We’ve all learned about the standard tradition – many of which were adopted by the U.S. in the early 1900s. Some of the most common are from Germany, England and the Netherlands.
I’d like to share a few traditions from some areas you might not have heard of. I hope you find them interesting.
On Dec. 6, children receive a visit from Mikulas or St. Nicholas. He arrives wearing the robes of a bishop and holds a switch made of dry twigs to smack any “naughty” children. Each child receives a small gift, usually a toy or sweets.
The main celebrations take place Christmas eve, which is called Szenteste or Holy Evening. Before attending midnight mass, families gather around the Christmas tree to sing carols and open presents left by Baby Jesus and the angels.
An important part of the Hungarian Christmas tradition is the presenting of nativity plays. Performed by groups of children or adults, these plays are often combined with puppets and are accompanied by songs and dancing.
Little figures made of clay, called pesebre, are placed under the Christmas tree. Father Christmas is known as Viejito Pascuere and wishes everyone a Feliz Navidad y un Prospero Anc Nuevo (Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year).
Christmas is celebrated by the Coptic Church on January 7. Advent is observed for 40 days and during this period, people are expected to fast by eating no meat, poultry or dairy products, although some only do this during the last week of Advent.
On the eve of Christmas, everyone goes to church wearing a new outfit. Service ends at midnight with the ringing of the church bells and people head home to eat a special meal known as fata, which consists of bread, rice, garlic and boiled meat.
Christmas morning is a time for visiting friends and neighbors. They take along some kaik, a type of shortbread, to give to those they visit. It is eaten with a drink known as shortbat.
In Egypt, Christmas Day is a public holiday for Christians.
Only 1 percent of Japanese people believe in Christ. Even so, most of the people decorate their stores and homes with evergreens during Christmas. They also enjoy giving each other gifts, so this is the part they celebrate. Hotei-osho, a Buddist monk, acts the part of Santa Claus and brings presents to each house for the children.
Among the Christian Japanese, Christmas is not a day for the family. It is meant for doing nice things for others, especially those who are sick in the hospitals.
Children in Sunday schools put on programs that last for hours. They sing, recite and perform a drama of the day Jesus was born in Bethlehem.