Children of this country celebrate this public holiday in the middle of their summer holidays. Yep, you heard that right! Christmas for them is summer! They make use of a native tree called Christmas Bush paired with Poinsettia plants to decorate their homes. On the 26th, they celebrate Boxing Day which falls on the day right after Christmas day. It is also known as St. Stephen’s holiday for those who were killed as a martyr as a missionary in Sweden. When it comes to food, they include Christmas pudding, pavlova, and trifle with the traditional Christmas dinner.
Not only do they celebrate the 25th of December in this country, but also the 24 days before it. It is called Advent, which they use various calendars or an Advent Kranz, a wreath made out of fir branches with four candles, to mark them. In this country, picking out the right Christmas tree is very important as it has been a tradition since the late Middle Ages. They also have Christmas Markets where various merchants come together to sell their holiday wares, especially glass ornaments. They also celebrate the 26th of December, which is known locally as Zweiter Feiertag (‘second celebration’). For their Christmas meal, they put out stollen, a fruit bread, paired with carp or goose.
They celebrate this national holiday between December 12th to January 6th. However, these are jam-packed with lots of traditions that retell the story of Jesus’ birth. This includes the house-to-house procession known as the Posada, holding a comedic play known as the Pastorelas, and getting presents with eating a special cake on el Dia de los Reyes. They consider the nativity scene, locally called nacimiento, as their main holiday decoration over the Christmas tree. On the night of Christmas Eve, their Christmas meal includes pozole (a kind of soup with hominy, chicken or pork, chillies, and greens), tamales, bacalao (salt cod), and ensalada nochebuena (Christmas Eve salad).
What this country is known for during the Christmas holiday is December 5, where St. Nicholas brings the children their presents, followed by his day the next day. Parties are also held on the evening of the 5th, which features lots of games and holiday snacks such as pepernoot (biscuits made with cinnamon and spices). Christmas Day, however, is rather celebrated peacefully through a Church service and a family meal. They refer to Christmas Day as Eerste Kerstdag and the day after it as Tweede Kerstdag. Tweede Kerstdag is when families visit their relatives and make use of a gourmetten, a little stove where families can make their own meal while seated.
One Christmas holiday they celebrate is known as St. Lucia’s Day. It is done on the 13th of December and is honor for a young Christian girl who was killed for her faith and is known to bring food to persecuted Christians in Rome while carrying a light on her head. During this day, lussekatts, special buns that are made with saffron and raisins, are eaten. They also hang out Advent Stars on a window, a red star with seven or nine points with a light inside. On Christmas Eve, they have a julbord, a lunchtime buffet that includes cold meats, Christmas ham (julskinka), and janssons frestlese (a baked potato dish with fish, cream, and onion).
Palestine is the birthplace of Jesus. There are many wonderful celebrations held throughout the month in all of Palestine from Bethlehem to Gaza! Palestinian Christians put up trees, sing Christmas songs, and celebrate the month eating delicious date cookies called maamoul. They are shaped in the shape of a small donut and they are filled with date paste that has been flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon. I am told is that shape to represent the thorn crown of Jesus. Each family makes a feast for Christmas eve as well as Christmas lunch that is had after going to church. Then the children celebrate opening presents and receiving money from the elders in the family.
Even if the official celebration of the holiday is between December 16th to the first Sunday of January, various shops start playing holiday-themed songs during September. They too celebrate Advent with wreaths like German and Sweden do, due to the influences brought by the Spaniards when they arrived around the 1500s. Their version of the Advent Star is known as a parol, which is a star lantern made out of a bamboo frame, cellophane paper, and lights. On Christmas Eve, families attend a mass in the evening followed by a midnight feast called the Noche Buena. After attending mass, two kiln-cooked pastries are being sold. The first is a purple sticky rice pastry known as the puto bumbong while a soft yellow cake topped with salted egg is known as the bibingka.
Due to being home to various people from various cultures, how they celebrate Christmas is influenced by these cultures. Their customs are said to resemble how other countries such as The Netherlands, Mexico, and France. They decorate their homes with lights, make gingerbread houses, drink eggnog, put up Christmas shops, and go to Christmas mass. In some communities, they hold a Mummer’s Day parade on New Year’s where people dress up in colorful dances for a parade filled with music, dancing, and cheers.
As one of the rich holiday traditions celebrated in the world, Christmas means a lot from country to country. Whether it would involve visiting church, putting up a nativity scene display, and putting up evergreen trees, this holiday season brings any family together and spending time with each other. Teaching this lesson to our students will help them appreciate various cultural traditions around the public holiday while sharing the holiday joy to everyone.