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Christmas Around The World

Christmas in Australia

Christmas in Australia is often very hot. Whereas the northern
hemisphere is in the middle of winter, Australians are baking
in summer heat. It is not unusual to have Christmas Day well
into the mid 30 degrees Celsius, or near 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

A traditional meal includes a turkey dinner, with ham, and pork.
A flaming Christmas plum pudding is added for dessert.
In the Australian gold rushes, Christmas puddings often
contained a gold nugget. Today a small favor is baked inside.
Whoever finds this knows s/he will enjoy good luck.
Another treat is Mince Pies.

Some Australians and particularly tourists often have
their Christmas dinner (midday) on a local beach,
Bondi Beach in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs attracts
thousands of people on Christmas Day. Other families
enjoy their day on a picnic. If they are at home,
the day is punctuated by swimming pool, playing
Cricket out the backyard, and other outdoor activities.

The warm weather allows Australians to enjoy a
tradition which commenced in 1937. Carols by Candlelight
is held every year on Christmas Eve, where tens of thousands
of people gather in the city of Melbourne to sing their
favorite Christmas songs. The evening is lit by as many candles
singing under a clean cut night sky. The sky with its
Southern Cross stars is like a mirror. Sydney and the other
capital cities also enjoy Carols in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Australians surround themselves with Christmas Bush,
a native plant which has little red flowered leaves.

Christmas shopping is often done in shorts and t-shirts.
At many beaches Santa Claus arrives on a surfboard,
or even on a surf lifesaving boat.

Christmas in England

The English enjoy beautiful Christmas music. They love
to decorate Christmas Trees and hang up evergreen branches.
One England's customs is mumming. In the Middle Ages,
people called mummers put on masks and acted out Christmas plays.

These plays are still performed in towns and villages.
The English gift giver is called Father Christmas.
He wears a long red or green robe, and leaves presents
in stockings on Christmas Eve. However, the gifts are
not usually opened until the following afternoon.

Christmas in England began in AD 596,
when St. Augustine landed on her shores with monks
who wanted to bring Christianity to the Anglo Saxons.

Christmas in France

On Christmas Eve, children leave their shoes
by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Pere Noel.

In the morning they also find that sweets, fruit,
nuts and small toys have been hung on the tree.
In cathedral squares, the story of Christ's birth
is reenacted by both players and puppets.

In Southern France, a log is burned in people's homes
from Christmas Eve until New Year's Day. A long time ago,
part of the log was used to make the wedge for
the plough as good luck for the coming harvest.

Christmas in Germany

Christmas preparations often begin on the eve
of December 6th. People often set aside special evenings
for baking spiced cakes and cookies, and making gifts and decorations.
Little dolls of fruit are traditional Christmas toys.

Children leave letters on their window sills for Christkind,
a winged figure dressed in white robes and a golden crown who
distributes gifts. Sometimes the letters are decorated with glue
and sprinkled with sugar to make them sparkle.

Germans make beautiful gingerbread houses and cookies.
The German Christmas tree pastry, Christbaumgeback,
is a white dough that can be moulded into shapes
and baked for tree decorations.

In parts of Germany, people believe that the Christ Child
sends a messenger in Christmas Eve. He appears as an angel
in a white robe and crown, bearing gifts.
The angel is called Christkind.

There is also a Christmas Eve figure called Weihnachtsmann or
Christmas Man He looks like Santa Claus and also brings gifts.
Some homes in Germany have several Christmas trees,
and in all towns across Germany,
they can be seen glittering and glowing.

Christmas in the Holy Land

Christmas in the Holy Land where Christ
is believed to have been born is often full of travelers
come to celebrate Christmas. Here in a grotto
there is a 14 pointed silver star on the floor
is where the birth place is supposed to have been.

There are three Christmas Eves in the Holy Land.
One on the 24th December celebrated by the
Protestant and Catholic Churches. The second for the
Greek Orthodox, Coptic (Egyptian) and Syrian churches.
The third is the Armenian church.

At times, all three services are going on at the same time,
but, in different parts of the church, as well as in
different languages. For lunch they eat turkey,
spiced with pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg and stuffed
with rice, meat, pine nuts and almonds.

Early in the evening, members of the Protestant church
groups would go around singing carols. On Christmas morning
children would open their presents before breakfast.
After breakfast Protestant people would go to church,
and visit friends to wish them a happy Christmas.

The Catholic church priests would come a bless water
from which all members of the family would take a sip.

The members of the Greek Orthodox church
Epiphany is very important. They have a special church
service at which a cross was dipped into water to bless it.
People would take the water home with them
a drink three sips before eating anything.

Christmas in Ireland

Ireland's Christmas is more religious than a time of fun.
Lighted candles are placed in windows on Christmas Eve,
as a guide that Joseph and Mary might be
looking for shelter. The candles are usually red in color,
and decorated with sprigs of holly.

Irish women bake a seed cake for each person in the house.
They also make three puddings, one for Christmas,
New Year's Day and the Twelfth Night.

After the Christmas evening meal, bread and milk
are left out and the door unlatched as a symbol of hospitality.

Christmas in Italy

A strict feast is observed for 24 hours before
Christmas Eve, and is followed by a celebration meal,
in which a light Milanese cake called panettone features.

Presents and empty boxes, are drawn from the
Urn of Fate - lucky dip, which always contains one gift per person.
By twilight, candles are lighted around the family crib (Presipi),
prayers are said, and children recite poems.

At noon on Christmas Day the pope gives his blessing
to crowds gathered in the huge Vatican Square.

Christmas in United States of America

Christmas celebrations vary greatly between regions
of the United States, because of the variety of nationalities
which have settled in the USA.

In Pennsylvania, the Moravians build a landscape,
called a putz -- under the Christmas tree, while in the
same state the Germans are given gifts by Belsnickle,
who taps them with his switch if they have misbehaved.

In the South, firearms are shot to greet distant
neighbours on Christmas Day.
In Alaska, a star on a pole is taken from door to door,
followed by Herod's Men, who try to capture the star.
Colonial doorways are often decorated with pineapple,
a symbol of hospitality.

In Washington, DC, a huge, spectacular tree is
lit ceremoniously when the President presses a button
and turns on the tree's lights.
In Boston, carol-singing festivities are famous.
The singers are accompanied by hand bells.

In New Orleans, a huge ox is paraded around the streets
decorated with holly and with ribbons tied to its horns.
In Arizona, the Mexican ritual called Las Posadas is kept up.

This is a ritual procession and play representing the search
of Mary and Joseph for a room at the inn.
Families play the parts and visit each other's houses
enacting and reenacting the drama and, at the same time,
having a look at each family's crib.

In Hawaii, Christmas starts with the coming of the
Christmas Tree Ship, a ship bringing a great load of Christmas fare.
Santa Claus also arrives by boat.
In California, Santa Claus sweeps in on a surf board!
(We also string lights on the palm trees!)

Go back to the Country Christmas page.