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Christmas traditions

Christmas traditions vary from country to country. Elements common to many countries include the lighting of Christmas trees, the hanging of Advent wreaths, Christmas stockings, candy canes, and the creation of Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas carols may be sung and stories told about such figures as the Baby Jesus, St Nicholas, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Christkindl or Grandfather Frost.

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Christmas traditions

  1. 1. Christmas traditions Christmas traditions vary from country to country. Elements common to many countries include the lighting of Christmas trees, the hanging of Advent wreaths, Christmas stockings, candy canes, and the creation of Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas carols may be sung and stories told about such figures as the Baby Jesus, St Nicholas, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Christkindl or Grandfather Frost. The sending of Christmas cards, the exchange of Christmastime greetings, observance of fasting and/or special religious observances such as a midnight Mass or Vespers on Christmas Eve, the burning of a Yule log, and the giving and receiving of presents. Along with Easter, Christmas time is one of the most important periods on the Christian calendar, and is often closely connected to other holidays at this time of year, such as Advent, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, St. Nicholas Day, St. Stephen's Day, New Year's, and the Feast of the Epiphany. Geographical variation South Africa Christmas in South Africa is a public holiday celebrated on 25 December. Many European traditions are maintained despite the distance from Europe. Christmas trees are set up in homes and the children are given presents in their stockings. Traditional 'fir' Christmas trees are popular and children leave a stocking out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. The gift bearer is Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
  2. 2. The Christmas meal is mince pies, turkey roast beef or a barbecue outdoors. The meal is finished with Christmas Pudding. Christmas Crackers are used to make noise Nigeria Christmas Day is a public holiday in Nigeria which is always marked by the emptying of towns and cities as Nigerians that have been successful returning to their ancestral villages to be with family and to bless those less fortunate. As the towns and cities empty, people jam the West African markets to buy and transport live chickens, goats and cows that will be needed for the Christmas meals. On Christmas Eve, traditional meals are prepared according to the traditions of each region. Rather than having sweets and cakes, Nigerians as a whole tend to prepare various meats in large quantities. In the south, a dish called Jollof rice is served with stews of various meats along with boiled beans and fried plantains; in the north, Rice and Stew as well as Tuwon Shinkafa, a rice pudding served with various meat stews, is preferred. In the North several local desserts are also made which is hardly ever found in other parts of Nigeria. An alternative in both regions (but more favored in the south) is a pepper soup with fish, goat, or beef which may also be served with Fufu (pounded yam). Served with this food are an array of mainly alcoholic drinks such as the traditional palm wine or various local and imported beers and wines; children and women may be served locally made soft-drink equivalents instead. Gift giving in Nigeria often involves money and the flow of gifts from the more fortunate to the less so. After the "successful" visitors have come from their towns, cities, and even overseas, they are given time to settle in. Afterwards, local relatives begin approaching them asking for assistance of some kind, whether financial or not. Financial donations and elaborately wrapped gifts may be given out at lavish parties, weddings, and ceremonies; sometimes the money is scattered in the air to be grabbed by the others or stuck onto the sweaty foreheads of those dancing. Religion in Nigeria is about equally divided between Christian and Islam. There are occasional outbreaks of religious conflict. The Islamic sect Boko Haram has attacked Christian churches with bombings on Christmas 2011. Ethiopia Christmas Day in Ethiopia is celebrated on January 7. India Christmas decorations for sale Being a British colony until 1947, many British traditions stayed on in India. Christmas is a state holiday in India, although Christianity in India is a minority with only 2.3% (of 1.237 Billion) of the population. Most of the Christians in India attend the church. Many Christian houses in India decorates Christmas cribs and distribute sweets and cakes to their neighbors. In many of the schools that are run by the Christian missionaries, the children actively participate in the programmes. Also in many non-religious schools, there is tradition of Christmas celebration. Christmas is also increasingly celebrated by other religions in India. Christmas is known as "Badaa Din" (Big Day) in North and North-West India. Pakistan
  3. 3. Christianity in Pakistan constitutes the second largest religious minority community in Pakistan after Hindus. The total number of Christians is approximately 2,800,000 in 2008, or 1.6% of the population. Of these, approximately half are Roman Catholic and half Protestant. Christians celebrate Christmas by going from house to house singing carols, and in return the family offers something to the choir. Mostly the money collected from such carols is used for charity works or is given to the church. Their homes are decorated with local Christmas handicrafts while artificial stars signifying the Star of Bethlehem are hung on rooftops. Christmas celebrations are also popular with the urban middle class in the country with hotels, cafes, restaurants and theme parks hosting festivities and special events. East Asia China Christmas 2012 in China In China, December 25 is not a legal holiday. However, it is still designated as a public holiday in China's special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, both former colonies of Western powers with (nominal) Christian cultural heritage. In the mainland, the small percentage of Chinese citizens who consider themselves Christians unofficially, and usually privately, observe Christmas. Many other individuals celebrate Christmas- like festivities even though they do not consider themselves Christians. Many customs, including sending cards, exchanging gifts, and hanging stockings are very similar to Western celebrations. Commercial Christmas decorations, signs, and other symbolic items have become increasingly prevalent during the month of December in large urban centres of mainland China, reflecting a cultural interest in this Western phenomenon, and, sometimes, retail marketing campaigns as well. Hong Kong In Hong Kong, where Christmas is a public holiday, many buildings facing Victoria Harbour will be decked out in Christmas lights. Christmas trees are found in major malls and other public buildings, and in some homes as well, despite the small living area. Catholics in Hong Kong can attend Christmas Mass. Japan Santa Claus in Kobe, Japan Encouraged by commerce, the secular celebration of Christmas is popular in Japan, though Christmas is not a national holiday. Gifts are sometimes exchanged. Christmas parties are held around Christmas Day; Japanese Christmas cake, a white sponge cake covered with cream and decorated with strawberries, is often consumed and Stollen cake, either imported or made locally, is widely available. Christmas lights decorate cities, and Christmas trees adorn living areas and malls. Christmas Eve has become a holiday for couples to spend time together and exchange gifts. A successful advertising campaign in the 1970s made eating at KFC around Christmas a national custom. Its chicken meals are so popular during the season that stores take reservations months in advance. Christmas lights in Tokyo
