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Christmas Traditions Around the World Study 2007

Compiled and edited by Susan Mercy Disclaimer: This study is in no way meant to be a complete trip around the world. It is an outgrowth of something Ive wanted to explore with my children for several years. This year it ties in nicely with our multi-cultural studies using Sonlights Core 5 and Core C. I am sharing it with you in hopes that you will enjoy using it with your children, too. Please feel free to add, subtract, or tweak it to suit the needs of your family. If you have any questions or comments, please email me at Website Resources The History Channel The Homeschool Mom Crewsnest Santas Net Santa's Net Around the World Santa's Net Favorites How Merry Christmas is Said Around the World Northpole California Mall Holiday Traditions Christmas Around the World for Travelers Kids Domain Christmas Around the World Christmas World Virtual Advent Calendar Visit a Virtual Tree Farm Global Christmas Techdirect Christmas Christmas Celebrations Rumela's Web Twilight Bridge St. Nicholas Day WhyChristmas Christian Freebies Christmas Stuff Christmas Crafts Family Fun Holiday Decorations Kids Domain Christmas Crafts Family Crafts Christmas Crafts Gift Tags Free Gift Tags Family Crafts Christmas Tree Ornaments Freecraftz Christian Freebies Christmas Crafts Family Crafts Gifts to Make Family Crafts Penguin Crafts DLTK Russian Star Ornaments Tin Foil Twinkle Stars British Christmas Crackers

Christmas Cooking The Worldwide Gourmet Recipezaar Books A New Look at Christmas Decorations by Sister M. Gratiaold, but has good info on country traditions, as well as craft ideas Christmas Around the World by Mary D. Lankford Christmas Around the World by Emily Kelley Christmas Crafts from Around the World by Judy Sadler Christmas Decorations Kids Can Make by Kathy Rossreally nice book with lots of kid appeal. I believe most kids (at least the ones I know!) could follow the directions with minimal big person help. Ed Emberleys Christmas Drawing Book Origami for Christmas by Chiyo Araki I tell you, this book makes ME want to get right in there and start folding paper, too! The Christmas Book by Mary Ling An African Christmas by Ifeoma Onyefulu Annika's Secret Wish by Beverly Lewis Antonella and her Santa Claus by Barbara Augustin Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins The Bear Family's World Tour Christmas by Kestutis Kasparavicius The Cat on the Dovrefell illustrated by Tomie de Paola The Chanukkah Guest by Eric Kimmel The Christmas Tomten by Viktor Rydberg The Cobweb Christmas by Shirley Climo Joy to the World by Saviour Pirotta A Kenya Christmas by Tony Johnston The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen North Country Christmas by Shelley Gill A Northern Nativity by William Kurelek One Hundred Shining Candles by Janet Lunn A Pioneer Christmas by Barbara Greenwood The Power of Light: Eight Stories for Hanukkah by Isaac Bashevis Singer Tree of Cranes by Allen Say What's Cooking, Jamela? illustrated by Niki Daly Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve? by Jan Brett Wreath of Christmas Legends by Phyllis McGinley Other World Book Encyclopedia, 2007 edition Boy Lego Advent Calendar Girl Lego Advent Calendar

Australia Craft: sacks, carol, candle, Santa in swimmers, Aussie animal in Santa hat/suit Christmas in Australia falls in the middle of summer, with temperatures ranging from 80100 degrees. Because it is warm, Australians dont decorate their houses with greenery as much because they can be outdoors more. Native flowers that are blooming at Christmas time include the red and green flowering Christmas bush, and the yellowedged, bell-shaped Christmas bell flower. Children search for gold Christmas beetles, which are small, clumsy insects that appear around Christmastime and fly into windows or cling to clothing. In 1937, a radio announcer, Norman Banks, noticed an old woman sitting alone at her window, listening to Christmas carols on her radio. Her home was lit by candles. The next year, Mr. Banks proposed a community-wide singing event to be held. The first was in Melbourne and it has spread to other cities and is called Carols by Candlelight. Shops sell special candles, with the proceeds donated to charity. As darkness falls, candles are lit by choir members, who are dressed in white. The sky overhead is decorated with stars, including the Southern Cross formation. Audiences in the parks hold flickering candles and listen as the choir sings carols, including the audience singalong Let There Be Peace and Let It Begin With Me, and concluding with Auld Lang Syne at midnight. Speaking of carols, Australians have their own versions with titles like Santa Never Made it Into Darwin, Australians Let Us Barbeque, and Santas Moving to the South Pole. Since December is such a warm month in Australia, people usually shop wearing shorts and t-shirts. Santa is often depicted wearing swimmers (a swimsuit) and arriving at a beach on a surfboard or in a boat, instead of sliding down a chimney. Decorations can include Aussie images like kangaroos and koala bears stifling in Santa hats or red scarves! Christmas cards reflect the same extremes from traditional Victorian images to a summer Santa! Often, Australians have their Christmas dinner on a local beach or at a backyard picnic. They may enjoy a lively outdoor game or swim in their pool. Christmas dinner may include the traditional turkey dinner, and ends with a flaming Christmas plum pudding for dessert, showing Australias British ancestry. The pudding is made with suet, spices, rains, and apples (but no plums!) and steamed for 6 hrs. In the days of the Australian gold rush, Christmas puddings frequently contained gold nuggets. Today a coin or small favor is baked inside, and whoever finds it will be lucky.

