,) there is also a large family feast. On January 5, a huge parade (La Cabalgata or cavalcade) welcomes the Three Kings to the city. Children put their shoes in the window on January 5 in hopes that the Three Wise Men deliver them presents.<ref>Christmas. World Book encyclopedia. 2003 edition. Volume Ch. P. 531</ref>

Western Europe

Basque Country

The Basque people, who live in Northern Spain and Southern France, have their own traditions at Christmas. The Three Wise Men are popular in the South and Père Noël in the North, but there is also another character which is well known in both sides of the Pyrenees, called Olentzero. Olentzero was a pagan coal worker who went to adore Jesus in Bethlehem. Nowadays, it is said that he brings presents to all good people at Christmas Eve.


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Christmas decorations at Champs-Élysées in Paris, France

Christmas in France is celebrated mainly in a religious manner, though some secular ways of celebrating the holiday also exist. Children put their shoes by the fireplace so Père Noël (Father Christmas or Santa Claus) can give them gifts, as opposed to the American variation of hanging Christmas stockings on the fireplace's mantle. Many French families also decorate their homes with Nativity Scenes depicting the birth of Jesus. Many families attend midnight mass. Some people put additional Santons (little saints) in their nativity scenes, which are bought at special Christmas fairs before the holidays.<ref>"Christmas" World Book encyclopedia 2003 edition. Volume "Ch" P.530</ref>


Christmas in Ireland is the largest celebration of the year and lasts from 24 December to 6 January, although many may view 8 December as being the start of the season as it is the traditional Christmas shopping day in Ireland due to all schools being closed. It plays an extremely important role in both religious and secular aspects of Irish life.

Although religious devotion in Ireland today is considerably less than it used to be, there are huge attendances at religious services for Christmas Day, with Midnight Mass a popular choice. Most families get their deceased relatives prayed for at these Masses as it is a time of remembering the dead in Ireland. It is traditional to decorate graves at Christmas with a wreath made of holly and ivy. Even in the most un-devout of homes in Ireland the traditional crib takes centre-piece along with the Christmas tree as part of the family's decorations.

In the secular side of Irish society, Christmas is the biggest event of the year. Almost the entire workforce is finished by lunchtime on Christmas Eve or often a few days beforehand. Christmas Day and St. Stephen's Day are public holidays and many people do not return to work until after New Year's Day. Irish people spend more and more money each year on celebrating Christmas. In 2006, the total amount spent in Ireland to celebrate Christmas was €16 billion<ref>News Ireland | Irish News Paper | Free News Stories Online from The Irish Independent Newspaper - (</ref>, which averages at approximately €4,000 for every single person in the country.

Santa Claus, known in Ireland simply as Santy or Daidí na Nollag in Irish, brings presents to children in Ireland, which are opened on Christmas morning. Family and friends also give each other gifts at Christmas. The traditional Christmas dinner consists of turkey or goose and ham with a selection of vegetables and a variety of potatoes, as potatoes still act as a staple food in Ireland despite the popularization of staples such as rice and pasta. Dessert is a very rich selection of Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, and mince pies with equally rich sauces such as brandy butter.

Christmas celebrations in Ireland finish with the celebration of Little Christmas also known as Oíche Nollaig na mBan in Irish on 6 January. This festival, which coincides with the Epiphany, is also known as Women's Christmas in Cork.

The Netherlands and Belgium

[[File:Sinterklaas 2007.jpg|thumb|Sinterklaas in the ]]

In the Netherlands and some parts of northwestern Germany, the celebration of Saint Nicholas Day on December 5 resembles the Christmas of the English-speaking world., The Dutch Sinterklaas based on the real Saint Nicholas, from whom the English and American Santa evolved, who brings presents to the children in many European countries. Sinterklaas wears a tall bishop's hat and carries a crooked staff. He is said to reside in Spain, and in mid-November he arrives to the Netherlands by steamboat, an event which is often acted out in the many coastal communities of the Low Countries. Dutch children leave their shoes out on many nights in the run-up to the actual celebration, to find them filled with small treats. On the evening of the 5th December every child who was good, gets presents in their shoes. The presents were traditionally left in the child's wooden shoes (the Dutch Klompen). The Dutch Sinterklaas wears a red bishop's dress with a red mitre, rides a white horse over the rooftops, and is assisted by many mischievous helpers called 'zwarte Pieten' (black Peters). If the child had been naughty, the 'zwarte Pieten' would put the child in a sack and drag them to the coal mines. Walloons call Sint Nicolaas Saint Nicolas and Zwarte Piet Père Fouettard (Whipping Father). In some parts of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, the frightening Knecht Ruprecht also appears, to the chagrin of many children. In the Netherlands and Belgium December 6 are traditionally recognized as the main gift-giving days of the Low Countries, with December 25 being a lower-key, more religious event. In recent years, the Dutch and Belgian popular cultures have also incorporated Santa Claus into their traditions, with him and Sinterklaas being recognized as two distinct characters. When it comes to giving presents, Sinterklaasavond (St. Nicholas Evening, 5 December) remains more important in the Netherlands than Christmas, although in recent years, the Dutch have started to celebrate Christmas Eve with Santa as well.

This sparks a minor controversy each year over when it is more "appropriate" to start celebrating Christmas: people that give presents at Christmas usually buy much more expensive items, so many shopkeepers prefer to start the lucrative Christmas season immediately after Sinterklaasavond (sometimes putting up decorations even earlier) while others argue that the "foreign" and "commercial" Christmas impinges too much on the traditional Sinterklaas celebrations. Considering the ancestry of Santa Claus, it has been said that Sinterklaas is in competition with himself in this country.

