I’ve been doing a little bit of reading about different ways in which people around the world celebrate Christmas – some of them are fairly well known and others were new to me. I think the strangest is one which apparently happens in Catalonia – in the run up to Christmas, a creature is created out of a log and ‘fed’ each day with nuts, sweets and fruits, before being being with sticks to ‘defecate’ its goodies.
In Venezuela, people travel to church on roller skates – I think I’ll stick to my wheelchair. Cool as skates are, I’m not sure that would be the safest method of travel!
Instead of a traditional Christmas dinner being turkey with all the trimmings like it is here in the UK, in Greenland traditional food is much less appealing – mattak (raw whale skin with blubber) and kiviak (a small bird wrapped in seal skin and left to decompose before being eaten) are apparently popular. A much nicer tradition is that of the German Christmas markets!
In India in the absence of fir trees or pine trees, people who celebrate Christmas decorate banana trees or mango trees instead.
Lots of countries celebrate on days other than the 25th December, whether that’s Christmas Eve or St Nicholas’s Day – or, as in Sweden, St Lucia’s Day, when young girls wear a crown made from lingonberry branches and candles. In Egypt, Christmas is celebrated on the Feast of the Epiphany.
In Israel and Palestine Christians are a minority but as the birthplace of Jesus, Christmas is very important to many people living there – it is celebrated by a parade (featuring bagpipes!) and attendance at church services.
Of course, the often violent history of Christianity and missionaries means that many people have had Christmas customs forced upon them. People were often made to endure various horrors in the supposed name of Jesus. For many people, Christmas is divorced from its religious aspects, but for lots, carol services, crib services and midnight communions are still an important part of it.
(I haven’t fact checked all of the above traditions so if there are some which are just made up, I apologise! This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but if you are able to do so please do suggest some others!)