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How different countries celebrate Christmas?

It is interesting to see how different countries celebrate Christmas. We asked some of our friends to explain what happens in their countries.

This is what they told us:

Belgium

On 6th December Sinterklaas or Saint-Nicholas is celebrated, which is an entirely different holiday from Christmas. Santa Claus in Belgium is called de Kerstman or le Père Noël and he does come around on Christmas day to bring children presents. There are different cultures in Belgium, the Northern part being Vlaanderen (speaking a Dutch dialect), the Southern part being Wallonie (speaking a French dialect) and the Eastern part speaking German.

Small family presents are given at Christmas too, under the tree, or in stockings near the fire-place, to be found in the morning. Christmas breakfast is a special sweet bread called 'cougnou' or 'cougnolle' - the shape is supposed to be like baby Jesus. Some families will have another big meal on Christmas day.

Brazil

Father Christmas is called Papai Noel. Many Christmas customs are similar to USA or UK. For those who have enough money, a special Christmas meal will be chicken, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork, fresh and dried fruits, often with beer. Poorer people will have chicken, rice and beans and will also drink beer and coke. For dessert people enjoy some Brazilian sweets Brigadeiro made of condensed milk and chocolate. Both rich and poor have Christmas trees. A poor person's Christmas tree is made of plastic or is just a dry tree branch. As we don't have snow in Brazil, poor people put cotton over their Christmas tree branch to simulate snow. Christmas time varies a lot from south to north region.

Finland

Finnish people believe that Father Christmas (Santa Claus) lives in the north part of Finland called Korvatunturi, north of the Arctic Circle. People from all over the world send letters to Santa Claus in Finland. There is a even big tourist theme park called 'Christmas Land' in the north of Finland, near to where they say that Father Christmas lives. Everyone cleans their houses ready for the three holy days of Christmas - Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Christmas Eve is very special, when people eat rice porridge and a sweet soup made from dried fruits. It´s eaten in the morning or at lunchtime. They will then decorate a spruce tree in the home. At mid-day, the 'Christmas peace declaration' is broadcast on radio and TV from the Finnish city of Turku by its Mayor. In the evening, a traditional Christmas dinner is eaten. The high moment! After that comes Santa Claus (if there are children) or the presents that are under the Christmas tree are opened. In some families where there are no small kids, the presents are not put under the tree, but collected to big sacks, which are carried near the front door. Then a family member might say, Did I heard sound of reindeers and bells... Or Did I hear Santa Claus... When they go to check, there are big sacks full of presents there. So it was Santa after all. Then people drink coffee and eat cakes, cookies and other sweet things. Enjoy present and play games. Small kids go to bed but others stay up late. Many families will visit cemeteries and grave-yards to place a candle onto the burial graves of family members.

Hungary

Susanna Denes, a Hungarian friend contributed the following:
Santa Clause (Winter-grandfather) (Tel-apo or Mikulas) comes on the 6th of December. Children should clean and put their shoes outside next to the door or window before they go to sleep. Next day candies and/or small toys appear in them in red bags. For children, who don't behave well, a golden birch placed next to the sweets, a symbol for spanking... (but don't worry, it is just for fun, and not for actual punishment.)
On 24th of December, children go to their relative or to the movies, because little Jesus brings the tree and the presents that evening to their house. It is customary to hang edible things on the tree, like golden wrapped assorted chocolates and meringues beside the glass balls, candles (real or electrical), and sparklers.
Families usually cook festive dinner for that night. An example would be fresh fish usually with rice or potatoes and home made pastries as dessert. After dinner, the tree would be viewed by the children for the first time. It was very exciting. Christmas songs are sung and then the gifts under the tree are shared.
Older children attend the midnight mass with their parents.Festive food is enjoyed on the second and third day too.

Portugal

People adhere to the tradition that Father Christmas brings presents to children on Christmas Eve. The presents are left under the Christmas tree or in shoes by the fireplace. A special Christmas meal of salted dry cod-fish with boiled potatoes is eaten at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Sweden

The most important day is Christmas Eve. A special Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve - ham (pork), herring fish, and brown beans - and this is the time when families give presents to each other. Many people attend a church meeting early on Christmas Day.

United States

The USA is so multi-cultural that you will find many different ways of celebrating Christmas. All year long children are told to behave, or they will get coal in their stocking. On Christmas Eve, they hang highly stylized stockings on the mantle of the fireplace, then go to bed early so that they will find presents in the morning. They are told that at midnight Santa will come, bringing a huge bag of toys. He will come down through the chimney, leave candy in the stockings and presents under the Christmas tree (anything from a Pine or Fir to a Spruce), then 'plug one nostril' and shoot up through the chimney. Cookies are traditionally left for him, and a carrot is commonly left for Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer, very much a part of Christmas tradition (Santa will land on the roof with his sleigh and nine reindeer). On Christmas morning, things such as cinnamon rolls or coffee cake are served for breakfast, and for dinner there is typically ham (and occasionally regal plum pudding). That is it for celebration — Boxing Day is never celebrated, Epiphany is only celebrated by Catholics, and Advent not commonly celebrated. On the first Sunday following January 6, grandmothers tell again the story of the Magi who came to Jesus presenting their gifts following his birth. All the children are fondly remember leaving carrots and sugar for all of the reindeer, along the milk and cookies for Santa!

 

Butheina Alnounou

 

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