Christmas around the world > traditions

Here are some Christmas traditions celebrated in other countries.

• Australia > Christmas in Australia is often very hot. A traditional meal includes a turkey dinner, with ham and pork. A flaming Christmas plum pudding is added for dessert. Australian families and tourists often celebrate Christmas at the beach or pool. Carols by candlelight is held on Christmas Eve, and tens of thousands of people gather in Melbourne to sing their favorite Christmas songs.

• Belgium > In Belgium, there are two Santa Claus figures, St. Nicholas and Pere Noel. St Nicholas visits those who speak the Waloon language, twice. He first arrives on December 4, to find out which children have been good and which have been bad. On December 6, if a child is good, he returns with presents. Bad children receive twigs inside their shoes or in small baskets. Pere Noel and his companion Pere Fouettard visit those who speak French. Good children receive chocolates and candies. Bad children are more likely to receive a handful of sticks. Christmas for both gift-givers is December 6, the feast of St Nicholas.

• China > The Christian children of China decorate trees with colorful ornaments. They also hang muslin stockings hoping that Christmas Old Man will fill them with gifts and treats. The Chinese Christmas trees are called Trees of Light.

• India > Christians in India decorate banana or mango trees. They also light small oil-burning lamps as Christmas decorations and fill their churches with red flowers. They give presents to family members and baksheesh, or charity, to the poor people. In southern India, Christians put small clay lamps on the rooftops and walls of their houses at Christmas, just as the Hindus do during their Diwali festival.

• Nicaragua > Christmas begins officially on Dec. 6 in Nicaragua, but actual activities begin on December 16. Every home contains a manger scene. From December 16 until the Christmas Eve Mass, prayer is held each evening in the home, followed by refreshments and the singing of carols. Christmas Day is celebrated with much fun and eating, fireworks and dancing.

• Russia > In Russia the religious festival of Christmas is being replaced by the Festival of Winter, but there are some traditions that are still kept up in some parts of the country. In the traditional Russian Christmas, which is observed on January 7, special prayers are said and people fast, sometimes for 39 days, until Christmas Eve, which is January 6 in Russia. On Christmas Day, hymns and carols are sung. People gather in churches, which have been decorated with the usual Christmas trees or Yelka, flowers and colored lights. Babushka is a traditional Christmas figure who distributes presents to children.

• Syria > In Syria on December 6, a special Mass is held in churches in honor of St. Nicholas Thaumaturgus. On Christmas Eve everyone in the family carries a lit candle to an unlit bonfire outside their house. The youngest child, usually the son of the family, reads the Christmas story, after which the bonfire is lit. The way the flames spread shows the luck of the house in the coming year. When the fire burns, psalms are sung, and when it sinks, everyone leaps over the embers making wishes. Early on Christmas morning everyone goes to Mass. It is on New Year’s Day that children receive presents.

• Wales > Every year at Christmas, carol singing is the most enjoyed activity. Caroling is called eisteddfodde and is often accompanied by a harp. Christmas is spent with lots of people gathering in the public square for the announcement of who has won the prize for submitting the best music for a new carol. Taffy making is one of the most important of the Welsh Christmas. The Welsh people maintain most of the traditional customs associated with England.