  4. 4. The first recorded Christmas in Japan was a Mass held by Jesuit Missionaries in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1552. Some believe that unrecorded celebrations were held before this date, starting in 1549 when Saint Francis Xavier arrived in Japan. Christianity was banned throughout Japan in 1612. However, a small enclave of Kakure Kirishitan ("hidden Christians") continued to practice underground over the next 250 years. Christianity in Japan along with Christmas reemerged in the Meiji period. Influenced by America, Christmas parties were held and presents were exchanged. The practice slowly spread, but its proximity to the New Year's celebrations makes it a smaller focus of attention. During World War II, all celebrations, especially American, were suppressed. From the 1960s, with an expanding economy, and influenced by American TV, Christmas became popular. Many songs and TV series present Christmas as romantic, for example "Last Christmas" by Exile. The birthday of the current emperor, Akihito, on December 23 is a national holiday. Businesses soon close for the New Year's holidays, reopening after January 3. Southeast Asia Malaysia Main article: Christianity in Malaysia § Christmas Colourful Christmas greetings in Malaysia Although Christmas is a public holiday in Malaysia, much of the public celebration is commercial in nature and has no overt religious overtones. Occasionally, Christian activist groups do buy newspaper advertorials on Christmas or Easter but this is largely only allowed in English newspapers and permission is not given every year. The advertorials themselves are usually indirect statements. There has been controversy over whether or not the national government has exerted pressure on Malaysian Christians not to use Christian religious symbols and hymns that specifically mention Jesus Christ. Philippines Main article: Christmas in the Philippines Parols are an iconic display in the Philippines during its long Christmas season Christmas in the Philippines, one of two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia (the other one being East Timor), is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar and is widely celebrated. The country has earned the distinction of celebrating the world's longest Christmas season, with Christmas carols heard as early as September 1. The season is traditionally ushered in by the nine- day dawn Masses that start on December 16. Known as the Misas de Aguinaldo (Gift Masses) or Misa de Gallo (Rooster's Mass) in the traditional Spanish. These Masses are more popularly known in Tagalog as the Simbang Gabi. Usually, aside from the already legal holidays which are Rizal Day (December 30) and New Year's Eve (December 31), other days in close proximity such as Christmas Eve (December 24), Niños Inocentes (December 28), and the Epiphany (traditionally, January 6 but now on the first Sunday of January) are also declared non-working days. As in many East Asian countries, secular Christmas displays are common both in business establishments and in public, including lights, Christmas trees, depictions of Santa Claus despite the tropical climate, and Christmas greetings in various foreign languages and various Philippine
  5. 5. languages. Occasionally such displays are left in place even in summer for example the parol representing the "Star of Bethlehem" which led the Three Kings to the newborn Baby Jesus. The University of Santo Tomas – UST Main Building illuminating the nights of December 2007 For Filipinos, Christmas Eve (Tagalog: Bisperas ng Pasko ; Spanish: Víspera del Día de Navidad) on December 24 is celebrated with the Midnight Mass, and immediately after, the much-anticipated Noche Buena – the traditional Christmas Eve feast. Family members dine together around 12 midnight on traditional Nochebuena fare, which may include: queso de bola (English: "ball of cheese"; this is actually edam cheese), tsokolate (a hot chocolate drink), and jamón (Christmas ham), lechón, roast chicken or turkey, pasta, relleno (stuffed bangus or chicken), pan de sal, and various desserts including cakes and the ubiquitous fruit salad. Some would also open presents at this time. On December 31, New Year's Eve (Tagalog: Bisperas ng Bagong Taon ; Spanish: Víspera del Año Nuevo), Filipino families gather for the Media Noche or midnight meal – a feast that is also supposed to symbolize their hopes for a prosperous New Year. In spite of the campaign against firecrackers, many Filipinos still see these as the traditional means to greet the New Year. The loud noises and sounds of merrymaking are also supposed to drive away bad spirits. Safer methods of merrymaking include banging on pots and pans and blowing on car horns. Folk beliefs also include encouraging children to jump at the stroke of midnight in the belief that they will grow up tall, displaying circular fruit and wearing clothes with dots and other circular designs to symbolize money, eating twelve grapes at 12 midnight for good luck in the twelve months of the year, and opening windows and doors during the first day of the New Year to let in good luck. Christmas officially ends on the Feast of the Three Kings (Tres Reyes in Spanish or Tatlong Hari in Tagalog), also known as the Feast of the Epiphany (Spanish: Fiesta de Epifanía). The Feast of the Three Kings was traditionally commemorated on January 6 but is now celebrated on the first Sunday after the New Year. Some children leave their shoes out, in the belief that the Three Kings will leave gifts like candy or money inside. But the celebrations do not end there, since 2011, as mandated by the Catholic Church, they are on the second Sunday of January in honor of the Lord Jesus's baptism in the Jordan. The final salvo of these celebrations is marked by the feast of the Black Nazarene every January 9 in Manila and Cagayan de Oro, but can also, due to the celebrations in honor of the Santo Niño in the third and fourth Sundays of January in some places, can even extend till the final weeks of that month. Singapore Christmas in Singapore Christmas is a public holiday in Singapore that is widely celebrated. The Christmas season is also a popular period for shopping centres and business to conduct year-end sales, and will offer discounts and promotions that tie in with the festivities. The famous Singaporean shopping belt Orchard Road, as well as the Marina Bay area will feature lights and other decorations from early November till early January (the 2012 part is 10 November 2012 all the way until 6 January 2013). The Christmas light-up and decorated shopping malls along Orchard Road often attract numerous visitors, locals and tourists alike. Other than the light-up, other activities such as caroling, concerts and parades can also be experienced in Orchard Road. In addition, companies in Singapore usually arrange gift exchange programs on the last working day before Christmas. Southwest Asia - Eastern Mediterranean
  6. 6. Lebanon Christmas is an official holiday in Lebanon. All Lebanese celebrate Christmas on December 25 except for the Armenian Lebanese who celebrate it on the Epiphany on January 6 which is also an official holiday in Lebanon. On Christmas Eve, Christian Lebanese attend midnight mass. Santa Claus is known by the French, Papa Noël. Gifts are either dropped off at church or Papa Noël makes a personal appearance at the home. America North America Christmas is observed widely on December 25. Governments recognizing the holiday include those of: the United States, where it is a federal holiday for federal employees and a legal holiday in the respective States; Canada, where it is a nationwide statutory holiday; Mexico, where it is also a nationwide statutory holiday; and several others. good christmas gifts for boyfriend Canada Christmas in Ottawa, Canada In the Canadian provinces where English is the predominant language, Christmas traditions are largely similar to those of the United States, with some lingering influences from the United Kingdom and newer traditions brought by immigrants from other European countries. Mince pies, plum pudding and Christmas cake are traditionally served in English Canada as Christmas dinner desserts, following the traditional meal of roast turkey, stuffing, potatoes and winter vegetables. Christmas table crackers are not uncommon in English-speaking Canada. In some parts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia Christmas traditions include mummers. North American influences on Christmas are evident in the hanging of stockings on Christmas Eve, to be filled by Santa Claus. However, Canadian children believe that the home of Santa Claus is located at the North Pole, in Canada, and through Canada Post address thousands of letters to Santa Claus each year, using the postal code designation "HOH OHO", a play on Canada's six digit postal code that includes letters and numbers. Decorated Christmas trees, either fresh cut or artificial, introduced to Canada in 1781 originally by German soldiers stationed in Quebec during the American Revolution, are now common in private homes and commercial spaces throughout most of Canada. As Canada is a cold, dark country in winter, lights are often put up in public places, and on commercial and residential buildings in November and December. Many communities have celebrations that include light events, such as the Cavalcade of Lights Festival in Toronto, the Montreal Christmas Fireworks or the Bright Nights in Stanley Park, Vancouver. A national program, Christmas Lights Across Canada, illuminates Ottawa, the national capital, and the 13 provincial and territorial capitals. In the east-central Canadian province of Quebec and other French-speaking areas of North America, Christmas traditions include réveillon, Père Noël ("Father Christmas") and the bûche de Noël (Yule log), among many others. A traditional dish for the réveillon is tourtière, a savoury meat pie, and gifts are opened during réveillon, often following Midnight Mass.
