My son recently had to write a paper for a college class about Japan in the late 1800’s. Japan sent a delegation of men to countries all across the globe to find out what each nation was excelling in and how they could replicate their success. This seems quite wise to me, of course, the problem was that the information they brought back was subjective and so very “foreign” to the people of Japan. The idea is still a good one.
I have begun to apply this same principle to evaluating Christmas Traditions. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas. There are many fun and even extravagant traditions that often take us away from the true meaning of Christmas. With that in mind, I began to wonder where the BEST Christ-Centered Christmas Traditions From Around The World began?
Let’s take a look…
The focus of Christmas in Argentina and much of Latin America is around the Nativity Scene or “pesebre” which is an important Christmas decoration. The “pesebre” is put near to or under the Christmas tree.
Jan. 7 is Christmas Day in Ethiopia. However, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church does not call the celebration of Christ’s birth Christmas, but rather Ganna. Ethiopian families celebrate Ganna in several ways, but most people fast the day before, dress in white clothing and attend a traditional Mass at 4 in the morning. The celebrations don’t end on Ganna. They start again 12 days later on Jan. 19, with Timkat, a commemoration of the baptism of Christ. In celebration of Timkat families attend church services where the music is lively and everyone is dressed in traditional garb.
Christmas celebrations take place on Christmas Eve. French families fast all day, go to midnight Mass and come home for a late feast called le reveillon. It’s tradition for French families to arrange a nativity scene, called a creche in their living room, as well as decorate a Christmas trees with lights and stars that represent the star that shone over Bethlehem.
Families start celebrating Christmas four Sundays before the big day by making an Advent wreath with four colored candles. A candle is lit each Sunday, followed by caroling and eating cookies. Some children in Germany write their wish lists to the Christ Child, who is dressed in white with golden wings and a golden crown. The Christ Child will bring gifts to children Christmas Eve is the most important day for families and is centered around the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree tradition started in Germany and it is a sacred event to decorate the evergreen tree with glass ornaments, silver stars, lights and placing an angel on the top. When it is finally Christmas Day, families light the white candle of the Advent wreath and attend church together.
Christmas in Italy begins with the first Sunday of Advent. Manger scenes originated in Italy where families attend Christmas markets, searching for new figures to add to their manger.
Christmas celebrations in Ireland begin on Dec. 8 and end on Jan. 6, or the Feast of the Epiphany. It’s tradition for families to light a candle in the window of their house on Christmas Eve to symbolize their welcoming of Mary and Joseph as they looked for shelter for Jesus’ birth.
A major Mexican Christmas tradition is Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration that symbolizes Mary and Joseph’s search for a room at the inn where Jesus could be born. From Dec. 16 to 24, families will switch off hosting the Posada in their home, where a nativity scene is set up and neighborhood children and adults play the parts.
There is a special tradition in the Philippines of having a Christmas lantern, which is called “paról” which is a lantern that is star-shaped, remembering the star of Bethlehem. The star is made out of bamboo and paper.
Romanian’s make a star that represents the star of Bethlehem, made of colored paper and often decorated with tinsel, silver foil, and bells. The star is put on a pole. In the middle of the star is a picture of Jesus as a baby or a nativity scene. Singers take the star with them when they go caroling to neighbors in their community.
Traditional Russian Christmases are centered on religious observation, in which families say special prayers and fast until Jan. 6 (Christmas Eve). Then, they have a bountiful 12-course meal called the “Holy Supper,” which honors the Twelve Apostles. Christmas Day is celebrated on Jan. 7 and is traditionally a day for church services and a dinner that usually consists of goose and suckling pig.
Christmas celebrations begin on Dec. 8, when families observe the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. During this weeklong observance, families may travel to Seville for the warm weather and its great cathedral to watch a dance performance called Los Seises to honor the Virgin Mary. Spanish families decorate the best room in their home with life-size nativity scenes called “nacimientos“. Families in Spain look for the first star that shines on Christmas Eve which reminds them of the star that shone in the sky the night of Jesus’s birth.
The people of Sweden kick off the Christmas season on Dec. 13, also known as St. Lucia’s Day. Swedes celebrate the patron saint of light, in which the eldest daughter in a family dresses in a long white gown and serves coffee and saffron buns to her family members. Straw is used as a decoration in homes and on Christmas trees to remind Swedish family’s that Jesus was born in a manger.
Can you add any Christ-Centered Christmas Traditions from around the world?
Janelle Esker is the grateful wife of Michael and homeschooling mother of six amazing children. She lives with her family, 4 cats, 1 dog, 3 ducks and 12 chickens in scenic Ohio. Janelle received her B.A. in Education from Ohio Northern University. She is the author of CHOSEN: One Family’s Journey with Autism.
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