In recent years, some residents long for a wintry setting for a Christmas celebration. This longing has developed into a Christmas in June or Christmas in July tradition. People head up into the cool mountains for a campout where they sing carols around a campfire. In most areas, no specific date is set for the occasion. It depends on when they can get a few days off work or school in their mid-winter season.

New Zealand Craft: sheep, elf/gnome, Santa in fire truck Greeting: Merry Christmas Christmas in New Zealand falls right in the middle of summer, so snow and ice are not part of their celebration! The New Zealand Christmas tree is called Pohutukawa and its flowers are a brilliant scarlet throughout the Christmas season. Santa may be depicted as Father Christmas, dressed in his red cloak and white beard; or, he may appear dressed the way we know him, in his red suit trimmed with white fur. The Maori culture influences Christmas celebrations, as well. Their spirits and creatures often resemble the elves and gnomes of European Christmas traditions. A special church service helps to celebrate with the story of the birth of Baby Jesus. Modern New Zealanders can relate to the story, as they have no motels, and they have many shepherds who care for their flocks. They can relate to the Christmas story. Small towns have Christmas parades, with brightly decorated floats. Santa visits the children on Christmas morning, riding on the back of a fire truck. Children hear the siren and come running out to greet Santa and receive the candy that he tosses to them. Christmas dinner may reflect old English traditions, by serving turkey and plum budding, but there are often served with cold salads. The dinner may be cooked on the barbecue outside, and include Kiwi treats such as lamb chops, along with the usual Christmas victuals. Dessert is traditionally Pavlovaan airy meringue confection decorated with fruit, such as kiwifruit and strawberry. Many people in New Zealand will create a traditional Maori hangi. This is essentially a big hole in the ground which is heated with hot rocks placed in it. It's filled up with baskets of food, covered and then allowed to cook underground. By the time the food comes out, everyone is anxiously waiting for the tender pork, chicken, kumara, pumpkin, potatoes and stuffing. It's been said that there is nothing to compare with the total bliss of the taste of food from a hangi, delicately smoked and melt-in-the-mouth soft. Usually the hangi is served in the late afternoon or early evening. After the meal, folks often sit around singing carols as it gets dark. New Zealanders also like to celebrate Christmas in July, complete with tree, gifts, and of course foods which were just too heavy to serve in the heat of a summer day.

Pacific Islands Craft: palm tree, peace dove Greeting: Papua New Guinea Bikpela hamamas blong dispela Krismas na Nupela yia i go long yu In Micronesia, Christmas Day is a church family day for Protestant Christians. Everyone attends the local church and spends most of the day there. The long worship service includes a message from every minister, lay preacher, and missionary in the area. Another hour or two is spent in hymn and carol singing. If gifts are presented, it is considered proper for each recipient to applaud himself as he goes to receive the two bars of soap he is likely to be given. In Papua, New Guinea, Christmas is celebrated in much the same way as in Australia. However, for many villagers in the more remote areas, Christmas passes as just another day. Traditions in New Guinea take on a different twist. To create peace amongst tribes the chief of each tribe would exchange an infant son known as the Peace child. Each tribe was to take care of this adopted child, for if the child died the treaty would end and fighting would break out again. A Canadian missionary and his wife may be responsible for this tradition when they shared the gospel story of how God sent His only Son to be the peace child long ago. Guams holiday season is similar to that of the United States. Japanese tourists to the island come by the thousands to see the beautifully decorated hotels and shops. The local people are mostly Roman Catholic, and their celebration is similar to that in Mexico.

