Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions

Sierra Mejia and Hailey Yon

Did you know that more than 2 billion people celebrate Christmas in more than 160 countries? But what is Christmas? Christmas is the annual Christian festival celebrating Christ’s birth, held on December 25th in the Western Church. People all around the world have their own beliefs about the meaning of Christmas and they have developed their own Christmas traditions. These traditions have changed greatly over time.

Christmas is celebrated by most Americans on December 25 to acknowledge the birth of Jesus. In the 19th century, Christmas wasn’t even a holiday yet, so everyone celebrated it differently. But during the early 1800s, Americans started to reinvent the holiday. Christmas soon became a very important holiday for families to celebrate at home. Americans began to follow the European traditions of having and decorating Christmas trees, followed by giving gifts. German immigrants brought the tradition of putting lights, candy canes, and toys on the branches of the trees. Most Christians believed that the tree represented Jesus and that it is a sign for new beginnings. Countries in America have many similar and different Christmas traditions. For example, in the United States, the holiday season begins at the end of November and goes till early January, while in Mexico the holiday season begins on December 12th and ends in early January. One difference is that in the United States presents come from Santa Clause, and in Mexico, the children believe presents might also come from ‘El Niñito Dios’ ( baby Jesus ). Christmas in America is different from Christmas in Asia.  

Christmas time in Asia is a very celebrated holiday. Everyone embraces their Christmas spirit. Since most decorations are made in China, a great number of stores decorate with trees, twinkling lights, snowmen, and all the delicious Christmas treats. Historians say “ It’s a natural time for feast”. And the harvest is finished for the year, so there’s no need for work in the fields. They take this time to devote their lives to their religion and spread joy with their loved ones. Some parts of Asia don’t see Christmas as a holiday so schools, offices, colleges, and universities remain open. However, in the Philippines they are known to have the longest celebrated Christmas, that begins on September 1st. In Korea Christianity is still somewhat new, meaning Christmas is also recent to them. Their Santa Clause is known as Haraboji and looks like a western Santa.  He wears a traditional Korean hat, and interestingly he wears a blue suit instead of a red one. Unlike Korea, Japan sees Christmas as a way to spread happiness and fortune. Surprisingly, Christmas Eve gets more attention than actual Christmas day. Christmas Eve is the time where couples spend time together and exchange gifts. For Japan, Christmas is not a public holiday. Yet the celebration of their emperors birthday, which falls on December 23, is a public holiday. As you can see, Asia’s traditions are very unique when it comes to the celebration of Christmas.

In Europe, Christmas traditions happen all throughout the month of December. Most Europeans have Advent which occurs four Sundays before Christmas Eve. Europeans also have a big feast of St. Nicholas which takes place on December 6, mostly celebrated by Catholic countries. On Christmas Eve, there’s a midnight mass and a grand meal. In the Netherlands, Christmas has an early start. St. Nicholas arrives on his boat on the last Saturday in September. We all say St. Nicholas comes from the North Pole, but in the Netherlands, he comes from Spain. When children are naughty they are told they will be sent back with St. Nicholas on his boat back to Spain. When he travels around, he wears a red bishop robe and rides his white horse named Amerigo. Children are expected to leave a shoe out for him and carrots or hay for his horse. They have then left presents on the eve of December fifth.  Sweden’s Christmas traditions are a bit different from others. They have a special celebration called St. Lucia day which takes place on December 13. Historians are unsure where the tradition began. Throughout the years they believe stories of what happened may have been mixed together. The St. Lucia story says: a young Christmas girl was killed in the 4th century for her beliefs. Sweden wants to carry on her story by having a traditional ritual led by a girl in a white dress and a crown of candles. Moreover, children open their presents on Christmas Eve but before have a big meal called Julbord. Children leave out porridge for Tomten (their Santa) and he leaves presents in return for the food. European traditions are one of a kind and people always have something to look forward to in the month of December.

Christmas is a very celebrated holiday, yet everyone around the world celebrates it in their own way. Continents have very different traditions and to this day they may change over time. Traditions play a big role when celebrating Christmas. Traditions bring family together and create long-lasting memories. They remind us that we are apart of history and it defines our past, shapes who we are today, and who we are likely to become.