All around the world Christmas is celebrated  by people of every nationality. 
Share with us some of those traditions.





    ARMENIA            AUSTRALIA           AUSTRIA               BELGIUM
    BRAZIL                CHILE                     CHINA                   COSTA RICA
    DENMARK           ECUADOR             ENGLAND             FRANCE
    GERMANY           GREECE                GUATEMALA        HOLLAND
    INDIA                    IRAN                      IRAQ                      IRELAND
    ISRAEL                 ITALY                    JAMAICA              JAPAN
    MEXICO                NICARAGUA         NORWAY              PERU
    POLAND               PORTUGAL           PUERTO RICO     ROMANIA
    RUSSIA                 SCOTLAND           SPAIN                   SWEDEN
    SWITZERLAND     SYRIA                   VENEZUELA         WALES

Christmas Around The World
Armenia
Christmas is celebrated on January 19. This is because they believe that
Christ's birthday should be celebrated on the same day as his baptism.
Present day January 19 used to be January 6 in the old Julian calendar. The
Armenians prepare for Christmas with a fast. They eat no animal food for a
week and no food at all on the last day before Christmas. The fast is broken
only after the Christmas Eve service, when they return home to a dinner or
rice pilaf. The children then go onto the roofs with handkerchiefs and sing
carols. Adults fill up the handkerchiefs with presents of raisins or fried wheat
or sometimes money. There are also morning services on Christmas Day.
           

              
Australia
As Australia was settled by the British, Christmas customs are the
descendants of the traditional British Christmas. As the weather is warm &
no snow there are no sleigh rides, or Yule logs, or any other comforts against
the cold. The main articles of decoration are the Christmas bell and the
Christmas bush. After a hearty afternoon feast, supper may be a picnic in the
countryside or at the beach. One tradition that is purely Australian began in
1937 by a radio announcer, Norman Banks who saw a lonely old woman
listening to Christmas carols on the radio while a lone candle burned forlornly
in her window. The following Christmas Eve he broadcast a great carol sing
by all who want to join in , from the Alexandra Gardens along the banks of
Melbourne's main river. "Carols by Candlelight" became a joyous annual
event and was eventually broadcast in many other countries around the
world. Each year, more than a quarter of a million people gather to sing
carols and join hands at midnight for "Auld Lang Syne." It is a great showing
of community and Christmas spirit that is almost unequaled anywhere else in
the world.
           

              
Austria
Christmas in Austria is a very musical time. Many of the world's greatest
carols came from here. December 6 is the day when St. Nicholas and his
grotesque assistant, Krampus, may pay a visit. But the gifts are brought on
Christmas Eve by the Christkind. Sometimes the Christkind will even help
decorate the Christmas tree before the big Christmas Eve supper, which will
probably feature carp as a main course. Dinner on Christmas Day will be
roast goose with all the trimmings.
           
              
Belgium
In Belgium, St. Nicholas pays two visits to each house. On December 4 he
comes to check into the behavior of each child, to find out if they have been
naughty or nice. Then on December 6 he returns with just rewards for all,
either presents or switches, which he leaves in the shoes or small baskets
that have been placed inside near the doorway, where he will easily find
them. Just to get on his good side there are snacks of hay, water and carrots
left for his horse or donkey. Christmas Day is reserved for religious
celebrations & Nativity plays sponsored by the churches. They are often
performed in 16th century costumes. In small villages, there are often three
virtuous men chosen to portray the three Wise Men and go throughout the
town, caroling at each doors and receiving small gifts of food.
             

              
Brazil
Christmas comes at the beginning of their summer season. It is a time for
boating, picnicking and other summer festivities. The red and green of
Christmas decorations are provided eucalyptus leaves and brilliant red
flowers of many sorts. The "pesebre", or manger scene is important and
there is also a Christmas tree decorated with candles. On Christmas Eve the
"cena", or meal, is set out before the family goes to Midnight Mass so that
the Holy Family can have some if they wish while everyone is out. A popular
menu would include turkey, fish and champagne. Before going to bed, the
children set out their shoes for Papa Noel. On Christmas morning the
children fix breakfast, then get their presents from their shoes and look fo
gifts that are hidden around the house. Christmas evening can be spent
outdoors in the balmy weather and is a great time for fireworks. The people
of Northern Brazil, as in Mexico, enjoy a version of the folk play Los Pastores
"The Shepherds." In the Brazilian version, there are shepherdesses rather
than shepherds and a gypsy who attempts to kidnap the Christ Child.
           

              
Chile
Chile's gift-bringer is called Viejo Pascuero, or Old Man Christmas. He
strongly resembles Santa Claus and likewise comes drawn by reindeer.
However, as chimneys are less than roomy in this warm climate, he contents
himself with climbing in a window. As in all Latin America, the manger scene
is the center of festivities; and following the midnight Mass of the Rooster, the
Christmas Eve meal often includes azuela de ave, a chicken soup filled with
potatoes, onions and corn on the cob; and pan de pasqua, a Christmas
bread filled with candies fruit.
           