Bethlehem Crafts: shooting star, silhouette, dreidel Greeting: Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova Israel Holy Land Hanukkah is and eight-day holiday celebrated by Jews around the world. In 2007, it begins at sundown on December 4 and ends at nightfall on December 12. Dates for upcoming years are:

Sunday December 21 in 2008 Friday December 11 in 2009 Wednesday December 1 in 2010 Tuesday December 20 in 2011 Saturday December 8 in 2012 Wednesday November 27 in 2013 Tuesday December 16 in 2014 Sunday December 6 in 2015

Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights, and it begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, which may fall anywhere from late November to late December. It celebrates the rekindling of the temple menorah, or candlestick, at the time of the Maccabee rebellion. The festival is observed in Jewish homes by the kindling of lights on each night of the holiday - one on the first night, two on the second, and so on. An extra light called a shamash, meaning guard or servant is also lit each night, and is given a distinct location, usually higher or lower than the others. The purpose of the extra light is to remind the people against using the Hanukkah lights for anything other than meditating on the Hanukkah story. As the candles are lit, a blessing is said by the father, a prayer is recited, and a song is sung. In some homes, psalms will also be recited. Hanukkah is celebrated by a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday. Some are family-based and others are communal. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals. Hanukkah is not a "Sabbath-like" holiday, and there is no obligation to refrain from activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath. People go to work as usual, but may leave early in order to be home to kindle the lights at nightfall. There is no religious reason for schools to be closed, although, in Israel, schools close for the whole week of Hanukkah. During Hanukkah, children often play the dreidel game with a spinning top and coins or candies.

Traditional Hanukkah foods include foods cooked in oil, in remembrance of the oil that burned in the temple. Latkes, or potato pancakes, are a favorite food, as are a jelly donut cooked in oil, called sufganiya. Eating dairy products, especially cheese, is another Hanukkah tradition. Christmas is also celebrated in Bethlehem, as there are a large number of Christians in the city of Jesus birth. It is actually celebrated three times, because of the three different religious calendars in use. Once is on the 24th of December celebrated by the Protestant and Catholic Churches. The second is for the Greek Orthodox, Coptic (Egyptian) and Syrian churches. The third is the Armenian Church. At times, all three services are going on at the same time, but, in different parts of the church, as well as in different languages. The site where tradition holds that Jesus was born in a manger, is now the site of the Church of the Nativity. In a grotto, a 14-pointed silver star on the floor marks the spot where the humble manger of Jesus birth supposedly was located. At Christmas, the church is ablaze with flags and decorations. On Christmas Eve, the towns people and visitors crowd the churchs doorways and watch from the rooftop as a dramatic procession approaches. Galloping horsemen and police mounted on Arabian horses lead the parade. They are followed by a solitary horseman carrying a cross and sitting astride a coal-black horse. Then come churchmen and government officials. The procession solemnly enters the doors and places an ancient effigy of the Holy Child in the church. Christian homes in Bethlehem are marked by a cross painted over the door and each home displays a homemade manger scene. A star is set up on a pole in the village square. Christmas gifts are exchanged on Christmas morning before breakfast, and then Christians attend services at their church and exchange Christmas greetings.

Netherlands December 5th--Sinterklaas Eve Craft: Sinterklaas sack, windmill, pinwheel, sled, skate, tulip, wooden shoe Greeting: Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! or Zalig Kerstfeast Christmas begins in the Netherlands in mid-November! Tradition holds that St. Nicholas, or Sinterklaas as they know him to be, travels from Spain with his horse and a Moorish servant named Black Peter in a steamer ship, to be in the Netherlands for his birthday, December 6th. (For most of the year, St. Nicholas and Black Peter have been busy preparing lists of presents and recording the behavior of Dutch children in a very large book. The saintly visitor wears the robes of a Bishop and has a long flowing white beard. His arrival in the Netherlands, and the welcoming parade, is televised and viewed by those who arent able to welcome him in person. December 5th, or Sinterklaas Avond (Eve,) is the day of the biggest celebration in the Netherlands. Some families have people dressed as Sinterklaas and Black Peter visit their homes. They question the children about their behavior in the past year, and ask them to recite Bible verses. In the evening, the children fill their wooden shoes with hay and sugar for Sinterklaas horse, hoping that by doing this, they will find favor with the Saint. During the night, Sinterklaas is believed to ride on his beautiful white horse over the rooftops and drops gifts down the chimneys of the homes. In the morning, the children usually find the hay and sugar gone from their shoe, and in their place, a small candy or coin. The adults like to exchange gifts as well. They love surprises, so they will wrap gifts in unusual ways. A small gift may be wrapped in a large box, or a gift may be hidden in an unexpected place. A humorous rhyme may accompany the gift. After Sinterklaas has returned to Spain following his feast day, preparation for Christmas begins. Christmas trees are found in most homes, and the poinsettia flower, called kerstster or Christmas star, is very popular. The Dutch people love to sing Christmas carols. Having a white Christmas in the Netherlands is rare, though. Midwinter Horn Blowing is an ancient custom that is still carried out by farmers in the rural eastern part of the Netherlands. Beginning on Advent Sunday, and continuing on until Christmas Even, they blow special horns to announce the coming of the Christ Child. These horns are crafted from the wood of birch or elder saplings, and they are usually 3 to 4 feet long. When blown over an open well, they sound a deep tone similar to a foghorn, which can be heard up to three miles away on a cold, clear night. The horn blowers on the various farms call and answer back and the tones echo and resound across the valleys. This tradition dates back to around 2500 BC. It was believed that the sound of the horn would drive away evil spirits.

