The Universal Holiday Spirit

Casey H.

Staff Writer

The joy of Christmas is not a feeling exclusive to the United States. Christmas and various other holidays that put people in the holiday spirit are celebrated worldwide. From the New Year’s celebrations in Hong Kong and China to the cake chesnitsa in Yugoslavia, there are many different ways citizens of the world celebrate the holidays.

Christmas began in the town of Bethlehem, so it stands to reason that they would celebrate accordingly. The town is cloaked in flags, which is a premonition of the parade that takes place yearly. Horsemen, government officials, and leaders of the church take part in the parade, which ends at the Holy Child in the Church, which was built in the place where it was said Jesus was born. Though the majority of the Middle East, where Bethlehem is located, is Muslim, there are traditions to celebrate the holidays there as well.

For instance, Christmas in Iran goes by the name Little Feast. For the first 25 days of December, Iranian Christians fast and do not eat meat, eggs, or milk. Though the children do not have a legend of Santa Claus, they get new clothes and wear them throughout the week. In Iraq, families light a bonfire in their home’s courtyard while reading the nativity story. Christians in Pakistan celebrate the holiday, but they also celebrate in memory of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

In the continent of Asia, there are a variety of ways that people celebrate. In China, for instance, Chinese Christians celebrate Christmas by decorating trees with paper ornaments and hanging muslin stockings; then the Spring Festival focuses on children, gift-giving, and ancestor worship. Though many do not believe in Christ, Japanese people often decorate for Christmas and give gifts. Christians spend the day helping those in need, especially in hospitals. Sophomore Jessica Osborn says of Indonesian Christmases, “We eat soto, which is soup, and satay, which is cubed meat on a stick. We have parties where all the kids run around and the elders cook.” Christmas plays are an important part of Filipino tradition. Bangladesh replants banana trees and forms them into an arch, lighting it on fire and making a fiery pathway, and Vietnam holds a large mass and eats an enormous feast afterwards.

Since Christianity is the primary region of South America and Central America, Christmas is an event that is anticipated throughout the year. In Brazil, the largest country in South America, celebrations start on Christmas day and end on January 6th, or Three King’s Day. This is the day that many believe the wise men arrived at Jesus’ manger to give him gifts. Countries like Guatemala have a parade of saints, ending with a statue of a god-like figure with a long, white beard. This statue, incidentally, resembles Santa Claus. There is a similar festival in Peru, with the parade ending in a replica of the nativity scene. Mexico is decorated with poinsettias, which are beautiful red flowers that some believe were brought to baby Jesus as a gift. On Three King’s Day in Venezuela, Santa Claus is replaced by the magi, and children will wake up to find their cheek smudged where the king Balthazar kissed them. Spanish teacher Ms. Carmen Carvajal says of Colombian Christmases, “We celebrate Novena, or the nine days before Christmas.” Other traditions throughout South and Central America include staying up until midnight in Argentina, making figurines from clay and placing them under the tree in Chile.

Across the Atlantic, European countries often have elaborate ceremonies accompanying their traditional Christmas celebrations. For instance, in Sweden, festivities begin on St. Lucia’s Day, when the children serve their parents breakfast in bed, all while in costume. In Denmark, there are many traditions associated with food, the main one being the giving of food on beautiful platters to friends and servants. Preparations for Christmas start before December 1st in Germany, and Catholic boys dress up as kings on Three King’s Day and sing carols. In France, rather than stockings, children leave the shoes outside their doors and are delighted when they are filled. Great Britain celebrates in a manner similar to those in the United States, though they incorporate Scandinavian traditions as well, such as caroling with colored candles. Ms. Maria Gogarty, who teaches AP Spanish, says of Spanish Christmases, “In Spain, we get presents on January 6th, when the kings visited baby Jesus. We have a nice dinner on the 24th, and you wear nice clothes on Christmas. It’s a family-oriented holiday, and it’s not stressful like Christmas in the United States.”

Though the holidays are a universal joy, they are celebrated in a variety of ways around the world. Countries, both Christian and non-Christian, spice up the season with their own cultural twists, often leading to fun and colorful celebrations. Whether someone is from America or any other place in the world, Christmastime should always be one of joy, giving, and love, and a time when families as well as countries come together.


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