              
China
Christians in China celebrate by lighting their houses with beautiful paper
lanterns and decorating their Christmas trees, which they call "Trees of
Light," with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns. Chinese
Children hang muslin stockings and await a visit from Santa Claus, whom
they call Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run) which means "Christmas
Old Man." Since the vast majority of the Chinese people are not Christian,
the main winter festival in China is the Chinese New Year, which takes place
toward the end of January. Now officially called the "Spring Festival," it is a
time when children receive new clothing, eat luxurious meals, receive new
toys, and enjoy firecracker displays. An important aspect of the New Year
celebration is the worship of ancestors. Portraits and paintings of ancestors
are brought out and hung in the main room of the home.
                 
Costa Rico
Bright, tropical flowers highlight decorations for Christmas. Special trips are
made to gather the wild orchids that bloom in the jungle areas. The manger
scene is called a portal and is decorated with these brilliant flowers and
colorful fresh fruit. Wreaths of cypress leaves and red coffee berries are very
popular. The supper after Midnight Mass will consist of tamales and other
local dishes. Children used to leave their shoes out for the Christ Child to fill,
but Santa Claus is relieving Him of this task now.
            
Denmark
The Christmas feast, in Denmark, is celebrated at midnight Christmas Eve.
Everyone looks forward to dessert when a special rice pudding is served in
which a single almond is hidden. Whoever finds the almond will have good
luck for the coming year. The jolly bringer of gifts is known as Julemanden
and arrives in a sleigh drawn by reindeer, a sack over his back. He is
assisted with his Yuletide chores by elves called Juul Nisse, who are said to
live in attics. Children leave out saucers of milk or rice pudding for them and
are delighted to find the food gone on Christmas morning.

              
Ecuador
Christmas Day is a day of colorful procession as the Indians who live and
work in the highlands and mountains dress in their finest and ride their
brightly arrayed llamas down to the ranches where their employers live. They
bring gifts of fruit and produce, which they lay before the image of the Christ
Child in the pesebre, or manger scene, which is set up in the ranch house.
Children also bring their gifts and make pretty speeches to the Holy Infant,
asking blessings for their family and their animals. Then there is a fiesta with
much singing and dancing outdoors. The owner of the ranch distributes gifts
to all his employees and their families. The huge meal will consist of roast
lamb, baked potatoes and brown sugar bread. There is always too much to
eat, so that the processions that wend their way into the mountains at the end
of the day are as heavily laden with leftovers as they were with offerings in the
morning.
             
              England
              Father Christmas, who reigns in the place of Santa Claus or St. Nicholas, is
              depicted wearing long robes with sprigs of holly in his long white hair. Letters
              are sent to him by children who want to make sure he has got their order
              right. These letters are not mailed though; they are thrown into the fireplace. If
              they go up the chimney, the wish will be granted; if not, one's wish goes
              ungranted. Stockings are hung by the chimney or at the foot of the child's bed
              to receive small presents, which are opened Christmas morning. The
              Christmas tree has occupied a central position in the festivities, however, it
              has never completely replaced the combination of greenery & mistletoe
              called the kissing bough. Bringing in the Yule log and the boar's head are not
              commonplace today. In the countryside you can find Christmas mummers
              who perform plays and waits still carol through the streets. In a place in
              Yorkshire, the tolling of the devil's knell takes place every Christmas Eve. The
              church bell is rung once for every year since Christ's birth with the last stroke
              timed exactly for midnight. The Christmas meal consists of roast turkey or
              beef and desserts are mincemeat pies and plum puddings.
           

              
             France
              Nearly every French home at Christmastime displays a Nativity scene or
              crèche, which serves as the focus for the Christmas celebration. The crèche
              is often peopled with little clay figures called santons or "little saints." An
              extensive tradition has evolved around these little figures which are made by
              craftsmen in the south of France throughout the year. In addition to the usual
              Holy Family, shepherds, and Magi, the craftsmen also produce figures in the
              form of local dignitaries and characters. The Christmas tree has never been
              particularly popular in France, and though the use of the Yule log has faded,
              the French make a traditional Yule log-shaped cake called the buche de Nol,
              which means "Christmas Log." The cake, among other food in great
              abundance is served at the grand feast of the season, which is called le
              rveillon. Le rveillon is a very late supper held after midnight mass on
              Christmas Eve. The menu for the meal varies according to regional culinary
              tradition. In Alsace, goose is the main course; in Brittany, buckwheat cakes
              with sour cream; in Burgundy it is turkey with chestnuts, and the Parisians
              feast upon oysters and pat de foie gras. French children receive gifts from
              Pere Noel who travels with his stern disciplinarian companion Pre Fouettard.
              Pre Fouettard reminds Pere Noel of just how each child has behaved during
              the past year. In some parts of France Pere Noel brings small gifts on St.
             Nicholas Eve (December 6) and visits again on Christmas. In other places it
              is le petit Jesus who brings the gifts. Generally adults wait until New Year's
              Day to exchange gifts.

