Christmas traditions around the world

Keeping with our festive theme, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the various traditions undertaken by countries you can visit on coach holidays during Christmas. Everyone knows that in the UK, we put up a decorated tree and hang our stockings up waiting for Mr Santa Claus to fill (if we’ve been good) but what do other people from across the world do for Christmas? Here’s a little whistle-stop tour of some of the festive traditions that take place in a few places around the world…

Christmas in Brazil
This country has a mix of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds so there are many different Christmas customs to account for. One tradition is to create a Presépio (nativity scene) and this is common practice throughout North
Eastern Brazil where displays feature in churches, homes and shops. In Brazil, the gift-bringer is Papai Noel or Father Noel who apparently lives in Greenland and when he arrives in Brazil, he changes into silk clothing because of the intense summer heat. The Christmas meal enjoyed here consists of turkey, ham, coloured rice, vegetables and fruit dishes. Devout Catholics attend Missa do Galo (Midnight Mass) that finishes at 1am on Christmas Morning. They attend another service late afternoon once the Ceia de Natal meal has been consumed. Decorations include fresh flowers picked from the garden, huge Christmas Trees covered in colourful electric lights can be found in cities such as Brasilia, San Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.

Christmas In China

Those in China who are Christian will let their children decorate the Christmas Tree with colourful ornaments that are usually made from paper and shaped into flowers, chains and lanterns. Muslin stockings are hung up for Dun Che Lao Ren (Christmas Old Man) to fill with gifts and treats. Those who are non-Christian call this festive season The Spring Festival and a whole host of celebrations take place including delicious meals and paying respects to their ancestors. As with Christmas, children are the main focus of the Spring Festival and they receive gifts of clothes, toys and the whole family watch firecracker displays in the evenings.

Christmas In Pakistan
Christmas Day is a Public Holiday here where people across the country remember
Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Those who are Christian celebrate Christmas with the exchange of gifts and cards, by wearing new clothes and visiting the homes of family and friends. They also attend a church service called Bara Din (The Big Day) and the ceremonies are usually packed out.

Christmas In The Phillippines
Celebrations in The Phillippines usually begin 9 days before Christmas with a
Mass called Misa de Gallo where the story behind the birth of Christ is read from the Bible. There is a pageant called Panunuluyan that takes place each evening on the lead-up to Christmas Day where a couple is chosen to play the parts of Joseph and Mary. Mass is held hourly on Christmas Day itself so that everyone can attend and includes a play called the Pastore. When the play closes, a star from the upper part of the Church slides down a wire and rests above the Nativity Scene. Traditions include children going around their neighbourhood and singing carols – some receive money and others get fed as a token of thanks. Any money they receive will be used to buy gifts for themselves or for loved ones. 3-D parols or star lanterns are also made out of bamboo and coloured in thin plastic film to symbolise the guiding star that the Three Wise Men followed to find Jesus Christ. Affluent households serve all kinds of food including traditional lechon, roast suckling pig and pansit (noodles) and grandparents gather their grandchildren together and toss coins in the middle of the circle as extra gifts and wishes for prosperity for the New Year!

Christmas In Spain
It gets extremely festive in Spain as the big day approaches with tiny oil lamps being lit in every household on Christmas Eve (known locally as Nochebuena or The Good Night). The locals attend Midnight Mass and after Christmas
Dinner, the streets are filled with dancers as they take part in the Jota which has been handed down generations for 100s of years. Instead of Santa Claus, Spanish children consider the Three Wise Men as the gift-bearers therefore shoes are filled with straw or barley for the tired camels who have to carry their riders through the busy night. By morning, the camel food has been magically replaced by presents. Most homes have a manger that’s complete with carved figures. During the weeks before Christmas, families gather around their manger to sing, whilst children play tambourines and dance. Spanish people tend to honour the cow over the festive period as it is thought that when Mary gave birth to Jesus, the cow breathed on the Baby Jesus to keep him warm. A traditional Christmas treat enjoyed throughout Spain is the Turron which is a kind of almond candy!

This is just the tip of the iceberg when looking at Christmas traditions from around the world. Maybe you know of some that we have not mentioned here, get in touch and let us know!