Christmas is celebrated on two days, instead of just one. The people attend church services on Christmas Eve, or on First Christmas Day morning. The Christmas tree may be lit for the first time, often with candles. On First Christmas Day, more gifts may be exchanged, again packaged in a humorous way. The dinner table is candle-lit and decorated with green, white, and red trimmings. Christmas breakfast includes kerststol, a fruit and almond-paste bread, krentebolletjes current buns and roomboter real butter. Relatives and friends often come to visit and eat goodies during the day. Turkey, venison, hare, goose, roast pork or meat fondue are all popular for dinner on Christmas Night, along with sweets such as puddings, cookies in the shape of an initial, marzipan and kerstbrot, a fruity Christmas bread, and kerstkrans, or Christmas ring. Christmas carols are sung, and the story of Jesus birth or favorite Christmas tales read. Second Christmas Day is spent in leisurely activities, which may include attending plays or symphonies, or eating dinner out at a nice restaurant. School children receive 2 weeks vacation from school during this time.

Hungary December 6thSt. Nicholas Day Craft: popcorn garland, apple Greeting: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket Christmas in Hungary begins with the celebration of Advent, and is full of folk traditions, some of which date back to 1000 AD and even earlier. Folk traditions are more likely to be observed in small villages, than in urban areas. Artists, and cultural and folk groups, are trying to keep folk traditions alive in their artwork and performances. Advent wreathes are very common in both homes and shops. Candles are decorated with red and gold ribbons, symbolizing life and brightness. Most children get an Advent calendar, with a small toy or treat for each day of the season. Homes are decorated with lights inside, but outside and public decoration is rare. On street corners, however, you can buy hot fried or roasted chestnuts. On December 6th, St. Nicholas Day, Mikulas (Me-ku-lash) visits Hungarian children. The children place their polished boots in the windows of their homes. Good children will find their boots filled with goodiescandy, tangerines, walnuts, apples, dates, and chocolate Mikulas figures. Most children get small toys and books, as well. Children who have not behaved well during the year will find in their boot a bundle of straw, or a switch with a small devil figure attached indicating that a beating is in order! Since usually no child is either all good, or all bad, children most often find a switch AND goodies in their boot! They dont get that beating either, fortunately. Often, in schools or in workplaces for the workers children, the Mikulas figure will visit. The children have the chance to talk with him, and he praises them for the good they have done during the year and also chides them for their naughtiness. After talking with the children, he will play with them or they will watch a movie together. On the Luca Napja, or Lucas Day, December 13th, work is begun on making a chair of seven different kinds of wood, which will be completed on Christmas Eve. The chairmaking is part of an old superstition that claims you can stand on the chair at the Christmas Eve Mass and see who all of the witches are in the room. Lucas Day is also the day of love predictions. In the evening, girls throw lead into their backyards, and the shape of the lead on the ground foretells the occupation of the one they will fall in love with. Another Christmas tradition involves groups of boys in costume going from door to door with a model of the holy family. The boys perform a short play about the Jesus child, with songs and poems. Written documentation of the Bethlemes events has been found from the 1600s. Now this tradition is performed by both girls and boys.

Christmas Eve is called Szent-este, or Holy Evening, and it is an important part of the Christmas celebration. The Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve, following tradition, and children are not allowed to see it until they hear the tree bells ring and music start. Children believe that angels bring the tree to the family. The ornaments include colorful ornaments and special holiday candies wrapped in gold and red foil and tied with bows, called Szaaloncukor. Once the family has gathered around the tree, they sing Christmas carols together and open their gifts. The meal that follows usually consists of fish (especially fried fish or fish soup,) or cabbage. A wide variety of holiday cookies ends the meal, including the special walnut and poppy seed cookies rolls called beigli. The family attends Midnight Mass together at church.