              

             Germany
              The German Christmas is a very important time to each person and family.
              Preparations are made for weeks. Advent wreaths, candles and calendars
              set the mood. St. Nicholas' Day, December 6 marks the beginning of the
              season. Although the crib is often found in German homes, the tree is the
              center of attention. The custom began in Germany & every home must have
              one. Usually it is the mother who decorates the tree and no one is allowed in
              until it is finished. It is the Christkind who brings the presents, accompanied
              by one of its many devilish companions, Knecht Rupprecht, Pelznickle,
              Ru-Klas, or one of the other monstrous playmates created by this nation,
              which is known for its fairy tales. The highlight of the Christmas food is the
              cookies. There are dozens of different Cookies, shaped like figures of
              Christmas or stamped with familiar designs. Edible trees and tiny baked
              brown gnomes fill the warm kitchens for a week before the festivities.
          

              Greece
              St. Nicholas is important in Greece as the patron saint of sailors. According
              to Greek tradition, his clothes are drenched with brine, his beard drips with
              seawater, and his face is covered with perspiration because he has been
              working hard against the waves to reach sinking ships and rescue them from
              the angry sea. To members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, as are most
              Greek Christians, Christmas ranks second to Easter in the roster of
              important holidays. Yet there are a number of unique customs associated
              with Christmas that are uniquely Greek. On Christmas Eve, village children
              travel from house to house offering good wishes and singing kalanda, the
              equivalent of carols. Often the songs are accompanied by small metal
              triangles and little clay drums. The children are frequently rewarded with
              sweets and dried fruits. After 40 days of fasting, the Christmas feast is
              looked forward to with great anticipation by adults and children alike. Pigs
              are slaughtered and on almost every table are loaves of christopsomo
              ("Christ Bread"). This bread is made in large sweet loaves of various shapes
              and the crusts are engraved and decorated in some way that reflects the
              family's profession. Christmas trees are not commonly used in Greece. In
             almost every home the main symbol of the season is a shallow wooden bowl
              with a piece of wire is suspended across the rim; from that hangs a sprig of
              basil wrapped around a wooden cross. A small amount of water is kept in the
              bowl to keep the basil alive and fresh. Once a day, a family member, usually
              the mother, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to
              sprinkle water in each room of the house. This ritual is believed to keep the
              Killantzaroi away from the house. There are a number of beliefs connected
              with the Killantzaroi, which are a species of goblins or sprites who appear
              only during the 12-day period from Christmas to the Epiphany (January 6).
              These creatures are believed to emerge from the center of the earth and to
              slip into people's house through the chimney. More mischievous than actually
              evil, the Killantzaroi do things like extinguish fires, ride astride people's
              backs, braid horses' tails, and sour the milk. To further repel the undesirable
              sprites, the hearth is kept burning day and night throughout the twelve days.
              Gifts are exchanged on St. Basil's Day (January 1). On this day the "renewal
              of waters" also takes place, a ritual in which all water jugs in the house are
              emptied and refilled with new "St. Basil's Water." The ceremony is often
              accompanied by offerings to the naiads, spirits of springs and fountains.
           


              Guatemala
              For nine days before Christmas, posada processions pass through the
              streets. The beat of drums and the crackle of fireworks provide lively
              accompaniment as the figures of Mary and Joseph are carried to a friend's
              house, where a carol is sung asking for lodging for the Holy Family. After
              ritual questions and answers, the doors are opened and Mary and Joseph
              are taken to the nacimiento, or manger scene, where they will remain until the
              next night, when they once again go out seeking shelter. Everyone who
              accompanies the figures on their quest makes a great party with punch and
              hot tamales and dancing once the goal is accomplished. On Christmas Eve,
              the figure of the Christ Child is added to the nacimiento at the last of the nine
              houses to receive the Holy Family. This is the signal for the biggest party of
              all, and the home selected had better be a large one, since everyone who
              was involved over the last nine days will show up on this night. The Christmas
              tree has joined the nacimiento as a popular ornament because of the large
             German population in Guatemala. Gifts are left under the tree on Christmas
              morning by the Christ Child for the children. Parents and adults do not
              exchange gifts until New Year's Day. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve
              follows the posada and is in turn followed by a full supper.
             

