This is the season to be joyful! Yes, it’s that time of the year again, Christmas is upon us. In this blog, we take a look at the various traditions of global communities and cultures and how they celebrate during this season. Whether it be feasting on Christmas Eve or exchanging gifts in January rather December, we shine a light on localizing Christmas across the world.
Traditionally in the UK, like many other places, Christmas Trees are put up in the lead up to Christmas, some say Christmas Eve is when this should be done however in recent years it has become a national joke that trees and decorations are going up earlier and earlier, some people have taken this to the extreme and celebrate Christmas all year round!
The switching on of the Christmas lights in central London in November, is a huge national event which brings families from all over the country to see the Mayor of London, accompanied usually by a Z list celebrity, flick the switch on the capitals illustrious illuminations.
Like many other countries around the world, carol services and nativity performances are a festive mainstay and in most primary schools the annual nativity is one of the most anticipated times of the year for children and parents alike, where they learn who will be playing Mary and Joseph and who will be left with the role of donkey.
The UK has many seasonal traditions spanning back generations, but the festive family feast is by far the widest practiced. Roast turkey, roast vegetables and “all the trimmings” which usually consist of stuffing, carrots, peas and a UK favourite pigs in blankets (sausage wrapped in bacon – double pig, what’s not to like?). Over the last few decades though, the UK has grown very diverse and has began localizing Christmas dinners with spices and inspiration from across the globe. In fact it is fast becoming a tradition to make a Turkey Curry with leftovers for the evening meal or Boxing Day treat.
Whilst many countries celebrate Santa Claus visit on December 25th, children in Belgium are taught to believe that ‘Sinterklaas’ or Saint Nicholas, brings their presents on December 6th, which is St. Nicholas’ Day. A tradition that accompanies this celebration sees children placing their shoes in front of the fireplace, along with a carrot for Sinterklass’s horse and a little something for Zwarte Piet (Black Peter, Sinterklass’s assistant).
Like most children across the world, Belgian kids are told that if they are naughty before Christmas their names will appear on Santa’s naughty list, however in Belgium children are also told if they misbehave Zwarte Piet will put them in his sack and take them back to Spain.
Christmas Eve is deemed more important than Christmas Day itself, as this is where families get together to have their main festive dinner. Seafood and game are frequently eaten for Christmas Dinner, followed by potato croquettes, a popular item on every Belgian menu.
Interestingly Ethiopia, who still use the old Julian calendar, celebrate Christmas on January 7th rather than 25th December. ‘Ganna’ is the name of the celebration used by those who follow the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
As Ethiopians take this celebration more religiously than others, many take part in the Fast of the Prophets (Tsome Neviyat). This is a 43 day fast before Christmas in which one vegan meal is eaten every day. Eggs, meat, wine and oil are forbidden during fasting.
The traditional Christmas food in Ethiopia is Wat, which is a thick and spicy stew containing meat, vegetables and sometimes egg. Eaten with a piece of injera (flat bread), which acts as a spoon to scoop up all that Wat!
In Ethiopia, giving and receiving presents is not really a big thing to do, whereas the gathering of family, eating lots of lovely food and playing games is what it is all about.
A country in which Christmas has only recently (the last century) become a nationwide event. Unlike other countries, Christmas is not a religious holiday, due to Christianity being a minority faith in Japan. In fact Christmas Eve is where most people get together and celebrate, mostly couples who like to go and have a romantic meal or stroll in the park, similarly to that of Valentine’s Day.
Move over Turkey! Yes, that’s right, fried chicken is the main contender on Christmas Day and so much so restaurants such as KFC have their busiest day of the year. For dessert Christmas cake is also very popular but this isn’t the traditional Christmas cake that most of us know, this is a sponge cake usually decorated with strawberries and whipped cream.
Though Christmas Day is not a public holiday in Japan, most schools are closed, one national holiday which is celebrated all over is the Emperor’s birthday which is on the 23rd December.
Wherever you are, however you celebrate, we hope you enjoyed our Localizing Christmas blog and we wish you a happy holidays and all the best for 2018! Have a great time.
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