  7. 7. Boxing Day at the Toronto Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto, Canada The Royal Christmas Message from Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada is televised nationwide in Canada, the occasion being an observance which unites Canadians with citizens of the other Commonwealth countries worldwide. The observation of Boxing Day (which coincides with the Christian Feast of St. Stephen) on the day following Christmas Day, December 26, is a tradition practiced in Canada, as it is in many other Anglophone countries, although not in the United States. In Canada Boxing Day is a day (or the beginning of a few days) of deeply discounted sale prices at retail stores which attract large numbers of shoppers in search of bargains. Mexico See also: Christmas in Mexico Christmas is a statutory holiday in Mexico and workers can have the day off with pay. Mexico's Christmas is filled with over 30 traditions found only within Mexican Christmas. Over nine days, groups of townspeople go from door to door in a fashion of when the parents of the unborn baby Jesus Christ looked for shelter to pass the night when they arrived at Bethlehem, and are periodically called inside homes to participate in the breaking of a candy-filled piñata. Mexican Christmas festivities start on December 12, with the feast of La Guadalupana (Virgin of Guadalupe), and end on January 6, with the Epiphany. Since the 1990s, Mexican society has embraced a new concept linking several celebrations around Christmas season into what is known as the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon. At midnight on Christmas, many families place the figure of baby Jesus in their nacimientos (Nativity scenes), as the symbolic representation of Christmas as a whole. In the center and south of Mexico, children receive gifts on Christmas Eve and on 6 January, they celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, when, according to tradition, the Three Wise Men (3 Wizard Kings) brought gifts to Bethlehem for Jesus Christ. Santa Claus (or Santo Clos, as he's known in Mexico) is who brings the children their gifts, but traditionally the Three Wise Men will fill the children's shoes with candies, oranges, tangerines, nuts, and sugar cane, and sometimes money or gold. For the Three Wise Men gave Baby Jesus Gold for his future. United States U.S. Army Servicemembers celebrating Christmas Eve while stationed abroad at Victory Base Complex, Iraq, Dec. 24, 2008. Photo by Spc. Eric J. Glasses Christmas at Rockefeller Center, located in New York City Christmas in California Christmas is a widely celebrated festive holiday in the United States. The Christmas and holiday season begins around the end of November with a major shopping kickoff on Black Friday, the day after the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving, though Christmas decorations and music playing in stores sometimes extend into the period between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Many schools and businesses are closed during the period between Christmas and the New Year's Day holiday, which is a time commonly used to spend time with family, return unwanted gifts at stores, and shop after- Christmas sales. Most decorations are taken down by New Years or Epiphany. Other observances considered part of the season (and potentially included in non-denominational holiday greetings like "Happy Holidays") include Hanukkah, Yule, Epiphany, Kwanzaa, and winter solstice celebrations.
