A KFC Christmas and Other Holiday Traditions
Have you ever wondered how people around the world celebrate Christmas? Nearly every country, culture, and religion has its own tradition surrounding the popular holiday - people in one country even celebrate Christmas Eve with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken! Read on to find out how different people celebrate Christmas in various countries around the world.
Christmas in Australia
Because Christmas falls during the southern hemisphere's summer season, Australia celebrates two Christmases! Traditional Christmas celebrations take place during the summer on December 25th, and many people celebrate outdoors. Some Australians pay homage to their British heritage with traditional meals including baked hams, roast turkey, salads, roast vegetables, and elaborate desserts. More recently, people are trending toward light meals and outdoor barbecues to help beat the summer heat. The most popular event of the Christmas season is called Carols by Candlelight. People come together at night to light candles and sing Christmas carols outside. On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus visits and leaves presents under the tree. Gifts are opened on Christmas Day.
Australia also has a Christmas in July celebration, during the southern hemisphere's winter. In the late 1970s, a group of Irish visitors experienced a snow storm while visiting the Blue Mountains. The cold weather reminded them of Christmas back home, and they requested a traditional holiday dinner from their hosts. The group returned in subsequent years to repeat their holiday dinner, and in 1980 the Blue Mountains region made it official. Every year, the region holds a Yulefest Celebration, during the coldest months in Australia; June, July, and August. The tradition has since spread to many parts of Australia.
Christmas in Europe
During the day on Christmas Eve, many English households spend their time finishing the cooking, baking, decorating, and wrapping of presents. At night, families typically gather together around the Christmas tree to hear a classic holiday story or sing carols. Children write a letter containing their Christmas wishes, which they toss into the fire in order to send their wishes up the chimney to Father Christmas. After everyone falls asleep on Christmas Eve, Father Christmas brings presents for all the good children.
In Italy, gift giving occurs on Epiphany Eve (January 5th), the night before Epiphany, also known as Three King's Day. The Christmas witch, La Befana, arrives on her broomstick during the night. She fills children's stockings with toys and sweets or lumps of coal, depending on whether the children were good or bad that year. Many legends surround La Befana; one of the most popular stories says that she was approached by the Three Wise Men a few days before the birth of Jesus. The Three Wise Men invited her to join them on the journey to find Baby Jesus, but she declined. When she later changed her mind and tried to find them, she was unable to. To this day, she searches for Baby Jesus and leaves toys for all the good children. Italian children know to stay in bed on Epiphany Eve - La Befana does not like being seen and any wayward children could receive a whack from her broomstick.
Czech Republic and Slovakia
In Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Christmas Eve is known as Generous Day. Gifts for children are brought by Baby Jesus, who sneaks in during Christmas Eve dinner and leaves presents under the tree. There is a Christmas bell ornament hung on the tree, and children must wait until they hear the Christmas bell ring before checking the tree for presents. The ringing bell signifies that Baby Jesus has just passed by, and children rush for the tree as soon as it is heard.
Later in the evening, family and friends often spend time predicting one another's futures with traditional Czech and Slovak methods. Girls throw shoes over their shoulders - if the shoe lands with the toe facing the door, it is believed the girl will get married soon. Many also tell fortunes with apples by cutting them in half and observing whether the seeds form the shape of a star (good fortune) or a cross (illness or death).
Christmas in Asia
Christians in the plains regions of India decorate banana or mango trees instead of a pine tree. Christians in other regions often decorate with poinsettias and light small oil-burning lamps similar to those used for Diwali. On Christmas Eve, people visit one another, sing carols, and attend special midnight masses. People typically give Christmas gifts to family members and make a monetary donation to the poor to show charity. Father Christmas arrives in a horse and cart on Christmas Eve and delivers presents to good children.
Japan celebrates Christmas primarily as a secular holiday. Christmas Eve has developed into a popular holiday for couples to spend time together and exchange gifts. Many people throw Christmas parties on or close to Christmas day, and Western holiday influence can be seen in citywide Christmas lights, decorations, and Christmas tree displays. Since the 1970s, many Japanese have made a tradition of having Kentucky Fried Chicken around Christmas. The tradition has become so widespread that KFC stores take fried chicken orders months in advance.
Christmas in Africa
In many African countries, Christmas is a public holiday. On Christmas day, people spend time visiting friends and family. They cook special holiday meals, exchange presents, and sing Christmas carols. Goat is a particularly popular holiday meat in East Africa. Those who can afford it give gifts at Christmas, and gifts tend to be practical things like church clothes, school books, candles, and soap. Most Africans are more focused on celebrating the birth of Jesus and attending church. Additionally, Kwanzaa is not celebrated in Africa. It is an African-American holiday started in the United States in the 1960s.
Christmas in Central and South America
In Mexico, people celebrate Las Posadas before Christmas. Spanish for "the inns", this tradition commemorates Mary and Joseph's search for shelter on their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It takes place over eight nights from December 16th to December 24th in Mexico. Each night, people walk through the streets in a procession, often with a man riding a burro, or small donkey, and carrying a doll representing the Christ Child. The procession stops at a specific home and asks for lodging for the night. The homeowners invite the people inside to enjoy refreshments, read scriptures, and sing Christmas carols. The doll is left at the chosen home overnight and picked up when the procession begins again the following night.
Papai Noel brings presents for children every year, and according to local lore he lives in Greenland for much of the year. He exchanges his heavy suit and furs for light silk clothes when he travels to Brazil for a hot summertime Christmas. On Christmas Eve, children set out their shoes in order to receive gifts from Papai Noel. On Christmas night, the sky lights up with fireworks.
Columbians begin their Christmas season on December 7th with Dia de las Velitas, or "Day of the Candles", by lining streets, sidewalks, and porches with candles to honor the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. Christmas novena begins on December 16th and lasts for nine days, where Columbians say special prayers to help them remember and understand the true meaning of Christmas. The final novena is held Christmas Eve and ends with the Misa de Gallo, or Rooster's Mass, at midnight. After midnight mass, families and friends gather together to open presents brought by El Nino Jesus (Baby Jesus), and then they celebrate until dawn. On Christmas Day, kids play with their new presents and fireworks light up the sky at night.
Planning a special holiday celebration of your own? For more ideas, check out our party planning page.
"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
~Norman Vincent Peale