Jamaica Gleaner / THE VOICE: Christmas time typically heralds festivities, frolic and feasting. For every country across the globe, there are cultural differences towards the approach to celebrating this prominent holiday. Here are some of the most interesting global Christmas traditions.
Here, Christmas preparations start from as early as November. Trees are popular and are often decorated by 8 December (the feast of the Immaculate Conception). Main celebrations take place on Christmas Eve at around 10-11pm. At midnight, it’s custom for people to let off fireworks as people ‘toast’ the beginning of Christmas day.
This time of year is very hot in Brazil – so many people like to go to the beach on this day. What’s more, it’s become commonplace to receive a ’13th salary’ at the end of the year – i.e. in December you get twice the normal amount of pay for that month! The idea is to help boost the economy during the festive period. Cool!
In Egypt about 15% of people are Christians, most of whom belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. They are the only part of the population who really celebrate Christmas as a religious festival but many non-Christian Egyptians like to celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. For the 43 days before Christmas – from 25th November to 6th January – there’s a special fast where a vegan diet is consumed. This is called ‘The Holy Nativity Fast’.
Nothing quite takes winter chill out of the bones like a visit to the sauna. It is custom for many Estonians head here on Christmas Eve, New Years Eve and Midsummer’s Eve.
Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7th. People wear white clothes, and the men play ganna – a fast-pace game with sticks and wooden balls.
People in Ghana celebrate Christmas from the 20th of December to the first week in January with lots of different activities. The night of Christmas Eve is the time when the celebrations really start with Church services that have drumming and dancing. These sometimes go on for the entire night!
Guatemalans sweep out their houses before Christmas. Each neighbourhood will then create a huge pile of dirt, placing a devil effigy on top and burning it. Talk about a pre-New Year cleanse
‘Grand Market’ night takes place on 24 December, in every town and city; it’s basically a cross between a street party and a market. At around 6.00pm, everyone comes out in some of their best clothes, including children, to celebrate all night. All the streets, shops and many houses are decorated with lights while music plays. There are normally street vendors selling box food, sweets and soft drinks.
Christmas isn’t recognised a religious holiday in Japan – in fact, only 2% of the population celebrate it. However, a trip to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has become something of a tradition among foreigners living in the country, where it’s often difficult to find a whole chicken or turkey. The chain has even recommended that customers place their finger lickin’ orders in advance, to avoid disappointment!
In the city of Oaxaca, ‘The Night of the Radishes’ takes place annually during the Christmas market on December 23. It is dedicated to the carving of oversized radishes to create scenes that compete for prizes in various categories. The winner is typically featured in the next morning’s newspaper!
Carol singing, otherwise known as Parrandas, is popular at Christmas time in Puerto Rico. Friends gather in the evening, at about 10pm, and visit different houses. People are meant to be surprised and woken up by the music, although most would have ‘arranged’ the visit. The custom is that when you’ve been ‘woken up’ you have to join in the singing, so it grows during the evening as more revellers participate!
Christmas caterpillars, anyone? In South Africa, the deep-fried caterpillars of the Emperor Moth are considered a festive delicacy. It is not for the faint hearted.
Many of the west African diaspora, In America and across the world, are eschewing Eurocentric Christmas celebrations in favour of Kwanzaa. Established in 1966-67, it is a week-long celebration honouring African heritage, observed from December 26 to January 1. It ends with a slap-up feast and gift-giving.