  8. 8. The interior and exterior of houses are decorated during the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. Christmas tree farms in the United States and Canada provide families with trees for their homes, many opting for artificial ones, but some for real ones. The Christmas tree usually stands centrally in the home, decorated with ornaments, tinsel and lights, with an angel or a star symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem at the top. Santa Claus, right, hands gifts to children Christmas Eve is popularly described as "the night before Christmas" in the poem actually titled "A Visit from St. Nicholas". Better known as Santa Claus, he is said to visit homes while children are sleeping during the night before Christmas morning. The fireplaces has been replaced in many homes with an electric fireplaces, but the yule log has remained a tradition. Christmas stockings are hung on the mantelpiece for Santa Claus to fill with little gifts ("stocking stuffers"). It is tradition throughout the United States for children to leave a glass of milk and plate of Christmas cookies for Santa Claus nearby. Presents the family will exchange are wrapped and placed near the tree, including presents to be given to pets. Friends exchange wrapped presents and tell each other, "Do not open before Christmas!" Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings and occasionally guests from out of town are entertained in the home or else visited. Wrapped presents are most commonly opened on the morning of Christmas Day; however, other families choose to open all or some of their presents on Christmas Eve, depending on evolving family traditions, logistics, and the age of the children involved; for example, adults might open their presents on Christmas Eve and minor children on Christmas morning, or everyone might open their gifts on Christmas morning. Others follow the tradition of opening family-exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve night, followed by opening of the presents Santa brought on Christmas morning. Children are normally allowed to play with their new toys and games afterwards. The traditional Christmas dinner usually features either roasted turkey with stuffing (sometimes called dressing), ham, or roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. Potatoes, squash, roasted vegetables and cranberry sauce are served along with tonics and sherries. A variety of sweet pastry and egg nog sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg are served in the United States. Certain dishes such as casseroles and desserts are prepared with a family recipe (usually kept a secret[citation needed]). Fruits, nuts, cheeses and chocolates are enjoyed as snacks. Other traditions include a special church service on the Sunday before Christmas and Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Candlelight services are held earlier in the evening for families with children. A re-enactment of the Nativity of Jesus called a Nativity play is another tradition. Christmas-related tourist attractions, such as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and elaborate animated department store Christmas windows in New York City are heavily visited by tourists from all over the world. Christmas music can be heard in the background. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one whose annual carol singing is well-recognized; another example is the Boys choir heard singing Christmas Time Is Here, a song featured in the animated television special "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Christmas symphony orchestra and choral presentation such as Handel's Messiah and performances of The Nutcracker ballet are attended. Local radio stations may temporarily switch format to play exclusively Christmas music, some going to an all-Christmas format as early as mid-
  9. 9. October. A few television stations broadcast a Yule Log without interruption for several hours. News broadcasts and talk shows feature Christmas-themed segments, emphasizing fellowship and goodwill among neighbors. Of particular note is the observance of Christmas for military families of soldiers and sailors serving abroad, on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. The Los Angeles Lakers have made it a tradition, since they relocated from Minneapolis prior to the 1960-61 NBA season, to have a home game on Christmas, a tradition the Chicago Bulls have adapted since the mid-1980s; the NBA now schedules three games on Christmas (Eastern Conference vs. Eastern Conference, Western Conference vs. Western Conference and Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference, usually a rematch of the previous season's NBA Finals.) Central America El Salvador In El Salvador children celebrate Christmas by playing with firecrackers, fountains, such as the small volcancitos ("little volcanos") and sparklers, estrellitas ("little stars"). Teenagers and young adults display bigger fireworks or Roman Candles. Families also have parties in which they dance and eat. Traditional Salvadoran Christmas dishes are sauteed turkey sandwiches in a baguette with lettuce and radishes, Salvadoran Tamales, and sweet bread for dessert. Drinks include hot chocolate, pineapple juice, Salvadoran horchata, Cherry Salvadoran horchata, and coffee. At 12:00 a.m. on December 25 everyone gathers around the Christmas tree and opens their presents. Guatemala On Christmas in Guatemala, the people dress up in an ornamental hat named a Puritina and dance in a line. As with much of the country's culture, the celebration includes Spanish and Maya elements. South America Brazil The São Paulo's Christmas Tree and water fountains at Ibirapuera Park Christmas Day on December 25 is a national holiday in Brazil. In the small cities in the entire country, as well as in the largest cities, like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Salvador, Fortaleza, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Brasília, Manaus, Belém, Natal and Belo Horizonte, the celebrations resemble in many ways the traditions in Europe and North America, with the Christmas tree, the exchanging of gifts and Christmas cards, the decoration of houses and buildings with electric lights and the nativity scene. Despite the warm tropical summer weather, some incongruences such as decorations with themes of winter and snow are not uncommon. In some cities like Curitiba, there are decoration contests, when judges go to houses to look at the decorations, inside or outside of the house, and decide the most beautiful house. Christmas Eve is the most important day. Unlike in the North American and Anglo-Saxon tradition, Christmas takes action mainly near midnight, usually with big family dinners, opening of gifts and the celebration of the "Missa do Galo" (the rooster's mass) in churches throughout the nation. Colombia Medellín River during the Lighting of Medellin Christmas is a public holiday in Colombia and is primarily a religious celebration. Presents are brought by El Niño Jesus / Niño Dios (Baby Jesus).
  10. 10. While Christmas decorations may be put up as early as the beginning of November, the unofficial start of Colombian Christmas festivities takes place on December 7, Día de las Velitas, or "Day of the Candles." At night, the streets, sidewalks, balconies, porches, and driveways are decorated with candles and paper lanterns, which illuminate cities and towns in a yellow glow to honor the Immaculate Conception on the following day, December 8. In many cities, and even in small rural towns, neighborhoods get together and decorate their whole neighborhood or street, turning streets into virtual "tunnels of light." Many radio stations and local organizations hold contests for the best display of lights, making the competition for the best light show a serious event. The city of Medellín has become a popular tourist destination during the holiday season because of its Christmas lights. Activities such as musical events and firework displays are planned by cities and held during this time. Individually launched fireworks were a common item during the Christmas season in Colombia, often going on at any time of the day in many cities. However, a recent ban has decreased the individual use of fireworks, and now only cities or towns are able to hold firework displays. December 16 is the first day of the Christmas Novena, a devotion consisting of prayer said on nine successive days, the last one held on Christmas Eve. The Novena is promoted by the Catholic Church as a staple of Christmas, and is very similar to the posadas celebrated in Mexico. It is a call for an understanding of the religious meaning of Christmas, and a way to counter the commercialism of the Christmas season. Individual traditions concerning the Novena may vary, but most families set up a "pesebre" (manger scene), sing religious Christmas carols called villancicos accompanied by tambourines, bells, and other simple percussion instruments, and read verses from the Bible as well as an interpretation which may change from year to year. Novenas serve as beautiful religious gatherings as well as learning environments for young children since kids have a central and active role in the celebration of the Novenas (they read prayers, sing, and