              
              Holland
              In the Netherlands St. Nicholas is known as Sinterklaas. To the Dutch, St.
              Nicholas' Day is the time of greatest revelry in the Christmas season. St.
              Nicholas comes on the last Saturday of November by steamer. As he comes
              into the port of Amsterdam, all business and traffic stops as the people pour
              out to greet him. He disembarks with his servant Black Peter and riding his
              white horse. He is dressed in traditional bishop's robes while Black Peter
              wears Spanish attire. They are greeted by the mayor and lead a great
              parade through the streets to the royal palace. Here all the royal children are
              waiting and must give accounts of their behavior over the past year, just as all
              Dutch children must do. After the princes and princesses have proved their
              worth, the parade continues to a major hotel, where St. Nicholas will establish
              his headquarters for the season. December 5, St. Nicholas' Eve, is when the
              presents are exchanged. The presents are called "surprises" because they
              are disguised as much as possible to make the final discovery more
              delightful. A small gift may be wrapped inside a huge box, or hidden inside a
              vegetable, or sunk in a pudding. A large gift may lurk in the cellar with clues
              to its location. All surprises must be accompanied by a bit of verse. On
              Christmas itself, there are no presents. There are church services both
              Christmas Eve and morning and a big dinner in the evening. The Christmas
             tree is the center of the home celebration, which consists of carols and
              story-telling in the afternoon. December 26 is also a holiday, called Second
              Christmas Day, and is a time to relax and probably go out to eat. The people
              of Twente in east Holland hold a special Advent ceremony in which special
              horns are blown to chase away evil spirits and to announce the birth of Christ.
              Horns are homemade out of one-year-old saplings and are three or four feet
              long. Blown over wells, they sound a deep tone, similar to a foghorn.
            


              India
              Because India is mainly Hindu and Moslem, there is no official celebration of
              Christmas. However, this time of year is looked upon as an appropriate time for
              gift-giving and tipping or giving "baksheesh," charitable hand-outs to the poor of
              the country. Christians in India decorate mango or banana trees at Christmas
              time. Sometimes they also decorate their houses with mango leaves. In some parts
              of India, small clay oil-burning lamps are used as Christmas decorations; they are
              placed on the edges of flat roofs and on the tops of walls. Churches are decorated
              with poinsettias and lit with candles for the Christmas Even service.
             
              
              Iran
              Iran, formerly Persia, is the land where the Three Wise men are believed to
              have lived when Jesus was born. Today Christians in Iran begin fasting from
              animal products on December 1. This is called "Little Fast." "Big Fast"
              occurs during Lent, the six weeks preceding Easter. After Church service of
              December 25 they enjoy Christmas dinner which they call "Little Feast." A
              traditional dish is a chicken stew called harasa. Gifts are generally not
              exchanged but children get new clothes which they wear proudly on
              Christmas Day.
             


               Iraq
              On Christmas Eve, Iraqi Christian families gather together and one of the
              children read about the birth of Jesus while other family members hold
              lighted candles. Afterward the reading, a bonfire of thorn bushes is let and
              everyone sings. If the thorns burn to ashes, good luck will be granted for the
              coming year. When the fire dies, each person jumps over the ashes three
              times and makes a wish. On Christmas Day another bonfire is lit in the
              churchyard. The bishop, carrying a figure of the Baby Jesus leads the
              service. Afterwards he blesses one person with a touch. That person touches
              the person next to him or her and the touch is passed around until all present
              have felt the "touch of peace."
             

              

               Ireland
              To the Irish, Christmas is a time for religious celebration rather than revelry.
              The manger scene is in most houses and there are a few Christmas trees.
              The best-known Christmas custom is that of putting a candle in the window,
              often decorated with some greenery, on Christmas Eve. The idea is to help
              light the way of the Holy Family or any other poor traveler out on such a night.
              After the evening meal, the table is also set with bread and milk and the door
              left unlocked as a symbol of hospitality that the family is offering to Mary and
              Joseph and the little one to come. The only festive note that is struck is in the
              pudding that caps the meal. Three puddings are made early in December,
              one each for Christmas, New Year's, and Twelfth Night. The day after
              Christmas, St. Stephen's Day, witnesses the rowdy old custom of hunting the
              wren, when boys go from door to door with a wren on a stick (today the wren
              is not a real one), singing the traditional song and begging for treats.
            Israel
              Bethlehem, the little town where Jesus is said to have been born is the site of the
              Church of the Nativity, which is ablaze with flags and decorations every
              Christmas. On Christmas Eve natives and visitors alike crowd the church's
              doorways and stand on the roof to watch for the dramatic annual procession.
              Galloping horsemen and police mounted on Arabian horses lead the parade. They
              are followed by solitary horseman carrying a cross and sitting astride a coal-black
              steed. Then come the churchmen and government officials. The procession
              solemnly enters the doors and places an ancient effigy of the Holy Child in the
              church. Deep winding stairs lead to a grotto where visitors find a silver star
              marking the site of the birth of Jesus. Christian homes in Bethlehem are marked
              by a cross painted over the door and each home displays a homemade manger
              scene. A star is set up on a pole in the village square.
             