Armenia Craft: white dove, star, Coptic cross, candle Greeting: Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand Armenians believe Christ's birthday should be celebrated on the same day as His baptism, which is January 6 by our calendar (Gregorian). The Armenians who go by the old traditions prepare for Christmas with a fast. They eat no meat for a week and no food at all on the last day before Christmas. The fast is broken only after the Christmas Eve service - Badarak, when they return home to a dinner of lamb and rice or Boulgeur Pilav. Hand cymbals and the human voice are the only music at the Coptic Orthodox Christmas service. As in days of old, women and men sit in separate sections. Incense clouds waft across shafts of sunlight that set gold-plated icons aglow on vaulted apses in the church. Following the service, the children then go onto the roofs of their homes with handkerchiefs and sing carols. Adults fill the handkerchiefs with presents of raisins or fried wheat and money. Following the morning service on Christmas Day, the men in the village exchange social calls and are served coffee and sweets. On the third day after Christmas, the women take their turn making and receiving social visits. In the cities, Christmas decorations can be seen along the streets, on storefronts, and on outdoor Christmas trees. The decorations usually stay up until mid-January.

Bulgaria Craft: patting stick * Greeting: Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo *"You should get a cornel stick/cudgel. Prune it, so that several branches remain on the two sides of it all along its length. Then pick the branches that are one against another (at the same level of the stick) and tie them so that they form something like a round circle one half of which is at the left side and the other half is at the right side of the stick. You should have at the end two, three or four such circles through the length of the stick. Of course, the upper circles will be smaller and the lower circles will be wider. Also, leave some of the shorter branches to just stick out. Then wrap up the circles and the stick with woolen and cotton yarn (usually white and red). Decorate the whole thing with little balls made out of cotton, strings of popcorn, raisins, prunes, dried apple slices, dried peppers, etc. And ... you have it ready!!! Christmas in Bulgaria is very much a family holiday. The Bulgarian people go to great lengths to ensure that their homes are warm and cozy for Christmas. The celebration starts on December 23rd, when they go out to the shops and buy their holiday foods and their Christmas tree. The celebration feast on Christmas Eve will be a 7, 9, or 11-dish vegetarian meal! When they arrive home from the shops, they gather in the living room. Their Christmas tree and all of the decorations are brought in. Christmas carols and played, and the family sings along as they decorate the tree. Lights of all colors begin the decorating process, followed by all sorts of balls and other ornaments. When they finish around 9 pm, the whole tree is bright and colorful. No green branches can be seen! On Christmas Eve morning, the family decorates the entire rest of the house. The mother bosses around the family members, telling them what they can help with, setting the table, hovering over the house, cleaning, going out for last minute shopping, and helping to cook. After working hard all day, the family is ready to celebrate. The closest relatives arrive about 7 pm. On Christmas Eve, the whole family gathers at the table for their special feast. Everyone is expected to sit at the table before it gets dark outside. As part of the ritual, the father of the family moves through the house with incense while the family recites special prayers to drive away any evil spirits that may be lurking. Once the dining room is incensed, everyone takes their place at the table and no is supposed to stand up before the entire meal is finished. The meal begins with garlic to insure good health for the coming year and that is followed by bread and honey to insure that the coming year will be sweet. The meal also includes favorite vegetarian foods such as: white bean soup, red dried peppers filled with white beans, homemade bread, pumpkin pie, beans, cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, dried fruit compote, walnuts and garlic, and boiled prunes served in their liquid.

A special Christmas bread is baked, with a coin inside. The oldest family member breaks the loaf into pieces and presents each family member with a piece of bread. The person who finds the coin in their piece of bread is believed to have special good fortune for the upcoming New Year. Dinner continues until 11 pm, at which point the family leaves the table and proceeds to sit around the Christmas tree. They do NOT clear the table until Christmas morning! Some say that it is to insure that there will be plenty of food in the coming year, while others leave the food out for departed family members whose spirit may return. Still others leave the food on the table in case Joseph and Mary stop on their way to Bethlehem. Sooroovachka is a typical Christmas tradition in some areas of Bulgaria. This is something with which the children pat their parents, grandparents, extended family, friends and any visitors in the house with a special patting-stick. While patting, the youngsters say a wish for health, wealth, happiness and all the best to one patted. It is believed that this action called Sooroovakaneh will make all wishes come true during the next year and will make sure that the year will be very fertile and productive for the person patted. For the youngsters, the most important aspect of Sooroovakaneh is that the person patted usually gives the child some money -- a dollar or two. It is believed that this is the way you "buy" your success and productivity during the coming year.