play instruments guided by their family). From December 16 to 24, games called "aguinaldos" are played after having made a "pinky promise" deciding the prize for the winner and the punishment for the loser. The games include "Hablar y no contestar" (Talk but don't answer), "Dar y no recibir" (Give but don't receive), "Pajita en boca" (Straw in the mouth), "Tres pies" (Three feet), "Beso robado" (Stolen kisses), and "Si y al no" (Yes or no). Churches offer dawn and nightly masses during the nine days of the novena, culminating with the Misa de Gallo (Rooster's Mass) on Christmas Eve at midnight. Christmas Eve is the most important day of Christmas in Colombia. Families and friends get together to pray the last Novena and wait until midnight to open the presents, parties are held until sunrise on Christmas Day, kids stay up late playing with their new presents, and fireworks fill the skies. Families gather around meals, music, and singing. Because Christmas Eve is the most important day, little occurs on December 25. Families join Christmas Day mass although it is not nearly as festive as Christmas Eve. The "Dia de los Santos Inocentes", or the Day of the Innocents, falls in the Christmas season, on December 28. The day commemorates the innocent infants (called the innocent ones) who were said to have been killed by King Herod in fear of the power of the newborn baby, Jesus. 6 January, the day of the Revelation of the Magi (Epiphany), is called "Reyes Magos" (from The Three Magi), used to be a day of gift giving, but is celebrated less now since gifts are given mostly around Christmas Eve today. Some families still give presents, and it is also the day when godparents give Christmas presents. Venezuela
  11. 11. Different moments of Paradura del Niño, folklorical manifestation of Venezuela, celebrated on February 2 In Venezuela, Christmas is celebrated as a religious occasion. As in Colombia, the presents are brought by “El Niño Jesus” (Baby Jesus) instead of “Papá Noél” (Santa Claus), that still has an important role during this season. The unofficial start of the Christmas festivities is after the celebrations of "Feria de la Chinita", second half of November. The origin of this festival is the cult to Virgin Mary of Chiquinquirá, when various religious activities, processions, and music in the typical "Gaita style" to honor "La Chinita" (nickname of this Virgin). This event takes place in the Zulia Region, specifically in Maracaibo (the regional capital). After this, other cities join in the festivities and many activities take place including musical events and firework displays. In many cities, small rural towns and neighborhoods get together for the "patinatas" night festivals where children go and play with skateboards, roller blades and bicycles. This events are usually sponsored by the local church, where neighbors organize themselves and sell typical Christmas food, hot chocolate, hallaca, cookies, etc. Also still in some neighborhoods there is the "Parranda" where people go from one house to house with music and Christmas songs. The singers stops at neighbors' houses to get some food and drinks. Also in the Venezuelan Andes there is the same tradition of this kind of event but they carry an image of "baby Jesus" and this is called "Paradura del Niño." Children write request letters to Baby Jesus. The presents are sent by Baby Jesus at midnight, and most people have a party, which goes on until sunrise. Europe Central Europe This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (December 2013) Christmas wreath In countries of Central Europe (for this purpose, roughly defined as the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and possibly other places) the main celebration date for the general public is Christmas Eve (December 24). The day is usually a fasting day; in some places children are told they'll see a golden pig if they hold fast until after dinner. When the evening comes preparation of Christmas Dinner starts. Traditions concerning dinner vary from region to region, for example, in Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, the prevailing meal is fried carp with potato salad and fish (or cabbage) soup. However, in some places the tradition is porridge with mushrooms (a modest dish), and elsewhere the dinner is exceptionally rich, with up to 12 dishes. This in fact reveals that when Christmas comes around all the kids get presents from neighbours and house guest. Even the house pet got a little something to gnaw on. After the dinner comes the time for gifts. Children usually find their gifts under the Christmas Tree, with name stickers. An interesting example of complicated history of the region is the "fight" between Christmas beings. During communism, when countries of Central Europe were under Soviet influence, communist authorities strongly pushed Russian traditional Ded Moroz ("Grandfather Frost") in the place of Little Jesus won. Now Santa Claus is attacking, by means of
  12. 12. advertising and Hollywood film production. Many people, Christians as well as people with just a Christian background, go to Roman Catholic midnight mass celebration. Other common attributes of Christmas in Central Europe include Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas garlands, and Bethlehem cribs. In many areas of Central Europe, St. Nicholas (Hungarian: Mikulás, Czech: Mikuláš, Slovak: Mikuláš), or Santa Claus, does not come for Christmas. He visits families earlier, on the dawn of St. Nicholas Day on December 6, and for the well-behaved children he has presents and candy-bags to put into their well polished shoes that were set in the windows the previous evening. Although he neither parks his sleigh on rooftops nor climbs chimneys, his visits are usually accompanied by a diabolic- looking servant named Krampusz (in Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia: Krampus, in Czech and Slovak regions he is simply "čert", i.e. devil, without any name) who gives golden coloured birches for so called badly behaved children. Actually all children get both gifts and golden birches (Hungarian: virgács) in their shoes, no matter how they behaved themselves. Czech Republic and Slovakia Old Town Square in Prague, Czech Republic - Christmastime Main article: Czech Christmas Mass Christmas Eve (24 December) is celebrated as Štědrý den/Štedrý deň, which means "Generous Day", when the gifts are given in the evening. The 25 and 26 December are Public holidays in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia, but Vánoce/Vianoce (Christmas), is most commonly associated with the 24th. According to tradition, gifts are brought by Ježíšek/Ježiško, or "baby Jesus". Fish soup and breaded roasted carp with special homemade potato salad are a traditional dish for the dinner. In Slovakia, before eating, everyone exchanges Christmas greetings with each other by sharing a piece of Christmas wafer (Oblátky)with honey and wallnuts. Traditional dinner depends on region, but common Christmas dinner is cabbage soup (Kapustnica) or lentil soup and breaded roasted carp with special homemade potato salad or hand made gnocchi with poppy (šúľanky s makom). The gifts are surreptitiously placed under the Christmas tree (usually a spruce or pine and lately fir), usually just before or during dinner. Children have to wait for the ringing of a Christmas bell (one of the decorations on the Christmas tree) - the sign that Ježíšek/Ježiško (little Jesus) has just passed by - to run for the presents. That happens at the end of their Christmas dinner. There is a rich tradition of hard baked Christmas sweets (Cukroví/vianočné koláče). Other Czech and Slovak Christmas traditions involve predictions for the future. Apples are always cut crosswise: if a perfect star appears in the core, the next year will be successful, distorted star means a bad year or illness, while a cross may suggest death. Girls throw shoes over their shoulders - if the toe points to the door, the girl will get married soon. Another tradition requires pouring some molten lead into water and guessing a message from its shapes. Czechs are one of the most irreligious nations on Earth, and as such religious traditions are not widely adhered to, and Christmas practices take many idiosyncratic forms based on familial traditions. Christmas is not associated with Christianity to the extent it is elsewhere, and is widely observed by non-Christian groups, such as the Vietnamese and Jews. German-speaking Europe
