The spirit of Christmas
is the same everywhere it's celebrated, but the many different ways that people celebrate
are part of what makes Christmas so much fun. Take a quick look at a few celebrations from
all over the world.
Julenissen (the Christmas elf) , with his stocking cap and long white beard, brings
presents to Norwegian children on Christmas Eve. Families also exchange gifts on Christmas
Day. In the past, Norwegian children would dress up in costumes and go from house to house
asking for treats, much as North American children do for Halloween. The leader of the
group would be dressed as a bukk, or goat, and the custom was known as "going
Julebukk (Christmas goat)." Children in rural areas of Norway still go Julebukk
Say Merry Christmas in Norwegian:Gledelig Jul
Christianity is not the predominant religion in Korea, but some Koreans do
celebrate Christmas. Early morning caroling is popular there. Groups travel from house to
house awakening their friends and neighbors. By the time the caroling ends, a beautiful
Christmas Day is dawning. Many churches also feature special Christmas music programs
throughout the day.
Say Merry Christmas in Korean: Sung Tan Chuk Ha
The Irish put lighted candles in their windows to invite the Holy Family -- or
other weary travelers looking for a place to stay -- into their homes. Traditionally, any
wanderers that did stop at a house with a candle in the window were given a meal and a
night's rest. St. Stephen's Day, the day after Christmas, is also a national holiday in
Ireland. Young men known as Wren Boys go from house to house, singing and carrying a long
pole with holly attached. The holly is supposed to conceal a wren, the symbol of St.
Stephen, though nowadays, real wrens are not used.
Say Merry Christmas in Irish: Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Christmas is a summer holiday in Australia, and since the weather is good, one of the most
popular traditions is open-air caroling. Whole communities gather at dusk on Christmas Eve
to sing beautiful Christmas songs by candlelight or torchlight. Because of the warm
weather, Christmas dinners are often light and may feature cold meats, fruit and pavlova,
a popular Australian dessert. Some Australian families eat Christmas dinner on the beach!
December in Brazil is a summer month when beautiful tropical flowers are in
bloom. Christmas celebrations include picnics, fireworks, boating events, and open-air
fiestas. Nativity scenes, called presÚpios in Brazil, are an important part of holiday
decorations. Brazilian children receive gifts from Papai NoŰl, which means Father
Say Merry Christmas in Portuguese:Feliz Natal
Polish families share a Christmas Eve supper called the wigilia. The number of
dishes served at the wigilia must always be odd --5, 7, 9-- and the number of guests must
always be even. An especially important part of the meal is the breaking of the oplatek, a
thin, wafer-like bread with a nativity scene stamped on its surface. Once the oplatek is
broken, it is shared with everyone at the table.
Say Merry Christmas in Polish: Wesolych swiat
Las Posadas, a series of celebrations lasting for nine nights, are an important
part of Christmas in Mexico. In a posada, groups of adults and children dress as figures
from the Nativity story and make a procession symbolizing the journey of Joseph, Mary and
Jesus as they sought shelter in Bethlehem. When the procession reaches the house that has
been chosen for that night, the pilgrims ask for shelter until they are eventually
admitted. Once the keepers of the house let them in, everyone celebrates with music, food
and sometimes even fireworks.
Say Merry Christmas in Spanish: Feliz Navidad
In Italy, musicians welcome the coming of Christmas by playing traditional songs
on the zampogna, similar to bagpipes. Christmas Eve dinners are meatless and may include
eel, spaghetti with anchovies, or cardoni (Jerusalem artichokes cooked with egg). Favorite
Christmas sweets include nougat candy, called torrone, a star-shaped cake called pandoro
and a special fruitcake called panettone. Children receive gifts on Epiphany, January 6,
when La Befana, a good witch, comes down the chimney and fills their stockings with treats
-- or if they've been bad, coal.
Say Merry Christmas in Italian: Buon natale.