Russia Craft: peasant doll, wheat sheaves bound with ribbon Russian Star Ornament Greeting: Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom Before 1917, Christmas was celebrated in Russia in much the same way as it was in the rest of the world: on December 25, with Christmas trees and Christmas gifts, Saint Nicholas and the like. During the years of Communism after 1917, religious observances were suppressed, and all formerly Christmas traditions were transferred to New Year's Eve, which became the Festival of Winter. New Year's Eve became to Russians what Christmas is to most people in the rest of the world, with one exception: there was no remnant of Christianity in the holiday. New Year's Eve was simply a chance to celebrate, to bring in the New Year and get rid of the old. It was a chance to exchange gifts, have a day off and enjoy oneself. The Christmas tree became a New Years Tree, and Grandfather Frost arrived on New Years Day instead of Christmas. The Feast of St. Nicholas, on December 6th, was also suppressed during Communist rule, and St. Nicholas was transformed to Grandfather Frost, but the holiday has returned. St. Nicholas is especially popular in Russia. Legend has it that the 11th-century Prince Vladimir traveled to Constantinople to be baptized, and returned with stories of miracles performed by St. Nicholas of Myra. Since then, many Eastern Orthodox Churches have been named for him, and Nicholas is one of the most common names for Russian boys. Christmas trees went on sale three days before the holiday with most decorations made by hand. Many fathers were enlisted to carve matrioshka dolls to hang on the tree. The little dolls came in various sizes, all of which could be stacked so they would fit together inside the largest doll. For many Russians, a return to religion represents a return to their old roots and their old culture. Throughout Russia, after Christmas Eve services, people carrying candles, torches, and homemade lanterns parade around the church, just as their grandparents and great-grandparents did long ago. The Krestny Khod procession is led by the highestranking member of the Russian Orthodox Church. After the procession completes its circle around the church, the congregation reenters and they sing several carols and hymns before going home for a late Christmas Eve dinner. Christmas Eve dinner is a meatless but festive 12 course meal, in honor of the 12 apostles. The most important ingredient is a special porridge called kutya. It is made of wheatberries or other grains which symbolize hope and immortality, and honey and poppy seeds which ensure happiness, success, and untroubled rest. A ceremony involving the blessing of the home is frequently observed. The kutya is eaten from a common dish to symbolize unity. Some families used to throw a spoonful of kutya up to the ceiling.

According to tradition, if the kutya stuck, there would be a plentiful honey harvest. The other courses include fish, beet soup or Borsch, cabbage stuffed with millet, cooked dried fruit and much more. Hay is spread on the floors and tables to encourage horse feed to grow in the coming year and people make clucking noises to encourage their hens to lay eggs. Russian tradition has various figures who bring gifts to children. One is Babushka, which means grandmother. According to tradition, she failed to give food and shelter to the three wise men during their journey to visit the Christ Child. She regretted her act and set off to try to catch up with the wise men, collecting toys for the Infant Jesus as she went, but she was never able to find the wise men. According to tradition, she now roams the countryside and visits the homes of children during the holiday season, distributing toys to the children from her basket. Another traditional figure is Grandfather Frost, the Russian equivalent to our Santa Claus. Russian houses dont have chimneys, so Grandfather Frost makes house calls instead, visiting to leave gifts after the children have fallen asleep on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, hymns and carols are sung. People gather in churches which have been decorated with the usual Christmas trees, called Yelka, decorated with flowers and colored lights. Christmas dinner includes a variety of different meats. Goose and suckling pig are favorites. In 1991, Russia enjoyed its first official Christmas in over 70 years. Some Russian families are indicating a preference for traditional customs and Grandfather Frost is once again arriving on Christmas rather than New Years. Christmas is again the time when gifts are exchanged, and New Year's has its original traditions of fireworks, parties, and other such festivities. The Russian people of today are now allowed to embrace the customs of a genuine Old Russian Christmas.

Ukraine Craft: silver web, star Greeting: Srozhdestvom Kristovym or Z RIZDVOM HRYSTOVYM Like Russians, the Ukrainian people venerate St. Nicholas and celebrate his feast day on December 6. On that day, people invite guests in, and sleighs are ridden around the village to see if the snow is slippery or icy. Children receive gifts from St. Nicholas, who is the patron saint of children. He is often accompanied by angels and might quiz the children on their catechism, or religious beliefs. St. Nicholas Day, not Christmas, is the usual gift-giving day in much of Europe. For Christmas, it is a tradition that all family members receive a new piece of clothing. Ukrainian Christmas traditions have passed down through the ages, and are full of ancient customs based not only on Christian traditions, but also on pre-Christian, pagan culture and tradition. Ukrainian Christmas festivities begin on Christmas Eve ([G]Dec.24; [J]Jan.6.) and end on the Feast of the Epiphany. The Christmas Eve Supper or Sviata Vecheria (Holy Supper) brings the family together to partake in special foods and begin the holiday with many customs and traditions, which reach back to antiquity. The rituals of the Christmas Eve are dedicated to God, to the welfare of the family, and to the remembrance of the ancestors. With the appearance of the first star which is believed to be the Star of Bethlehem or the Wise Mens star, the family gathers to begin supper. The table is covered with two tablecloths, one for the ancestors of the family, the second for the living members. Under the table, as well as under the tablecloths some hay is spread to remember that Christ was born in a manger. The table always has one extra place-setting for the deceased family members, whose souls, according to belief, come on Christmas Eve and partake of the food. A kolach (Christmas bread) is placed in the center of the table. This bread is braided into a ring, and three such rings are placed one on top of the other, with a candle in the center of the top one. The three rings symbolize the Trinity and the circular form represents Eternity. A didukh (meaning grandfather) is a sheaf of wheat stalks or made of mixed grain stalks. It is placed under the icons in the house. In Ukraine, this is a very important Christmas tradition, because the stalks of grain symbolize all the ancestors of the family, and it is believed that their spirits reside in it during the holidays.

