Even though December just started, it’s impossible not to talk about the “most wonderful time of the year.” You probably remember Christmas as a time to open presents, spend time with family and friends and eat everything, but how do other countries celebrate it?
According to an article titled “History of Christmas,” written by history.com, Christmas is a holiday created by Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Due to colonization and the dissemination of Christianity, the holiday has spread worldwide. Nowadays, Christmas is largely celebrated regardless of religion. According to Library Spot, Christmas is celebrated by over 160 countries, although some have different names for the holiday.
For most of us on the northeast coast, we’re used to cold weather and sometimes even snow on Christmas. But Australia, a country on the other side of the Earth, celebrates the holiday during the summer season. According to Monique La Terra, an Australian freelancer in an article titled, “How is Christmas Celebrated in Australia?,” besides the usual traditions of putting up Christmas trees and exchanging gifts, Australians also have a large Christmas music festival called Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve. The proceeds of this festival go toward supporting children who are blind or have low vision.
Other traditions include Myer Christmas Windows, which is a free annual exhibition displaying Christmas stories. They previously displayed “A Christmas Carol” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Adelaide Christmas Pageant is another tradition that takes place in Southern Australia. According to Terra, it’s one of the largest parades and garners over 400,000 attendees. La Terra also writes about how Australians often eat dinner or lunch in their backyard or go to the beach to celebrate. Traditional foods often include seafood, turkey or ham. After the main course, Australians usually eat a fruit platter and Christmas crackers (a candy-shaped box filled with candy and small toys), according to La Terra.
Another country that celebrates Christmas in warm weather is Costa Rica. Costa Rica Experts wrote an article titled “Costa Rica Christmas Traditions,” which says that houses are decorated with wreaths, ornaments and lights. Offerings of toys and fruits are placed in nativity scenes (decoration to represent and honor the birth of Jesus).
During Christmas Eve, Costa Ricans dress up to go to Midnight Mass (a service where Christians gather to celebrate Christmas at midnight of Christmas Day). According to the article, after Midnight Mass, the main meal is eaten. The meal often includes chicken and pork tamales wrapped in plantain leaves and Costa Rican desserts. Another tradition practiced in Costa Rica is for children to leave their shoes outside for Jesus or Santa Claus to “fill.”
According to an article titled “Christmas in Costa Rica” by James Kaiser, Christmas celebrations start in mid-December with a holiday called “Festival of Lights,” which includes parades filled with light shows. Costa Ricans are often said to celebrate at beaches, like Australians. According to Kaiser, children traditionally wrote letters to Jesus, but nowadays they tend to correspond with Santa. After Christmas Day, there are bullfights where bulls chase people. There are also events like horse parades with over 3,000 horses which you can watch on TV. The article written by Costa Rica Experts said the celebrations end on Jan. 6, also known as Three Kings Day, where the kings are said to have welcomed Jesus.
In Ghana, Christmas aligns with the celebration for the end of the cocoa harvest, thus giving another reason for people in Ghana to celebrate, according to an article titled “How Christmas Is Celebrated In Ghana” by Lauren Melnick. Melnick talks about how some Christmas traditions in Ghana may seem similar to the West, like putting up decorations, caroling, taking time off from school and work and attending church. But, Ghanaians also celebrate Christmas by wearing traditional African clothing, throwing parades and holding nativity plays. Rice, chicken, goat and fufu (cassava, a potato-like starch mixed with plantain powder) are some of the major foods eaten during the holidays.
According to Melnick, a key difference from the West is that some people in Ghana may instead recognize Santa Claus as Father Christmas or Papa Bronya which is someone who wears sandals, a red robe with gold lining, a white hood and a traditional African sash. According to Melnick, Christmas gifts can be common in Ghana, but exchanging food is more important. This can include eating over five meals and snacks in a day. “Christmas in Ghana,” written by Vera Mensah-Bediako, explains that some churches collect money from caroling to give out to poor and needy families. You would often hear “Afishapa” which means Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Akan, a commonly spoken language in Ghana.
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