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India

India is one of the most interesting countries in the world

  • Christmas in India
Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is quite a small festival in India, due to the number of people who are Christians (about 2.3%) compared to people who belong to other religions. Churches in India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service. Instead of having traditional Christmas Trees, a banana or mango tree is decorated. Sometimes people use mango leaves to decorate their homes. In Southern India, Christians often put small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to show their neighbors that Jesus is the light of the world. People like to go carol singing around their neighbors for about a week before Christmas. Christmas Trees are also very popular as is a 'traditional' rich fruit Christmas Cake! Favourite sweets include neureos (small pastries which are stuffed with dry fruit and coconut and fried) and dodol (like toffee that has coconut and cashew in it). On Christmas Eve, Christians in Goa hang out giant paper lanterns, in the shape of stars, between the houses so that the stars float above you as you walk down the road. The main Christmas meal is also eaten on Christmas Eve and is also 'western' with roast turkey or chicken being popular. In India, Father Christmas or Santa Claus delivers presents to children from a horse and cart. He's known as 'Christmas Baba' in Hindi, 'Baba Christmas' in Urdu (both of those mean Father Christmas); 'Christmas Thaathaa' in Tamil and 'Christmas Thatha' in Telugu (both of those mean Christmas old man); and 'Natal Bua' (Christmas Elder Man) in Marathi. In Kerala state, he's known as 'Christmas Papa'.

Australia

What is the weather like on Christmas in this country? How do you think?

Christmas in AustraliaIn Australia, Christmas comes in towards the beginning of the summer holidays! Children have their summer holidays from mid December to early February, so some people might even be camping at Christmas. Australians hang wreaths on their front doors and sometimes go out Christmas carol singing on Christmas Eve. People also decorate their houses and gardens with Christmas Trees and Christmas lights. Australians also decorate their houses with bunches of 'Christmas Bush', a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream colored flowers. Poinsettia plants are also popular plants used as decorations. In each State capital city there is a large Carols by Candlelight service. As it is the middle of summer in Australia at Christmas time, the words to the Carols about snow and the cold winter are sometimes changed to special Australian words! When Santa gets to Australia, he sometimes gives the reindeer a rest and might use kangaroos. He also changes his clothes for less 'hot' ones! Children often leave out carrots for Santa's reindeer and there might be some cake for Santa, with some cold beer but it's often non-alcoholic because Santa has to drive his sleigh. On Boxing Day most people go and visit their friends and often have barbecues at the beach. The Flying Doctor Service has to work all though-out Christmas. On Christmas Day the people who live in the outback send Christmas greetings to each other over the radio network. Most people now have a cold Christmas dinner (normally eaten at lunch time), or a barbecue with seafood such as prawns and lobsters along with the 'traditional english' food. Some people like to have the 'traditional' Christmas Pudding but there might also be cold desserts like Pavlova and trifle.

The Philippines

Oh! The Philippines!!! So mysterious country...

Christmas in the PhilippinesPeople in the Philippines like to celebrate Christmas for as long as possible! The playing of Christmas carols in shops can start in September! The Christmas celebrations continue to the First Sunday in January when Epiphany or the Feast of the Three Kings is celebrated. Most Filipinos are Christians with about 80% of people being Catholics. It's the only Asian country with so many Christians. Christmas customs in the Philippines are a mixture of western and native Filipino traditions. So people in the Philippines have Santa Claus (or 'Santa Klaus'), Christmas trees, Christmas cards and Christmas carols from western countries! They also have their own Christmas traditions such as the 'parol' which is a bamboo pole or frame with a lighted star lantern on it. It's traditionally made from bamboo strips and colored Japanese paper or cellophane paper and represents the star that guided the Wise Men. It is the most popular Christmas decoration in the Philippines. During Christmas Eve evening, Christians go to church to hear the last 'simbang gabi' or the Christmas Eve mass. This is followed by a midnight feast, called Noche Buena. The Noche Buena is a big, open house, celebration with family, friends and neighbors dropping in to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! Most households would have several dishes laid out and would normally include: lechon (roasted pig), ham, fruit salad, rice cakes (bibingka and puto bumbong are traditional Christmas foods) and other sweets, steamed rice, and many different types of drinks.