Large numbers of practicing Christians and others with a Christian background, attend church for Christmas. The Roman Catholic service is on Christmas Eve, while the Protestant churches usually conduct their Christmas service on 25 December. This service is usually kept somewhat simpler than normal services, with more attention on the children and the singing of famous old Christmas hymns. Since the late 20th century, some Protestant churches have held services on Christmas Eve. Due to a decline in church attendance in recent decades, many old churches have closed. However, as large numbers of people continue to attend Christmas church services, the remaining churches are often too small to accommodate all congregants.

United Kingdom

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Christmas Tree and Carolers at Trafalgar Square in London, UK

In the United Kingdom the traditions are quite similar to those of Australia, Ireland, North America and New Zealand, and all other Commonwealth traditions as they stemmed from the UK. They are also similar to the other countries of Northern and Western Europe. The Christmas season starts at Advent, where holly wreaths are made with three pink, one white and one purple candle. However many shops sell Christmas decorations beforehand. It lasts until 6 January (Epiphany), as it is considered bad luck to have Christmas decorations up after this date. On Christmas Eve, presents are supposedly delivered in stockings and under the Christmas tree by Father Christmas, who previously had been something like The Ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but has now become mainly conflated with Santa Claus. The two names are now used interchangeably and equally known to British people, but Father Christmas tends to be used more often, and some distinctive features still remain. Many families tell their children traditional Christmas stories, about Father Christmas and his reindeer. One tradition is to put out a plate of Carrots (for the reindeer) and Mince pies and sherry for Father Christmas, to help him on his way. On Christmas Day, nearly the whole population has the day off to be with their family and friends, so they can gather around for a traditional Christmas meal, which is mainly a turkey or other meats, along with cranberries, parsnips, roast potatoes, quite like the Sunday roast, followed by a Christmas Pudding. During the meal, Christmas crackers are often pulled containing toys, jokes and a paper hat. Another tradition is Carol singing, where many carols are sung by children on people's doorsteps, and by professional choirs. Other traditions include sending Christmas cards. On the whole, although Christmas has become commercialized, the British Christmas is still very traditional.

In public, most shops have decorations and lights, especially in town centres, where the whole community chips in, even in Indian and Chinese restaurants. Churches and Cathedrals across the country hold masses, with many people, going to midnight mass, or a service on Christmas morning. Even though mainline church attendance has been falling over the decades, many people who don't go to church often think it is still important to go on Christmas, so Church attendance increases significantly. Notably, for Catholics, it is one of the main Holy Days of Obligation.

Christmas in Scotland was traditionally observed very quietly, because the Church of Scotland - a Presbyterian Church - never placed any great emphasis on the Christmas festival, for various reasons. Hogmanay is traditionally the largest celebration in Scotland, because Christmas Day was a normal working day in Scotland until the 1960s and even into the 1970s in some areas. The gift-giving, public holidays and feasting associated with mid-winter were held between the 31 December and 2 January rather than between 24 December and 26 December. However, since the 1980s, and the fading of the Church's influence as well as influences from outside Scotland due to immigration and the media, Christmas and related festivities are now on a par with Hogmanay and "Ne'erday". The capital city of Edinburgh has a traditional German market from late November until Christmas Eve.

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Christmas lights on Regent Street, London, England

Many London and provincial theatres have a tradition of "putting on" a Christmas pantomime for children. The pantomime stories are traditionally based on popular children's stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and Aladdin, rather than being directly concerned with the Christmas story as such, although there is sometimes a link.

Television is widely watched: for many television networks, Christmas Day is the most important day of the year in terms or ratings. Many Britons still watch the Queen's annual Christmas message.

The Celebration of Boxing Day on the day after Christmas Day is a tradition practiced in the UK. It is a bank holiday, and if it happens to fall on a weekend, then a special Bank Holiday Monday will occur.


Democratic Republic of the Congo

In most parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Christmas is the most important holiday of the year.


Christmas Day is a public holiday which is celebrated mainly in the southern and eastern parts of Nigeria. Nigerians have special traditions they employ to celebrate Christmas. Almost everyone goes to church on Christmas Day. Weeks before the day, people buy lots of hens, turkeys, goats and cows. Children hover around the beasts, taunting, and mostly gawking at them. There are feverish preparations for travel, holiday, and exchange of gifts, caroling and all manner of celebration.

On Christmas Eve, traditional meals are prepared. In Yoruba, such meals usually include Iyan, (pounded yam) eba or amala, served with peppery stewed vegetables. People find themselves eating this same meal three to four times on that day, as they are offered it at every house they visit; and according to Yorùbá customs, it was considered rude to decline to eat when offered food. Other meals include rice served with chicken stew, which is a bit similar to the Indian curry stew. Some families would include a delicacy called Moin-moin; which is blended black eyed beans, mixed with vegetable oil and diced liver, prawns, chicken, fish and beef. The concoction is then wrapped in large leaves and then steamed until cooked.

Another tradition is that of decorating homes (compounds) and churches with both woven and unwoven palm fronds, Christmas trees and Christmas lights. There are the festive jubilations on the streets, the loud crackling of fireworks and luminous starry fire crackers going off, traditional masquerades on stilts parading about and children milling about displaying their best clothes, or Christmas presents. There are no other celebrations that compare to Christmas festivities in Nigeria, where everyone can personalize their own festival, and one family’s gusto merges with others; both physically and psychologically, creating a universe of fun and bonhomie.


  • Penne L. Restad, Christmas in America: A History, New York, Oxford University Press, 1995, ISBN 0-19-509300-3

See also



External links

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