Many people around the world celebrate Christmas by giving gifts, decorating, and having a special Christmas meal with their families. Children look forward to the arrival of the gift giver (Santa). In addition, many countries have special customs and traditions, and many Christians attend special Mass or church services to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.
Let's visit some places around the world:
In Spain, Christmas is deeply religious. It begins on December 9th with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Almost every home has a Nativity scene, and families gather around it on Christmas Eve. Bonfires are popular on December 28, which is the Feast of the Innocents, and one young boy acts as the mayor. He orders townspeople to do chores, like sweeping the streets, and refusal to comply results in fines that are used to pay for the celebration. Children receive gifts on the Feast of Epiphany (January 6). The night before, they fill their shoes with straw, carrots, and barley for the Wise Mens' horses and leave them on windowsills on January 6th.
Canada and the United States celebrate Christmas similarly. Homes and businesses are decorated with a variety of decorations, including Christmas trees, wreaths, and lights. Children look forward to Santa arriving on Christmas Eve, and a special Christmas meal is eaten and gifts are exchanged on Christmas Day. Many attend special Christmas parties and activities, as well as church services and Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
Christmas is celebrated in Ghana from December 20 to the first week of January with lots of activities and visiting with friends and family in other parts of the country. On Christmas Eve, there are church services that have drumming and dancing. Children often put on a nativity or other drama, and a choir comes out to sing while people dance. Songs are sung in the language that is understood the best, since there are 66 languages spoken in the country. Sometimes, the singing and dancing lasts all night long. Churches are full on Christmas Day, and traditional clothing is worn to the services. After church, people go home to exchange gifts and have a Christmas meal that traditionally includes stew or okra soup, porridge and meats, rice and a yam paste called 'fufu'. Some people celebrate Christmas Eve with fireworks and parties, and some go to church on December 31 to thank God for sending Jesus and to pray for a good and safe new year. Those who died the previous year are remembered.
In Mexico, Christmas is celebrated from December 12th to January 6th. Children perform "Posadas," which are depictions of Mary and Joseph traveling and asking for room at the Inn, from December 12th to Christmas Eve. They carry candles and painted clay figures of Mary riding on a donkey and Joseph, and call on the houses of neighbors and friends. They sing a song asking for a room at the house, but hey are turned away. Eventually, they are welcomed in, and they say a prayer of thanksgiving and have a party with food, games, and fireworks. Manger scenes called 'Nacimiento' are popular in Mexico. Christmas trees are becoming more popular. The Poinsetta plant is called 'nochebuena' (Christmas Eve) flowers in Mexico. In some states in Mexico, children look forward to Santa arriving on Christmas Eve, while children in southern Mexico expect "The Three Kings" to leave presents on January 6th at Epiphany, which is known as 'el Dia de los Reyes'. It is traditional to eat a special cake called 'Rosca de Reyes' on Epiphany.
Candelaria (also known as Candlemas) on the 2nd February marks the end of the Mexican Christmas celebrations. Many Mexicans have parties on Candelaria.
A few days before Christmas in England, families put up Christmas Trees (fir trees with lights) and Christmas Decorations, including holly and mistletoe. The biggest tradition is for families to meet and have Christmas Lunch together - roast turkey etc. and Christmas Pudding, generally eaten late in the afternoon of Christmas Day. In the afternoon, some families watch the Queen's Christmas Speech on television. They also play games and watch other television programs. Families exchange Christmas Presents on Christmas Day. Children receive presents the night before Christmas delivered by Father Christmas (Santa Claus) on his sleigh drawn by reindeer. Singing Christmas Carols is also popular.
Dubai is mostly Muslim, and Christmas is not celebrated by Muslims; however, Dubai is a popular tourist destination for many people who do celebrate Christmas, making Christmas celebrations optional. Christmas definitely has a high commercial status to keep tourists happy. Malls and hotels are decorated with Christmas trees, lights, Santa and other familiar Christmas scenes and decorations. Supermarkets play Christmas music and sell related foods. Restaurants and hotels offer special Christmas meal deals. Christmas Day is not a public holiday so life simply goes on for those who do not celebrate.
Christmas comes in summer in the southern hemisphere, so Australians celebrate Christmas with barbeques and picnics, though their decorations are of a northern theme: icicles, snow, and "jingle Bells." Families come together on Christmas Day for a large meal, and Santa arrives on Christmas Eve night. When Santa arrives in Australia, his reindeer are given a rest and kangaroo pull his sleigh.