              
             Italy
              The popularity of the Nativity scene, one of the most beloved and enduring
              symbols of the holiday season, originated in Italy. St. Francis of Assisi asked a
              man named Giovanni Vellita of the village of Greccio to create a manger scene.
              St. Francis performed mass in front of this early Nativity scene, which inspired
              awe and devotion in all who saw it. The creation of the figures or pastori became
              an entire genre of folk art. In Rome, cannon are fired from Castel St. Angelo of
              Christmas Eve to announce the beginning of the holiday season. A 24-hour fast
              ends with an elaborate Christmas feast. Small presents are drawn from the Urn of
              Fate. The main exchange of gifts takes place on January 6, the feast of the
              Epiphany, the celebration in remembrance of the Magi's visit to the Christ Child.
              Children anxiously await a visit from La Befana who brings gifts for the good and
              punishment for the bad. According to legend, the three wise men stopped during
              their journey and asked an old woman for food and shelter. She refused them and
              they continued on their way. Within a few hours the woman had a change of heart
              but the Magi were long gone. La Befana, which means Epiphany, still wonders the
              earth searching for the Christ Child. She is depicted in various ways: as a fairy
              queen, a crone, or a witch. The main Christmas meals vary from region to region.
              A general menu would feature capitone, roasted, baked or fried female eel for the
              meatless Christmas Eve dinner, the pranzo delta vigilia; Christmas dinner might
              consist of tortellini, a capon and a variety of cakes. On Christmas Eve the
              children would present their parents with their Christmas letter, best wishes and
              promises to be good printed in their best hand on ornate stationery.
             


             Jamaica
              Jamaican Christmas festivities reached their height in the late eighteenth
              and early nineteenth centuries with feasts and processions featuring strolling
              singers and performers. In this century, the celebration came under more
              regulation so that performers had to be licensed. This has added to a
              general decline, although all the customs can still be found in various pasts of
              the island. The women were called "set-girls," because they worked together
              in a set of a specific number. They danced to the accompaniment of gourd
              rattles, fifes, triangles, and tambourines. The men were called "actor boys" or
              " koo-koo boys." They wore masks and elaborate headdress and would
              sometimes perform plays or skits. The name "koo-koo boys" derived from a
              song in one of the plays which begged for food. "Koo-koo" was the sound
              used to imitate the rumbling of an empty stomach. The most colorful figure in
              these bright festivities was the "John Canoe" dancer. He wore a mask, a
              wig, and a military jacket. On his head was a pasteboard houseboat with
              puppets of sailors, soldiers, or plantation workers. Often this was of great
              size, and the most skilled dancer had to be chosen to wear it. The name
              John Canoe is obscure. It may be a corruption of the French gens inconnu,
              which means "unknown people," or it may come from cornu, "horned," since
              early dancers wore animal masks. The origins of all these festivities are lost
              in antiquity, but they seem to derive equally from African and European
              customs. Bermuda was the home of similar Christmas festivities, as were
              parts of the American South.
             

              
              Japan
              Christmas was introduced in Japan by the Christian missionaries, and for
              many years the only people who celebrated it were those who had turned to
              the Christian faith. But now the Christmas season in Japan is full of meaning
              and is almost universally observed. The story of the Child Jesus born in a
              manger is fascinating to the little girls of Japan, for they love anything having
              to do with babies. In the scene of the Nativity they become familiar for the first
              time with a cradle, for Japanese babies never sleep in cradles. Many
              western customs in observing Christmas have been adopted by the
              Japanese. Besides exchanging gifts they eat turkey on Christmas Day, and
              in some places there are even community Christmas trees. They decorate
              their houses with evergreens and mistletoe, and in some homes Christmas
              carols are sung gaily. In Japan there is a god or priest known as Hoteiosho,
              who closely resembles our Santa Claus. He is always pictured as a kind old
              man carrying a huge pack. He is thought to have eyes in the back of his
              head. It is well for the children to be good when this all-seeing gentleman is
              abroad. New Year's Day is the most important day of the whole calendar in
              Japan. On New Year's Eve the houses are cleaned thoroughly from top to
              bottom, and are decorated for the morrow. when everything has been made
              clean and neat the people of the house dress themselves in their finest
              clothes. Then the father of the household marches through the house,
              followed by all the family, and drives the evil spirits out. He throws dried
              beans into every corner bidding the evil spirits withdraw and good luck enter.