  13. 13. Main article: Weihnachten Austrian Advent bowl In some German-speaking communities, particularly in Catholic regions of western and southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, South Tyrol and Liechtenstein, as well as in other Catholic regions of Central Europe, the Christkind (literally "Christ child") brings the presents on the evening of December 24 (Holy Evening or Heiliger Abend). The Christkind is invisible; thus he is never seen by anyone. However, he rings a bell just before he leaves in order to let children know that the Christmas tree and the presents are ready. It is a tradition to lavishly decorate a Christmas tree in the days directly before Christmas or on the morning of Christmas Eve. On late Christmas Eve, after the bell rings, the tree is shown to the children and presents are exchanged. In Protestant churches, there is a service in the late afternoon intended to immediately precede the Christmas Eve meal and the exchanging of gifts. This service, called Christvesper, consists most often of scriptural readings, the Christmas Gospel from Luke 2, a Krippenspiel (nativity play), favourite Christmas carols and festive music for organ and choirs. In some regions the tradition of Quempas singing is still popular. Some Lutheran churches also celebrate a candlelight service at midnight besides the Christmas Vespers in the afternoon or early evening. Many Catholic churches also have a first Mass of Christmas, called Christmette, on "Heiliger Abend" about 4 p.m. for the children and parents to attend before the families return home for their meal. The crib is a very important part of the celebrations in Catholic areas especially Bavaria. Austria Christmas market in front of the town hall in Vienna, Austria In the largely Catholic Austria, Christmas markets are a long-standing tradition. In Vienna, for instance, the market is held in the large square in front of City Hall. Innsbruck opens its romantic Christmas market in the narrow medieval square at the foot of the Golden Roof. In Salzburg, the Christmas market takes over the square in front of the Cathedral with its picturesque stalls, while the tree vendors occupy Residenzplatz on the side of the huge Cathedral. However almost every small town has its own Christmas market. In Austria, Christmas tree plays a very important part of Christmas celebrations. Every town sets up its own huge tree on the main square all decorated with candles, ornaments and candies and frequently there will be an extra one, adorned with bread crumbs, for the birds. In families the tree is decorated with gold and silver ornaments or stars made our of straw, sweets and candy wrapped in tinfoil, gilded nuts, etc. The feast of St Nicholas marks the beginning of Christmas in Austria. On Christmas Eve (December 24) the tree is lit for the first time and the whole family gathers to sing Christmas carols like “Silent Night, Holy Night”. Gifts that are placed under the tree are opened after dinner on Christmas Eve. Austrian Christmas tradition has it that it is the Christ Child himself who decorates the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and brings the children their Christmas presents, and it is to him that their letters and wish lists are addressed in the weeks before Christmas. The Christmas Eve dinner is the main event of the night often served with fried carp. The famous sachertorte and different kinds of
  14. 14. chocolates are served as dessert. The Austrians also have special crescent shaped cookies served during Christmas time. Germany Old Bavarian Crib found in St Mang Basilica Füssen Bavaria Christmas tree in Berlin, Germany In Germany Christmas traditions vary by region. On Saint Nicholas' Day, 6 December, Saint Nicholas puts goodies in children's shoes. Sometimes St. Nicholas visits children in kindergarten, schools or at public events. They have to recite a short poem or sing a song in order to get sweets or a small gift. "Knecht Ruprecht" (the servant Ruprecht – dressed in dark clothes with devil-like traits (usually noted as a long, bright red tongue and with a stick or a small whip in the hand) sometimes accompanies St. Nicholas. His duty is to punish those children who haven't behaved during the year. Usually he doesn't have much to do. He merely stands near St. Nicholas as a warning to be good and polite. This festival is for the most part an adults festival. The actual Christmas gift-giving (German: "Bescherung") usually takes place on Christmas Eve. This tradition first began with the Reformation, since Martin Luther was of the opinion that one should put the emphasis on Christ's birth and not on a saint's day and do away with the connotation that gifts have to be earned by good behavior. The gifts should be seen as a symbol for the gift of God's grace in Christ. In the meanwhile this tradition is also common in predominantly Catholic regions. Gifts may be brought by the Weihnachtsmann (translation, "Christmas man"), who resembles either St. Nicholas or the American Santa Claus, or by Christkindl, a sprite-like child who may or may not represent the baby Jesus. After the gifts are opened the children often stay up as late as they like, often till the early hours of the morning. The Christmas Tree is first put up and decorated on the morning of the 24th. The gifts are then placed under the tree. Often after Christmas Vespers in the church and an evening meal the father usually goes into the room where the tree is standing, lights the candles and rings a little bell. Then the children are allowed to go into the candlelit room. In many families it is still a custom to sing Christmas songs around the tree before opening up the presents. Some families, especially Catholic families, attend a midnight church service after the evening meal and gift-giving. The culinary feast either takes place at supper on Christmas Eve or on the first day of Christmas. Traditions vary from region to region; carp is eaten in many parts of the country. Potato salad with frankfurter or wiener-sausages is popular in some families. Another simple meal which some families favor, especially in regions where Christmas Eve still has the character of a fast day, is vegetable or pea soup. In some regions, especially in Schleswig-Holstein where Danish influence is noticeable, a roasted duck or goose filled with plums, apples and raisins is family tradition. In other regions, especially in Mecklenburg and Pomerania, many families prefer kale with boiled potatoes, special sausages and ham. Many families have developed new traditions for themselves and eat such meals as meat fondue or raclette. In almost all families in all parts of Germany you find a wide variety of Christmas cookies baked according to recipes typical for the family and the region. Hungary Main article: Christmas in Hungary
  15. 15. Christmas tree The Christmas and gift-giving season starts relatively early compared to other cultures, with the Santa-like figure, or Hungarian version of Saint Nicholas, Mikulás (or Szent Miklós) traditionally visiting the homes of Hungarian children on the night of 5th December, on the eve of Saint Nicholas Feast Day, December 6. Although the role of gift-giver on Christmas Day itself is assigned to the Christ Child, on the night before St. Nicholas Day Hungarian children traditionally place a boot on their windowsill waiting for Mikulás to come by and fill it with treats. In Hungary, celebrations begin with Christmas tree decoration and gift packaging during daytime on 24 December, then comes a family dinner with traditional Christmas meals. In some parts of Hungary, a traditional supper called fish soup halászlé is served at Christmas Eve meal, although it is also consumed at other times of the year. The day is otherwise a fast-day. Baumkuchen in Budapest In the evening (Christmas Eve, in Hungarian: Szenteste) the Angel or the Little (Baby) Jesus (Hungarian: Kisjézus or Jézuska) delivers the presents. This is the most intimate moment of Christmas, featuring warmly lit Christmas tree and candles, soft Christmas music, family singing of Christmas or religious songs and gift pack openings. There is also a popular folk custom during December and especially on Christmas Eve, in which children or adults present the birth of Jesus. The custom is called 'playing Bethlehem' (Hungarian: Betlehemezés), and it is an acting performance, where the 'actors' are wearing costumes, and telling stories about the three kings, the shepherds, Mary, Joseph and of course the birth of the Holy Child. A Christmas crib and a church are used as the scene. The actors go from house to house, and they receive gifts for their performance. Poland Main article: Christmas in Poland Traditional Polish Wigilia meal Polish Opłatki (Christmas Wafer) in a basket Carollers walk from house to house receiving treats along the way. In the largely Roman Catholic Poland, Christmas Eve begins with a day of fasting and then a night of feasting. The traditional Christmas meal is known as Wigilia ("Vigil"), and being invited to attend a Wigilia dinner with a family is considered a high honour. On the night of Christmas Eve, the appearance of the first star in in the sky is watched for, in remembrance of the Star of Bethlehem, that it has been given an affectionate name of "the little star" or Gwiazdka (the female counterpart of St. Nicholas). On that evening, children watch the sky anxiously hoping to be the first to cry out, "The star has come!" Only after it appears, the family members sit down to a dinner table. According to tradition, bits of hay are spread beneath the tablecloth as a reminder that Christ was born in a manger. Others partake in the practice of placing money under the table cloth for each guest, in order to wish for prosperity in the coming year. The dinner contains of twelve dishes, one for each Apostle. In many homes place one extra seat in case and an empty setting is symbolically left at the table for a lonely wanderer who may be in need of food, an angel, the Baby Jesus or the Holy Spirit should appear to share the feast.