South Africa

What do you know about Christmas in South Africa? Let's check:)

Christmas in South AfricaBecause South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas comes in the summer. Some people like to go camping. Going carol singing, on Christmas Eve, is very popular in towns and cities. Carols by Candlelight services are also popular on Christmas Eve. Traditional 'fir' Christmas Trees are popular and children leave a stocking out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. The Christmas meal is either turkey, duck, roast beef or suckling pig with yellow rice and raisins and vegetables, followed by Christmas Pudding or a traditional South African dessert called Malva Pudding (sometimes also called Lekker Pudding). The meal is often eaten outside in the summer sun! If it's really hot they might even have a barbecue or 'braai'. Mince pies are also popular. On Christmas day afternoon, people visit family and friends or might go for a trip into the country side to play games or have a swim.

Trinidad & Tobago

Christmas in this country???

Christmas in Trinidad and TobagoChristmas is a very social time in Trinidad and Tobago with most people having parties. The radio stations play Trinidadian Christmas carols and songs as well as traditional and contemporary carols from the USA. A special Trinidadian music, Parang, is also played. Parang is an upbeat Venezuela-Trinidad hybrid music normally sung in Spanish. Now there's also 'soca parang' where songs are sung in English. In the evenings around Christmas, many people like to be 'Parranderos' and go from house to house singing Christmas songs. Lots of different instruments are used : guitars and cuatros (a small four stringed guitar), violins, maracas (called chac-chacs) and two wooden blocks which are known as toc-toc. If you've been good at singing, you'll hopefully be given some food and drink. Most people paint and make repairs to their houses, buy electrical appliances and furniture and hang new curtains and decorations (especially lights) for Christmas. The Christmas day meal is usually prepared for several months before Christmas! The traditional meal includes apples and grapes, sorrel, ponche-de-creme (a version of egg nog), ham, turkey, homemade bread, ginger beer, pastelles (a version of tamales) and local wine. Trinidadian Christmas fruitcake is traditional and is eaten in most homes.

Jamaica

James Bond.... Coffee... Local music

Christmas in JamaicaChristmas is a very special time in Jamaica. Lots of people paint their houses and hang new curtains and decorations for Christmas. In Jamaica, on Christmas Eve the 'Grand Market' happens. In every town and city there is a cross between a festival and a market. During the day, people go shopping for Christmas foods, sweets and toys, etc. Around 6.00 pm the evening part of Grand Market starts and it lasts until the morning! Everyone comes out on their new or best clothes, including children, to celebrate and party all night. All the streets, shops and many houses are decorated with lights. There are normally street vendors selling food: jerk chicken, boiled corn, and sweets. Following the Grand Market, some people will go to a Midnight Mass Church Service and others will party all night. The Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee and saltfish, breadfruit, fried plantains, boiled bananas, freshly squeezed fruit juice and tea. Dinner is usually served in the late afternoon and this may include turkey, chicken, curry goat, stewed oxtail and very importantly rice and peas. Jamaican fruitcake is traditional and is eaten in most homes.

The UK

One more time about Christmas in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland

Christmas in the United KingdomMost families in the UK have a Christmas Tree (or maybe even two!) in their house for Christmas. Christmas Trees were first popularized the UK by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Prince Albert was German. Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe are also sometimes used to decorate homes or other buildings. Most villages, towns and cities are decorated with Christmas lights over Christmas. The most famous Christmas lights in the UK are in Oxford Street in London. Children believe that Father Christmas or Santa Claus leaves presents in stockings or pillow-cases. Stockings are normally hung up by the fire or by the children's beds on Christmas Eve. Children sometimes leave out mince pies to eat and drink non-alcoholic drink that's left because Santa has to drive his sleigh. Children write letters to Father Christmas/Santa listing their requests, but sometimes instead of putting them in the post, the letters are tossed into the fireplace. The draught carries the letters up the chimney and Father Christmas/Santa reads the smoke. Boxing Day is a very old custom that started in the UK and is now taken as a holiday in many countries around the world. In the UK, the main Christmas Meal is usually eaten at lunchtime or early afternoon on Christmas Day. It's normally roast turkey, roast vegetables and 'all the trimmings' which means vegetables like carrots & peas, stuffing and sometimes bacon and sausages. It's often served with cranberry sauce and bread sauce. Before turkey was available, roast beef or goose was the main Christmas meal. One vegetable that is often at Christmas in the UK are Brussels sprouts. Dessert is often Christmas Pudding. Mince pies and lots of chocolates are often eaten as well!

The USA

Christmas is a wonderful time for miracles

Christmas in the United States of AmericaSome Americans use pop-corn threaded on string to help decorate their Christmas Tree. Making gingerbread houses is also popular to make and eat at Christmas! Eggnog is a 'traditional' Christmas drink in the USA. Many Americans, especially Christians will go to Church to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. People in America like to decorate the outsides of their houses with lights and sometimes even statues of Santa Claus, Snowmen and Reindeer. Some cookies and glass of milk are often left out as a snack for Santa on Christmas Eve! The streets of towns and cities are often decorated with lights to celebrate Christmas. The most famous Christmas street lights in the USA are at the Rockefeller Center in New York where there is a huge Christmas Tree with a public ice skating rink in front of it. Christmas Trees were first put up in the USA by German immigrants in Pennsylvania. There were some community trees as early as the 1750s. Frank Woolworth started selling glass ornaments in his stores in 1880. Electric Christmas tree lights were invented in 1895 by American Ralph Morris after concerns over accidents involving the use of candles. In Hawaii Santa is called Kanakaloka!

Poland

Our neighbours adore Christmas time!

Christmas in PolandIn Poland, Advent is the beginning of Christmas Time. During Advent, people also prepare their houses for Christmas. There's lots of cleaning and people wash their windows and clean their carpets very thoroughly. Poland is a largely catholic country and Christmas Eve is a very important and busy day. Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia. Traditionally, the house is also cleaned and everyone wore their best festive clothes. The main Christmas meal is eaten in the evening and is called "Kolacja wigilijna" (Christmas Eve supper). It's traditional that no food is eaten (or sometimes the first present opened) until the first star is seen in the sky! On the table there are 12 dishes - to give you good luck for the next 12 months. The meal is traditionally meat free. For catholics the 12 dishes symbolize Jesus's 12 disciples. One of the most important dishes is "barszcz" (beetroot soup) and it's obligatory to have it. The barszcz may be eaten with "uszka" (little dumplings with mushrooms) or "krokiety" (pancakes with mushrooms or/and cabbage, in breadcrumbs, fried on oil or butter). Carp is often the main dish of the meal. "Bigos" and herrings are very popular. The most popular desserts at Kolacja wigilijna are "makowiec", a poppy seed roll made of sweet yeast bread, "kutia" mixed dried fruits and nuts with wheat seeds, "piernik" a moist cake made with honey (that's like gingerbread) and gingerbreads (which are usually dry and very hard). At the beginning of the meal, a large wafer biscuit called an 'Oplatek', which has a picture of Mary, Joseph and Jesus on it, is passed around the table and everyone breaks a piece off and eats it and says a Christmas greeting. An empty place is often left at the meal table, for an unexpected guest 'Niespodziewany Gość'. There are very many carols sung in Poland and each region has own carols. Presents are brought by "Święty Mikołaj" (St Nicholas/Santa Claus), but in some parts of Poland there are different present bringers.