              
             Mexico
              Several weeks before Christmas, elaborately decorated market stalls or
              puestos are set up in the plazas of every town and city. Some people travel
              for days from remote areas to get to these markets. The puestos offer crafts
              of every conceivable kind, foods such as cheese, bananas, nuts, and
              cookies, and flowers such as orchids and poinsettias. The poinsettia is
              native to Mexico and is believed to have first been used in connection with
              Christmas in the 17th century when Mexican Franciscans included the
              flowers in their Christmas celebration. There is a legend connected with the
              flower. A little boy named Pablo was walking to the church in his village to
              visit the Nativity scene, when he realized he had nothing to offer the Christ
              Child. He saw some green branches growing along the roadside and
              gathered them up. Other children scoffed, but when he laid them by the
              manger, a brilliant red star-shaped flower appeared on each branch. The
              main Christmas celebration in Mexico is called las posadas, which refers to
              processions reenacting Joseph and Mary's search for a place to stay in
              Bethlehem. The processions begin nine days before Christmas because the
              original journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem took nine days. Friends and
              family members divide themselves into two groups - pilgrims and
              innkeepers. The pilgrims travel from house to house asking for a shelter and
              are refused at each until they finally reach the house where an alter and
              Nativity scene have been set up. Here the pilgrims are admitted with great
              rejoicing, a traditional prayer is spoken, and the party begins. Food and drink
              are served and then children take turns trying to break open the pinata.

              

            Nicaragua
              Like many Latin American countries, Nicaragua retains many of the customs
              of old Spain. In the weeks leading up to Christmas people stroll the streets
              where there are many things to buy: candles, Nativity pictures, toys and
              foods. Children carry fragrant bouquets to the alter of the Virgin and sing
              carols. On Christmas Eve, church bells beckon the people to Midnight Mass.
              On January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, it is the three wise men who brings
              gifts for the children. Often the Holiday season concludes with a brilliant
              display of fireworks.

              
             Norway
              At 4:00 p.m. all work comes to a halt on Christmas Eve in Norway. Everyone
              bathes and puts on new clothes to greet the season. The largest sheaf of
              grain is hung out for the birds to make their Christmas merry, too. Christmas
              dinner begins with rice pudding with a lucky almond hidden in it for someone,
              and a bowl is also set out for the barn elf so that he will continue to watch
              over the animals and not turn mischievous. A Christmas pig provides most of
              the meat dishes. Traditionally the Norwegians kept the season bright with a
              Yule log. It literally formed the center of the celebration since it was frequently
              an entire tree that could only partly fit into the fireplace and so extended well
              out into the middle of the living room. As it burned it would be pushed farther
              into the fire to provide continuous light and warmth through the whole
              Christmas season. The Christmas tree is taking the place of the Yule log
              today.The popularity of Santa Claus has resurrected an ancient Norse figure
              called Julesvenn. In ancient times he would come during the feast of Jul to
              hide lucky barley stalks around the house. Now he comes on Christmas Eve
              to bring gifts to good children. After Christmas Day is past, children indulge
              in a custom much like trick or treat. It is called Julebukk and children wear
              costumes and go door to door asking for goodies.

             
             Peru
              Many Peruvian manger scenes will feature the quaintly beautiful figures
              carved of wood by the Quechua Indians. On Christmas Eve, the meal after
              Midnight Mass features tamales. Christmas Day festivities in Lima are
              highlighted by a bullfight and a procession with the statue of the Virgin Mary.
             


             Poland
             The lucky children of Poland receive presents twice. On St. Nicholas' Day,
              the good saint himself brings presents. On Christmas Day, it is the Star Man.
              The Star of Bethlehem is the most popular image in the Polish Christmas. It
              is the first star of Christmas Eve, which marks the end of the Advent fast and
              ushers in the time of feasting. Though Christmas in Poland is officially known
              as Bozz Narodzenie, it is most often referred to as Gwiazdka, which means
              "little star." Once the star appears, a special rice wafer blessed by the parish
              priest called oplatki, is broken into pieces and shared by all. Finally the meal
              can begin. The feast consists of twelve courses, one for each Apostle. The
              table is always set with one extra seat in case a stranger or the Holy Spirit
              should appear to share the meal. After supper the Star Man arrives attended
              by the Star Boys. They are dressed fantastically, as Wise Men or animals or
              other figures from the nativity. The Star Man examines the children in their
              catechism and rewards them with small presents if they do well, even if they
              need a bit of coaching. The Star Boys sing carols and are given a treat for
              their help. After the fun, all go to Pasterka, the midnight Mass of the
              Shepherds.
           