  16. 16. Before eating, everyone exchanges Christmas greetings with each other. The supper begins with the breaking of the opłatek. By sharing a piece of Christmas wafer (Opłatki), when everyone at the table breaks off a piece and eats it as a symbol of their unity with Christ. The opłatek is usually blessed by the presiding Bishop, and stamped with a religious image, such as the nativity scene, They then share a piece with each family member. A tradition exists among some families to serve twelve different dishes at Wigilia symbolizing the Twelve Apostles, or perhaps, an odd number of dishes for good luck (usually five, seven, or nine). Some practice the superstition that an even number of people must be seated around the table. A traditional Wigilia supper in Poland includes fried carp and barszcz (beetroot soup) with uszka (ravioli). The most common dishes are fish soup, with potato salad, pierogi, gołąbki filled with kasza, pickled herring and fruit kompot. Carp provides a main component of the Christmas Eve meal meal across Poland; carp fillet, carp in aspic etc. Universal Polish Christmas foods are pierogi as well as some herring dishes, herring fillets, herring in aspic and for dessert, makowiec or noodles with poppy seed. Often, there is a compote of dry fruits for a drink. etc. Dishes beside fish are usually cabbage-, forest mushroom- (like boletus) and poppyseed-based, with herring being very important. After supper the Star Man arrives attended by the Star Boys. They are dressed as Wise Men or animals or other figures. 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. The feast begins with the appearance of the first star. The meal is followed by the exchange of gifts. The remainder of the evening is given to stories and songs around the Christmas tree. In some areas of the country, children are taught that "The Little Star" brings the gifts. As presents are unwrapped, carollers may walk from house to house receiving treats along the way. Christmas Eve ends with Pasterka, the Midnight Mass at the local church. The tradition commemorates the arrival of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem and their paying of respect and bearing witness to the new born Messiah. The custom of Christmas night liturgy was introduced in the Christian churches after the second half of the 5th century. In Poland that custom arrived together with the coming of Christianity. The next day (December 25) begins with the early morning mass followed by daytime masses. According to scripture, the Christmas Day masses are interchangeable allowing for greater flexibility in choosing the religious services by individual parishioners. The following day is often spent visiting friends. The giftbearer varies. In some regions it is Święty Mikołaj (Saint Nicholas), in others Święty Mikołaj gives his gifts on 6 December and the giftbringer of the Christmas Eve is Gwiazdor ("star man"), Aniołek ("little angel") or Dzieciątko ("baby Jesus"). Romania and Moldova Main article: Christmas in Romania Christmas market in Sibiu, Romania Christmas (Romanian: Crăciun) in Romania is on December 25 and is generally considered the second most important religious Romanian holiday after Easter.[citation needed] In Moldova, although Christmas is celebrated on 25 December like in Romania, 7 January is also recognized as an official holiday. Celebrations begin with the decoration of the Christmas tree during daytime on
  17. 17. 24 December, and in the evening (Christmas Eve, in Romanian: Ajunul Crăciunului) Moş Crăciun (Father Christmas) delivers the presents. The singing of carols is a very important part of Romanian Christmas festivities. On the first day of Christmas, many carolers walk through the streets of the towns and villages, holding a star made of cardboard and paper on which are depicted various scenes from the Bible. Romanian tradition has the smallest children going from house to house, singing carols and reciting poems and legends during the whole Christmas season. The leader of the group carries with him a star made of wood, covered with metal foil and decorated with bells and coloured ribbons. An image of the Nativity is painted on the star's centre, and this piece of handiwork is attached to the end of a broom or other long stick. Romanian food served during the holidays is a hearty multi-coursed meal, most of which consists of pork (organs, muscle, and fat). This is mainly a symbolic gesture for St. Ignatius of Antioch.[citation needed] Eastern Europe Since the 1880s, the Christmas customs of the Caucasus and Eastern Slavic countries have included a similar character known as Ded Moroz ("Grandfather Frost"). According to legend, he travels in a magical sanki — a decorated sleigh drawn by reindeer (or three white horses). With his young, blond assistant Snegurochka (the "Snow Maiden", said to be his granddaughter) at his side, he visits homes and gives gifts to good children (not true for former Yugoslavian countries). He only delivers presents to children while they are asleep, and unlike Santa, he does not travel down chimneys, coming instead to the front door of children's homes. It is traditional for children to leave food for Ded Moroz. This Ded Moroz (in Russia, Ded Moroz) is not identified nor in any way associated with Saint Nicholas of Myra (feast day, December 6), who is very widely revered in Eastern Europe for his clerical and charitable works as a bishop. In all likelihood, Ded Moroz is actually in Slavic tradition like Santa Claus, any connection to the original saint having long since disappeared. Armenia There were no pre-Christian traditions of celebrating the solstice in Armenia, and Armenians celebrate Christmas (surb tsnunt, Սուրբ Ծնունդ, meaning "saint birth") on January 6 as a public holiday in Armenia. It also coincides with the Epiphany. Traditionally, Armenians fast during the week leading up to Christmas. Devout Armenians may even refrain from food for the three days leading up to the Christmas Eve, in order to receive the Eucharist on a "pure" stomach. Christmas Eve is particularly rich in traditions. Families gather for the Christmas Eve dinner (khetum, Խթում), which generally consists of: rice, fish, nevik (նուիկ, a vegetable dish of green chard and chick peas), and yogurt/wheat soup (tanabur, թանապուր). Dessert includes dried fruits and nuts, including rojik, which consists of whole shelled walnuts threaded on a string and encased in grape jelly, bastukh (a paper-like confection of grape jelly, cornstarch, and flour), etc. This lighter menu is designed to ease the stomach off the week-long fast and prepare it for the rather more substantial Christmas Day dinner. Children take presents of fruits, nuts, and other candies to older relatives. In addition to the Christmas tree (tonatsar, Տօնածառ), Armenians (particularly in the Middle East) also erect the Nativity scene. Christmas in the Armenian tradition is a purely religious affair. Santa Claus does not visit the nice Armenian children on Christmas, but rather on New Year's Eve. The idea