After the didukh is positioned in the place of honor, the father or head of the household places a bowl of kutia (boiled wheat mixed with poppy seeds and honey) next to it. Kutia is the most important food of the entire Christmas Eve Supper, and is also called Gods Food. A jug of uzvar (stewed fruits, which should contain twelve different fruits) and is called Gods Drink, is also served. After all the preparations have been completed, the father offers each member of the family a piece of bread dipped in honey, which had been previously blessed in church. He then leads the family in prayer. After the prayer the father extends his best wishes to everyone with the greeting Khrystos Razhdaietsia (Christ is born), and the family sits down to a twelve-course meatless Christmas Eve Supper. The first course is always kutia. It is the main dish of the whole supper. Then comes borshch (beet soup) with vushka (boiled dumplings filled with chopped mushrooms and onions). This is followed by a variety of fish - baked, broiled, fried, cold in aspic, fish balls, marinated herring and so on. Then come varenyky (boiled dumplings filled with cabbage, potatoes, buckwheat grains, or prunes. There are also holubtsi (stuffed cabbage), and the supper ends with uzvar. While many of the Ukrainian Christmas Eve customs are of a solemn nature, the custom of caroling is joyful and merry. Ukrainian Christmas songs or carols have their origins in antiquity, as do many other traditions practiced at Christmas time. There are two main groups of Christmas songs in Ukraine: the koliadky, whose name is probably derived from the Latin "calendae" meaning the first day of the month and which are sung on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; the second group of Christmas songs is called shchedrivky, which is a derivation from the word meaning generous. The latter are sung during the Feast of the Epiphany. The very popular Ukrainian carol in the United states, "Carol of the Bells", in its originality is a shchedrivka and tells of a swallow (herald of Spring) that has come to a landowners house and asks him to come out and see how rich he is, how many calves he has, and so on. Caroling required extensive preparation. Each group had a leader. One member dressed as a goat. Another as a bag carrier, the collector of all the gifts people would give them. Yet another carried a six-pointed star attached to a long stick with a light in its center, which symbolized the Star of Bethlehem. In some places the people even had musical instruments, such as the violin, tsymbaly (dulcimer), or the trembita (a wooden pipe about 8-10 feet long, used in the Carpathian Mountains by the Hutsuls). Caroling was not a simple singing of Christmas songs; it was more of a folk opera. The carolers first had to ask for permission to sing. If the answer was yes, they entered the house and sang carols for each member of the family, even for the smallest child. Sometimes they even performed slow ritualistic dances. They also had to present a short humorous skit involving the goat. The custom of the goat accompanying the carolers has its origin in the pagan times when the goat represented the god of fertility. The skit

showed the goat dying and then being brought back to life. This also symbolized the death of Winter and the birth of Spring. The caroling always ended with short wellwishing poems, appropriately selected for each home. In some regions of the Ukraine, special decorated eggs are made, similar to the Easter eggs called Pysanky. In the Ukraine, Father Frost visits all the children in a sleigh pulled by only three reindeer. He brings along a little girl named Snowflake Girl. She wears a silver blue costume trimmed with white fur and a crown shaped like a snowflake.

Ukrainian Christmas Spiderweb Legend

One family in the village was too poor to have a decorated Christmas tree in their house. The mother had hung a few meager nuts and fruits on the small tree outside their door in hopes of bringing some cheer to her childrens' Christmas Day celebration. On Christmas Eve, the spiders heard her prayers and hung their webs all over the tree. As the sun came up, its rays glittered and sparkled on the dew that was sprinkled on the webs and turned them to silver and gold.

