Christmas in Other Countries

Nicolette Barbera, Website Manager

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The time has come to put away the pumpkins and spooky ghosts, and whip out the stockings and snowmen. Christmas is quickly creeping up on us and many people celebrate it differently either with different traditions locally or globally.
Sintaklaas, as the Dutch called him, was born in the 1860’s in the United States. However, he was not a symbol of the chilly Christmas season until Washington Irving placed him in his novel, A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty. One of the most popular American traditions is placing a Christmas tree in you house. Spending days decorating your tree really brings family together. Another tradition is placing gifts under your brightly decorated tree for your family and friends.
All around the world, Christmas is celebrated in millions of ways. In places like France, Italy, Switzerland, China, Peru, and Brazil, it is celebrated differently.
On Christmas Eve in France, children leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Pere Noel (which is Santa Claus in French) . In the morning they also find that sweets, fruit, nuts and small toys have been hung on the tree. Not all of France celebrates Christmas or Noel, the French term for it, the same. In southern France, some people burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. This stems from an ancient tradition in which farmers would use part of the log to ensure good luck for the next year’s harvest.
In Italy, their Christmas season lasts about three weeks. A week before Christmas, the children go door to door around their communities and recite poems and songs while dressed as shepherds for their neighbors. At noon on Christmas Day the Pope gives his blessing to crowds gathered in the huge Vatican square in the center of Italy, Rome.
The Swiss wait for the Christ child called Christkindli, to arrive with gifts for all in his reindeer-drawn sleigh. Seven days before Christmas day, children have to go around their neighborhood and hand out small gifts. As a fun competition, surrounding towns ring a bell to try to get residents to come out to midnight mass to celebrate Christmas.
According to, Chinese New Year is the Chinese version of Christmas. Christmas isn’t an official holiday, but it is still sometimes celebrated, even though schools and offices are still open on Christmas day. Like in America, in some malls across Asia there are people dressed up as Santa Claus, or Shengdanlaoren, for the children. One of the most popular Christmas traditions in China is that weeks before the day of Christmas, people go on shopping sprees. America and China share some similar traditions. Some shared traditions are that on Christmas day, all of your friends and family come together the night of and have dinner. The sharing of small, inexpensive gifts and cards is becoming a more popular tradition in China.
For people who escape to the warm weathers of Peru for Christmas, you will see a lot of similar traditions as Americans. Christmas trees stand tall in the center of towns, inside houses, and shopping malls. Santa’s roam the streets in their red jackets, big bellies, and long beards, “Ho, ho, ho-ing” with Christmas cheer. Finally, children still get multitudinous gifts. The celebrations of Christmas end on Christmas Eve, also known as La Buena Noche.
If you’re all for the hot steamy weather year-round, Brazil is your go to place to celebrate Christmas. During the usual frosty season, it’s in the high 90s – low 100s in Brazil. When we are usually gobbling down our delicious Christmas feast, the Brazilians have eaten a whole 24 hours before! For the more religious families of Brazil, instead of cooking an immense amount of food they usually go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. This midnight mass is called Missa Do Galo, the rooster’s mass.
On a global level, Christmas is celebrated in so many different ways, yet many of the traditions are shared. This bone-chilling season may be the end of year but it also shows that it’s the beginning of a new year. A new year of creating and sharing traditions. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and Season’s Greetings!

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Christmas in Other Countries