  18. 18. of Santa Claus existed before the Soviet Union and he was named kaghand papik (Կաղանդ Պապիկ), but the Soviet Union had a great impact even on Santa Claus. Now he goes by the more secular name of Grandfather Winter (dzmerr papik, Ձմեռ Պապիկ). Belarus Christmas (Belarusian: Нараджэ́ньне Хрысто́ва, Раство́, Каля́ды) is celebrated as a national holiday on 7 January (25 December on the Julian calendar) by the Orthodox Church and on 25 December by the Catholic Church, Belarusian Greek Catholic Church and Protestant denominations. Many families of mixed religious affiliation observe Christmas twice. Georgia Children at the Alilo march in the streets of Tbilisi On calendars in Georgia, Christmas (Georgian: შობა, shoba) is celebrated on 7 January (25 December on the Julian calendar). It is traditional in Georgia to go on Alilo (a modified pronunciation of Alleluia), a mass walk in the streets, dressed in special clothing to celebrate and congratulate each other. Most members of the Alilo march are children and they are given sweets by the adults. The Alilo carols vary across the provinces of Georgia. In most songs these words are used: "ოცდახუთსა დეკემბერსა, ქრისტე იშვა ბეთლემსაო'" (otsdakhutsa dekembersa qriste ishva betlemsao) – "on 25th December Christ was born in Bethlehem". A local variant of the Christmas tree, called Chichilaki, is made of soft wooden material with curled branches. Sometimes it is hazelnut branch which is carved into a Tree of Life-like shape and decorated with fruits and sweets. The Western custom of a Christmas tree (nadzvis khe) is also popular and has been imported through Russia. The Georgian equivalent of "Santa Claus" is known as tovlis papa (or tovlis babua in western Georgian dialects), literally meaning a "Grandfather snow", and is traditionally portrayed with long white beard, dressed in national costume "chokha" and wearing a fur cloak "nabadi". Russia Main article: Christmas in Russia New Year decorations in Nizhny Novgorod As in some other Eastern Orthodox countries, and due to the 13-day difference between the newer Gregorian, and older Julian Calendars, Christmas is celebrated on January 7. Unlike its Western counterparts, Christmas is mainly a religious event in Russia. On Christmas Eve (6 January), there are several long services, including the Royal Hours and Vespers combined with the Divine Liturgy. The family will then return home for the traditional Christmas Eve "Holy Supper", which consists of 12 dishes, one to honor each of the Twelve Apostles. Devout families will then return to church for the "всеночная" All Night Vigil. Then again, on Christmas Morning, for the "заутренняя" Divine Liturgy of the Nativity. Since 1992 Christmas has become a national holiday in Russia, as part of the ten-day holiday at the start of every new year. During the Soviet period, religious celebrations were discouraged by the officially atheist state. Christmas tree and related celebrations were gradually eradicated after the October Revolution. In 1935, in a surprising turn of state politics, the Christmas tradition was adopted as part of the secular New Year celebration. These include the decoration of a tree, or "ёлка" (spruce), festive decorations and family gatherings, the visit by gift-giving "Ded Moroz" (Дед Мороз "Grandfather Frost") and his
  19. 19. granddaughter, "Snegurochka" (Снегурочка "The Snowmaiden"). Many of these were brought to Russia by Peter the Great after his Western travels in the late 17th century.[citation needed] Ukraine Main article: Christmas in Ukraine Twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper, Ukraine Sviata Vecheria or "Holy Supper" is the central tradition of the Christmas Eve celebrations in Ukrainian homes and takes place in most parts of the country on 6 January. In Western Ukraine, especially in Carpathian Ruthenia, due to historical multi-culturism, Christmas can be observed twice—on 25 December and 7 January, often irrespective of whether the family belongs to Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the (Roman) Catholic Church, one of the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, or one of the Protestant denominations. When the children see the first star in the eastern evening sky, which symbolizes the trek of the Three Wise Men, the Sviata Vechera may begin. In farming communities the head of the household now brings in a sheaf of wheat called the didukh which represents the importance of the ancient and rich wheat crops of Ukraine, the staff of life through the centuries. Didukh means literally "grandfather spirit" so it symbolizes the family's ancestors. In city homes a few stalks of golden wheat in a vase are often used to decorate the table. The dinner table sometimes has a few wisps of hay on the embroidered table cloth as a reminder of the manger in Bethlehem. A prayer is said and the father says the traditional Christmas greeting, "Chrystos rodyvsya!" which is translated to "Christ is born!", which is answered by the family with "Slavite Yoho!" which means "Let us glorify him!". In some families the Old Slavic form "Сhrystos rozhdayetsya!" is used. At the end of the Sviata Vechera the family often sings Ukrainian Christmas Carols. In many communities the old Ukrainian tradition of caroling is carried on by groups of young people and members of organizations and churches calling at homes and collecting donations. Traditionally, Christmas Day opens for Ukrainian families with attendance at Church. Ukrainian Churches offer services starting before midnight on Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning. Christmas supper, without Lenten restrictions, does not have as many traditions connected with it as Sviata Vechera. The old tradition in Ukraine of giving gifts to children on St. Nicholas Day, December 19, has generally been replaced by the Christmas date and it is the Father Frost who visits all the children in a sleigh pulled by only three reindeer. Where to find cheap gifts for christmas, please check out: http://good-christmas-gifts-for- boyfriend.com/

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