              
               Portugal
              Christmas is celebrated in much the same way in Portugal as it is in Spain.
              The Portuguese enjoy an additional feast, called consoada, in the early
              morning hours of Christmas Day. They set extra places at the table for
              alminhas a penar ("the souls of the dead"). In some areas crumbs are left on
              the hearth for these souls, a custom that derives from the ancient practice of
              entrusting the seeds to the dead in hopes that they will provide a bountiful
              harvest.
              Puerto Rico
              Early in the Christmas season, carolers begin going from house to house
              and from farm to farm. They wear homemade costumes of what the Magi
              might have worn and sing bright Spanish carols called aquinaldos and
              villancicos. They are rewarded with food and drink, and many from each
              house will join them, so that eventually there are great crowds going singing
              from place to place. Nine days before Christmas, the Mass of the Carols
              begins. This takes place each morning at 5:30 a.m. It is filled with music and
              usually the caroling continues on the way to work or home. The manger
              scenes are peopled with santos, hand-carved figures, that represent some
              oldest works of art. The tree and Santa Claus are also popular. Gifts arrive
              Christmas morning, but also on the Epiphany. On January 5 in the evening,
              children leave water, grass and grain under their beds for the camels of the
              Wise Men and the next day find presents in their place.


               Romania
              The tradition in Romania is for children to travel from house to house singing
              carols and reciting poetry and legends throughout the Christmas season. The
              leader carries a large wooden star called a steaua, which is covered with
              shiny paper and decorated with bells and colored ribbon. A picture of the
              Holy Family is pasted in the star's center, and the entire creation is attached
              to a broomstick or stout pole.
           


               Russia
              St. Nicholas is especially popular in Russia. The legend is that the
              11th-century Prince Vladimir traveled to Constantinople to be baptized, and
              returned with stories of miracles performed by St. Nicholas of Myra. Since
              then many Eastern Orthodox Churches have been named for the saint, and to
              this day, Nicholas is one of the most common names for Russian boys. The
              feast of St. Nicholas (December 6) was observed for many centuries, but
              after the communist revolution, the celebration of the feast was suppressed.
             During the communist years St. Nicholas was transformed into Grandfather
              Frost. Other religious traditions were suppressed during the communist era.
              Before the revolution, a figure called Babouschka would bring gifts for the
              children. Like Italy's La Befana, the story is that Babouschka failed to give
              food and shelter to the three wise men during their journey to visit the Christ
              Child. According to tradition, she still roams the countryside searching for the
              Christ Child and visiting the homes of children during the Christmas season.
              Babouschka never completely disappeared, and now in the post-communist
              era, has returned openly. Christmas trees were also banned by the
              Communist regime, but people continued to trim their "New Year's" trees.
              Most Christian Russians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church, and it is
              customary to fast until after the first church service on Christmas Eve.
              Christmas Eve dinner is meatless but festive. The most important ingredient
              is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of wheatberries or other grains
              which symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds which
              ensure happiness, success, and untroubled rest. A ceremony involving the
              blessing of the home is frequently observed. A priest visits the home
              accompanied by boys carrying vessels of holy water, and a little water is
              sprinkled in each room. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize
              unity.
            

              

               Scotland
              The Scots celebrate Christmas rather somberly and reserve their merriment
              for New Year's Eve which is called Hogmanay. This word may derive from a
              kind of oat cake that was traditionally given to children on New Year's Eve.
             The first person to set foot in a residence in a New Year is thought to
              profoundly affect the fortunes of the inhabitants. Generally strangers are
              thought to bring good luck. Depending on the area, it may be better to have a
              dark-haired or fair-haired stranger set foot in the house. This tradition is
              widely known as "first footing." It is bad luck to let the fire go out on Christmas
              Eve, since that is the time when the elves are abroad and only a roaring fire
              will keep them from slipping down the chimney. On Christmas Day itself, it is
              not unusual to have a bonfire and dance to the sound of bagpipes before
              settling down to a hearty dinner.
          


               Spain
              Christmas is a deeply religious holiday in Spain. The country's patron saint is
              the Virgin Mary and the Christmas season officially begins December 8, the
              feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is celebrated each year in front of the
              great Gothic cathedral in Seville with a ceremony called los Seises or the
              "dance of six." Oddly, the elaborate ritual dance is now performed by not six
              but ten elaborately costumed boys. It is a series of precise movements and
              gestures and is said to be quite moving and beautiful. Christmas Eve is
              known as Nochebuena or "the Good Night." There is singing and dancing in
              the streets to the sounds of guitars and castanets. At midnight everyone
              attends the Misa del Gallo, the Mass of the Rooster, so named because of
              the legend that the only time the rooster has crowed at midnight was the night
              when Jesus was born. After mass the dinner, or cena, is served, usually
              featuring turkey and the Christmas favorite turron, a candy loaf of roasted
              almonds in caramel sauce. It is a time for family members to gather together
              to rejoice and feast around the Nativity scenes that are present in nearly
              every home. December 28 is the feast of the Holy Innocents. Young boys of a
              town or village light bonfires and one of them acts as the mayor who orders
              townspeople to perform civic chores such as sweeping the streets. Refusal
              to comply results in fines which are used to pay for the celebration. As in
              many European countries, the children of Spain receive gifts on the feast of
              the Epiphany. The Magi are particularly revered in Spain. It is believed that
              they travel through the countryside reenacting their journey to Bethlehem
              every year at this time. Children leave their shoes on the windowsills and fill
              them with straw, carrots, and barley for the horses of the Wise Men. Their
              favorite is Balthazar who rides a donkey and is the one believed to leave the
              gifts.
            



