Christmas is a big family celebration which is why the majority of UK students headed home at the first opportunity.
Christmas around the World
Christmas around the World: Every year we have students living with us from all around the world and the list of nationalities is growing, we gave up counting the list after the hundredth one.
But each and every single one of those countries will have their own traditions come Christmas time while others wouldn’t have traditionally held Christmas celebrations.
Here are some of the weird (to us) and wonderful Christmas traditions from 6 of the most popular countries you our students come from.
Christmas around the World: China
Not the first country you would expect to celebrate Christmas with only one percent of the population being Christians, so its not widely celebrated but in the major cities you will find Christmas lights, trees and other decorations in the streets, malls and department stores. Santa Claus is called ‘Shen Dan Lao Ren’ and you can even find him in his grotto just like us.
A tradition that is becoming popular in China is the giving of apples on Christmas Eve and the singing of Christmas Carols.
Merry Christmas in Mandarin – 聖誕節快樂 – Shèng Dàn Kuài Lè.
Christmas in Ireland
As you would expect there’s not much difference in the celebration of Christmas in Ireland to that of the UK. but there are some traditions that differ, for example on Christmas Eve some families still follow the tradition of placing a tall, thick candle on the sill of the largest window after sunset. The candle is left to burn all night and represents a welcoming light for Mary and Joseph.
Boxing Day is known as St. Stephen’s Day. The 6th January is also a traditional day in the Irish festive calendar with the Feast of the Epiphany where traditionally the women got the day off and the men do the housework and cooking.
Merry Christmas in Irish – Nollaig Shona – Null-eg Hunna.
Christmas around the World: India
Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas in India is quite a small festival as only about 2.3% of the population are Christians – but that’s still 25 million people.
Midnight mass is a very important tradition for Indian Christians. The whole family will walk to the mass and this will be followed by a massive feast and the giving and receiving of presents.
Instead of having traditional Christmas Trees, a banana or mango tree is decorated and in the southern part of India, Christians will put small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to show their neighbours that Jesus is the light of the world.
Merry Christmas in Hindi – क्रिसमस की बधाई – Krisamas Kee Badhaee.
Christmas in France
Very similar to our Christmas, Christmas is big in France with Christmas markets, trees and lights lining the streets. Strasbourg in North East France traditionally holds one of Europe’s biggest Christmas markets and its normally a site to behold with over 2 million visitors, its been going since 1570.
Where in the UK the tree forms the centre piece of our Christmas homes, in France, a Nativity Crib is often the focal point full of traditional clay figures of the Nativity but also include figures such as a Butcher, a Baker, a Policeman and a Priest.
Yule Logs made out of Cherry Wood are often burned in French homes. An old tradition is that the log was carried into the home on Christmas Eve and sprinkled with red wine to make the log smell nice when it was burning.
Merry Christmas in French – Joyeux Noël – Zhwa-yeu Noh-el.
Christmas around the World: Nigeria
Christmas in Nigeria is a family event, where family members will come together to celebrate; families living in the cities will travel to the villages to meet older relatives. The big tradition is a huge Christmas party that lasts all night on Christmas Eve.
Then on Christmas morning the family head to church and return home to a traditional Christmas meal; that includes Turkey but may also include other meats such as Beef, Goat or Ram.
Most homes will have an artificial Christmas tree and Christmas Cards and presents are exchanged amongst family and friends. Another Nigerian tradition is children playing with Firecrackers on Christmas.
Many different languages are spoken in Nigeria so there isn’t a single translation for Merry Christmas. In Hausa for example it’s barka dà Kirsìmatì.
Christmas in Portugal
In Portugal Father Christmas (Pai Natal) is believed to bring presents to children on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day; and just like the UK they are now left under the Christmas Tree. The traditional Christmas meal in Portugal; Consoada, is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve and consists of codfish with green vegetables and boiled potatoes.
After the meal, traditionally families go to church for the Missa do Galo or ‘Mass of the Rooster’. Where an image of baby Jesus is brought out, and everyone queues up to kiss it. It is then put in the nativity scene. After the service traditionally people return home and open their presents. But now its more common for a few presents to be opened after mass; and the rest opened on Christmas morning.
Christmas Trees have only been popular in homes since the 1970s. Before this presents were placed in shoes by the fireplace!
Merry Christmas in Portuguese – Feliz Natal – Fay-leezh Na-tal.
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