Lithuania

We suggest to look how Lithuanians celebrate Christmas

Christmas in LithuaniaChristmas Eve (Kūčios) is a more important day than Christmas Day. The whole house is cleaned, the bedding is changed and everyone washes and puts on clean clothes ready for the meal. Many Lithuanians used to go to the bathhouse to be cleaned before the meal. Straw is a traditional decoration. It is normally spread on the table top and then covered with a clean, white tablecloth. Then the table is decorated with candles and small branches or twigs from a fir tree. Often an extra place is set - for a family member who can't come to the meal or if a family member has died during the past year. At the center of the table is a plate of Christmas wafers - one for each person. The Kūčios meal normally has 12 dishes - one for each of Jesus's followers. None of the dishes contain meat. Traditional and popular dishes include fish (often herring), kūčiukai (small sweet pastries) normally soaked in poppy milk, kisielius (a drink made from cranberries), dried fruit soup, beet soup (often with mushroom filled dumplings in it), vegetable salad, mushrooms, boiled or baked potatoes, sauerkraut, a kind of wheat porridge with honey and bread. Sweet dishes are: kissel (a fruit soup/jelly thickened with potato flour) and stewed fruit compote. After the meal (or possibly between the main and sweet courses) 'The Old Man of Christmas' (Santa Claus) сomes with presents! Popular Christmas Tree decorations in Lithuania are made from white paper straws. They are often in the shapes of stars, snowflakes and other geometric shapes.

Latvia

Christmas walks the Planet!

Christmas in Latvia Children in Latvia believe that Santa Claus (also known as Ziemassvētku vecītis - Christmas Old Man) brings presents for them. The present are usually put under the Christmas tree and opened on the Evening of Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. Sometimes to get a present you have to recite a short poem while standing next to the Christmas tree! Before Christmas children learn to say poems by heart. You might also get a present by singing, playing a musical instrument or dancing. Latvia also claims to be the home of the first Christmas tree! The first documented use of an evergreen tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations is in town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, in the year 1510. Lots of people think the Christmas tree first came from Germany, but the first recorded one is in Latvia. The special Latvian Christmas Day meal is cooked brown/grey peas with bacon (pork) sauce, small pies, cabbage and sausage, bacon rolls and gingerbread.

Finland

Finland has one of the most famous Santa Clause in the world!

Christmas in Finland Finnish people believe that Santa Claus or Father Christmas lives in the north part of Finland called Korvatunturi (or Lapland), north of the Arctic Circle. People from all over the world send letters to Santa Claus in Finland. In Finland, Santa is known as Joulupukki! Joulupukki rides with reindeer leaves gifts under the Christmas tree but if you have been naughty you could end up with a bag of coal! Everyone tries to be at home for Christmas. Animals are given their own Christmas in Finland, with farmers sometimes hanging a sheaf of wheat on a tree to be eaten and pecked at by the birds. Because it gets dark early in most parts of Finland around Christmas (about 3.00 pm) it's now traditional to go cemeteries and visit the graves of family members. Other people like a sauna on Christmas Eve. The main Christmas meal is eaten in the early evening. Lutefish (salt fish) is the traditional starter. The main meal is a leg of pork served with mashed potato traditionally baked slowly in birch-bark boxes in the oven with similarly cooked mashed swede. Cured salmon is very popular and some people also have turkey. Dessert is baked rice pudding/porridge eaten with spiced plum jam. One almond is hidden in the pudding. Whoever find the almond will be lucky for the next year.

Pakistan

We don't know much about Pakistan!

Christmas in Pakistan Christians make up a very small part of the population in Pakistan. But as Pakistan has a population over 162 million people, there are more than 5 millions Christians! Most Christians in Pakistan live in the country and are quite poor. During the last week of Advent, in many Christian areas, carol singing is performed by various groups. They go from house to house and in return the family offers something to the choir. The money collected from such carols is used for charity or is given to the church. In the big Christian areas each house is decorated and has a star on the roof. The crib and Christmas tree are also important decorations. Sometimes there are crib competitions! On Christmas Eve, Churches are packed for the midnight or vigil-mass services.