              Sweden
              A thousand years ago in Sweden, King Canute declared that Christmas
              would last a month, from December 13, the feast of St. Lucia until January
              13, or Tjugondag Knut (St. Canute's Day). Some say she once visited the
              country, and others believe missionaries brought stories of her life which
              entranced the Swedish people. Her story is that in the days of early Christian
              persecution, Lucia carried food to Christians hiding in dark underground
              tunnels. To light the way she wore a wreath of candles on her head.
              Eventually Lucia was arrested and martyred. On her feast day the eldest
              daughter in each family dresses in a white dress with a red sash, and wears
              an evergreen wreath with seven lighted candles on her head. She (very
              carefully) carries coffee and buns to each family member in his or her room
              and the younger children often wear a conelike hat with a star on top and
              accompany her. Many schools, offices, and communities sponsor Lucia
              processions in which carol are sung and everyone thanks the Queen of Light
              for bringing hope during the darkest time of the year. Before the midday meal
             on Christmas Eve, the family gathers in the kitchen for a custom called
              doppa I grytan, "dipping in the kettle." All gather round a pot filled drippings
              of pork, sausage and corned beef and dip dark bread into it, which they eat
              when it is completely soaked with the drippings. The traditional Christmas
              Eve dinner would start off with a smorgasbord with a sip of akvavit; then
              lutfisk, a sun-dried cod served in cream sauce, and ham; finally rice pudding
              with an almond in it. After dinner all gather around the Christmas tree to open
              the presents. These gifts were brought by the Jultomen, a gnome who lives in
              the barn, if there is one. He has to have his portion of rice pudding if he is to
              behave in the coming year. On Christmas Day there is a service a 5:00 a.m.
              After that the day is devoted to rest and to religious observance.
            

             
              
             Switzerland
              In terms of its traditions, Switzerland is basically four different countries.
              There are German, French and Italian areas. Gifts may be given either on
              Christmas Eve or New Year's Day, and they are brought by the Christkindli or
              St. Nicholas or even Father Christmas with his wife Lucy. Both the manger
              and the Christmas tree hold sway. Carols drift on the air in four languages.
              Switzerland has maintained its careful neutrality by absorbing the best of all
              nations.
          


              Sryia
              On Christmas Eve, the pouter gates of the homes of Syrian Christians are
              locked as a reminder of the years of persecution when all worship had to be
              hidden.The whole family gathers in the courtyard with lighted candles, around
              a pile of wood that will become a bonfire. The youngest son reads the
              Gospel story of the Nativity and the father lights the fire. All observe the
              particular way that the fire spreads through the wood as it will determine the
              luck of the household for the coming year. All sing psalms while the fire burns
              and when it dies down they make a wish and jump over the embers. Early on
              Christmas morning, there is a mass before dawn, and there is a bonfire in
              the center of the church as well. The image of the Christ Child is carried
              around the church in a joyous procession. Syrian children receive their gifts
              at Epiphany from a very original source, the Smallest Camel of the Wise
              Men. On their way to see Jesus, the Wise Men traveled in a caravan with
              many camels. The smallest was exhausted by the long journey but refused to
              give up, his desire to see the Christ Child was so great. When the infant
              Jesus saw the faith and resolve of this loving creature, he blessed it with
              renewed strength and immortality. Every year he comes bearing presents for
              the good girls and boys, who learn the importance of even the most
              insignificant of us from his example.
           


              Venezuela
              Venezuelans attend a daily early morning church service between December
              16th and 24th alled Misa de Aguinaldo ("Early Morning Mass.") In Caracas,
              the capital city, it is customary to roller-skate to this service and many
              neighborhoods close the streets to cars until 8 a.m. Before bedtime children
              tie one end of a piece of string to their big tow and hang the other out the
              window. The next morning, rollerskaters give a tug to any string they see
              handing. After Mass everyone enjoys tostados and coffee.
           


               Wales
              Caroling is particularly popular in Wales where it is called eisteddfodde and
              is often accompanied by a harp. In some rural areas a villager is chosen to
              be the Mari llwyd. This person travels around the town draped in white and
              carrying a horse's skull on a long pole. Anyone given the "bite" by the horse's
              jaws must pay a fine.
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