CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD
Because of the COVID-19/Coronavirus Pandemic, many of the ways that Christmas is celebrated around the world might be different this year. But let's take a look at some of them and let's find out how is celebreted during a normal year!
In United Kingdom, Christmas is a long-awaited and heartfelt holiday, with a great symbolic meaning and characterized by intense fervor. As in Italy, December 25th is children's day. In the United Kingdom, kids usually start waiting for it since November, when they start writing the famous letter for Santa Claus in which they list all the gifts they would like to find under the tree. The packages will be deposited under the tree by "Father Christmas", the British equivalent of Santa Claus, accompanied by the reindeer Rudolph.
To thank him for his genereosity and his long journey, children usually leave milk and mince pie - a typical english dessert - for him. From December 1st, is also very common to oper the avent calendar and to start decorate the house with sparkling Christmas illuminations and the tree, few days before the holidays.
Regent Street 1st pic here
Regent Street 4th pic here
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew pic here
In Japan, the Christmas period is perceived in an almost completely different way from the West. Although the presence of Christian communities is very large, let's say that the common idea of Christmas is that equivalent to one of the most important days of the year in which to go out for an appointment with your loved one.
That is why on the 25th around Tokyo especially, you will find nothing but couples of lovers wandering the streets and restaurants of the city. What is perceived very negatively by those who at that time have no one to enjoy the holiday with.
On December 24th people is celebrate by lovers and families with small children: couples go out for dinner, specifically to eat fried chicken and the famous Christmas Cake, that is a simple sponge cake with whipped cream and decorated with strawberries and images of Santa Claus. Even in Japan it is traditional to exchange a gift, but only between lovers.
Santa Claus is called by the Japanese Santa-San (サ ン タ さ ん), as they imported this holiday from the United States. Click here for the recipe.
The Christmas decorations around the cities are also amazing.
In Canada, traditions are not the same in every cornere, but there are some very particulare and curious.
As in all traditions influenced by European culture, even the Canadian one at Christmas focuses mainly on the creation of a decorated Christmas tree, super decorated houses and the exchange of gifts on December 25th.
For example in Labrador City, there is a competition that decrees the best decorated house, taking into account the use of lights or the presence of ice statues in the garden.
In Nova Scotia, Christmas traditions call for the consumption of lobster and seafood instead of the classic turkey. This area is known in much of the world for the presence of the giant Christmas tree that has been donated to the city of Boston every year since 1917 in recognition of the help offered after the explosion that occurred in Halifax. And, don't we forget about gingerbread houses - This house is typically decorated with an assortment of frosting and candied elements. This practice stems from the tradition of baking ginger into small cookies, called snap cookies during European and North American holidays.
Plus very famous: Santa's Parade in Toronto one of the oldest and largest Santa's Parade in the world! It started in 1913 when Santa was dragged through the streets of Toronto. The children along the way followed Santa and marched with him. It has been running for over 100 years and is now a big event with over 25 animated floats and 2000 people taking part! It is broadcast on TV all over the world.
Like many other countries in Northern Europe, Germany too is festively decorated during the months leading up to Christmas Day. Here, as in Great Britain, the Christmas spirit is felt already at the end of November, when the first Christmas markets begin to be set up in the squares and streets of every city in the country. Almost all the products on display are the result of local craftsmanship. You can find candles, puppets, toys, balls decorated for the Christmas tree and even gastronomic products. Although in November the markets are already swarming with visitors, according to the Germanic tradition the real dances begin on December 6, on the day of Nikolaustag.
Legend has it that during the night of December 5th, children prepare for the arrival of St. Nikolaus, leaving their shoes on the windowsill or outside the front door. During the night, Saint Nicholas wanders around the house, holding up a large book in which he seems to have transcribed every behavior of the children. At the same time, however, he holds a large bag full of sweets and chocolates - for good children - but also full of wooden twigs - the ones that no one would ever want to receive.
Children will find in their shoes, sweets or twigs of wood, depending on what was then the final judgment of St. Nikolaus.
The tradition is still respected, although instead of leaving the shoes outside the window, today it is more common to hang large colorful socks over the fireplace.
A curious aspect of the German Christmas tradition is that Christmas Eve is expected to decorate the tree and the menu on December 25 provides for roast goose and Christmas carp to be served at the table.
In Central Africa, Christmas often coincides with the end of the cocoa harvest and plantation workers have the opportunity to return to their families to celebrate. In Nigeria, in the days preceding the nativity, the girls visit the houses in the area dancing and singing accompanied by the drums; dances and songs vary according to ethnicity.
From the 25th onwards, however, it is men who perform with their faces covered by wooden masks depicting characters linked to local customs. Even in Africa there is the tradition of the Christmas tree which, however, is very far from being the classic fir typical of the West. The most common ornament is made from an intertwining of palm leaves arranged to form an arch from which white flowers are hung that bloom just at Christmas. In South Africa, where the holiday falls in the height of summer, celebrations and festivities take place outdoors, on the beach and flowers are the most common decorations. Africans are a very cheerful and festive people, therefore on the evening of Christmas Eve in many countries after Mass, a majestic torchlight procession takes place. The night is spent in the company of relatives and friends until, the next day, preparations for Christmas dinner begin; It is also custom to leave the front door open so that everyone feels welcome. The custom has it that the exchange gifts consisting of foods, both raw and cooked. Everyone receives much more food than is actually consumed, but this abundance is considered a good omen.
Christmas is, very often, the most loved holiday of the year and perhaps also the most heartfelt. In all the places where this anniversary is celebrated, lights of all shapes and sizes decorate the streets of the center and the outskirts and in all the main squares large Christmas trees appear and, in some countries, markets appear where you can taste typical food, wine mulled wine and buy handmade items to give to your friends and family.
In Italy, the Christmas period does not begin on the fourth weekend before 25 December, but it is customary to make the beginning of the holidays coincide with the day of the Immaculate Conception, or 8 December. Usually we Italians spend this day of celebration (schools and offices are closed) decorating the tree, making the crib and decorating our homes.
After days and days of preparations we finally reach the Christmas Eve dinner, usually characterized by a fish menu, instead for the Christmas lunch you can enjoy tortellini, boiled meat and other regional specialties. Most of the people who decide to spend the holidays inside the walls of their homes will find themselves around a table with their closest relatives, enjoying family affection. Usually those in the kitchen get fresh fish during the night between the 23rd and the 24th, in order to make perfect dishes, from appetizers to desserts.
On December 25th, most Italian families gather once again at the table to have lunch with their relatives. At the end of any Christmas meal, we will find Panettone or Pandoro, originally from Verona. The first rich in raisins and candied fruit and the second covered with a sprinkling of icing sugar.
A peculiarity we could talk about is certainly the crib.
The city of Naples in Italy is world famous for its Nativity scenes. These are known as 'Presepe Napoletano' (meaning Neapolitan Nativity/cribs scenes). The first Nativity scene in Naples is thought to go back to 1025 and was in the Church of S. Maria del presepe (Saint Mary of the Nativity), this was even before St. Francis of Assisi had made Nativity scenes very popular! These nativity scenes are real works of craftsmanship and each single piece is made and painted by hand.
Having Nativity scenes in your own home became popular in the 16th century and it's still popular today (before that only churches and monasteries had scenes). Nativity scenes are traditionally put out on the 8th December. But the figure of the baby Jesus isn't put into the crib/manger until the evening/night of December 24t.