China Craft: Chinese lanterns, pagoda, flower, paper chain Greeting: (Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan (Cantonese) Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun Christmas is becoming a more and more popular holiday in China, as the country adopts more Western ways. In some part of China, Christmas has actually been celebrated for over 400 years, but Christmas as we know it is not widely observed. There are approximately 10 million Christians in China, which is 1% of the population, and they do celebrate Jesus birth. For most Chinese, however, Christmas is a commercial holiday rather than a religious one. Midnight mass on Christmas Eve is growing more and more popular. Many churches are filled to capacity and have to turn away worshipers. Many attendees are just curious, but the ministers use the opportunity to tell the story of Jesus birth and help to spread Christianity any way they can in China. The non-Christian Chinese call this season the Spring Festival and celebrate with many festivities that include delicious meals and pay respects to their ancestors. The children are the main focus of these celebrations. They receive new clothes and toys, eat delectable food and watch firecrackers displays. The Chinese call their Christmas trees Trees of Light. They decorate them with holly berries and colorful ornaments made from paper, in the shapes of flowers, chains, and lanterns. They also hang muslin stockings, hoping that Christmas Old Man will fill them with gifts and treats. Gifts are exchanged on Christmas, but they must be in accordance with other Chinese traditions. Silks, jewels, and valuable gifts are given only to close family members. The big holiday celebration in China is the Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, which has a 12-year cycle. Chinese tradition of naming the year after an animal comes from a story about Buddha. Buddha once staged a gala celebration and invited hundreds of guests, but the only ones who appeared were 12 different animals. To honor the animals for their courtesy in attending, Buddha named a year for each of them. Days before the New Year, every family cleans their home, in hopes of sweeping away all the ill-fortune there may have been in the family and to make way for the wishful incoming good luck. On the Eve of the New Year a feast is served. After eating, the whole family stays up waiting for the New Year. Every light is supposed to remain on until midnight and at that time the sky lights up with fireworks.

Hong Kong Craft: Christmas card, poinsettia Greeting: Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun Christmas celebrations in Hong Kong are very similar to Chinese celebrations. Christians celebrate by attending one of the hundreds of church services in Chinese, and there are also services held in English for Europeans. The people of Hong Kong love to send exquisitely decorated Christmas cards. The cards often show the Holy Family in a Chinese setting. Homes, churches, and other public places are decorated with poinsettias and nativity scenes.

Sweden December 13St Lucia Day Craft: wreath, candle, cherub, bird, flag, gnome Greeting: God Jul (Good Yule) Swedish people begin celebrating the Christmas holiday on Advent Sunday, with the lighting of candles in a wreath. Religious services during Advent are well attended. Homes display Advent candelabra and children count down the days to Christmas using an Advent calendar. The real feasting and celebrating for Swedes begins on December 13th, which is Lucia Day. Legend has it that this is the day of the year with the longest night, and a time when both man and beast need extra nourishment. The eldest daughter of the family portrayed Lucia, the Queen of Light. Before dawn, she dressed in a white robe with a red sash, with a crown of evergreens with seven tall lit candles on her head. She would wake her parents by singing the familiar Italian song "Santa Lucia" and bring them coffee, buns, cookies, and occasionally "glogg" (a mulled wine). The other children in the family accompanied her. The boys dressed as star boys, wearing long white shirts and pointed white hats, and carry star wands. The Lucia tradition goes back to the 4th century, when a Christian girl died for her beliefs in Syracuse. The Lucia celebration is a fairly recent addition to Swedish tradition, and it represents thanksgiving for the return of the sun as the days begin to lengthen following the Winter Solstice. The tradition of the Christmas tree came to Sweden in the 1700s from Germany, where it originated. A couple of days before Christmas, nearly every household decorates their Christmas tree with sparkling objects, Swedish flags, gaily wrapped candies, small gnomes wearing red tasseled hats, glass bulbs, and straw ornaments. The tree is lit with either candles, or electric bulbs. The houses may be filled with red tulips and smell like pepparkakor, which is a heart-star, or goat-shaped gingerbread biscuit. By tradition, Christmas Eve is a day when the only work done is seeing to one's livestock. This is the day of the Christmas feast, julafton, which comprises a smrgsbord including a few traditional dishes such as julskinka, or Christmas ham, jellied pigs feet, lutfisk and risgryngrot, which is rice porridge. Lutfisk (sun-cured cod served in cream sauce) is most likely a throwback to a period of fasting from pre-Reformation times. Lutfisk literally translated means lye-fish. The fish is actually soaked in lye to make it soft and pliable so it can be eaten. The rice porridge is made from a traditional recipe, and includes lots of gram, sugar, and cinnamon. An almond is hidden in the porridge, and whoever finds the almond will be married within the next year, according to legend. The Christmas feast also includes a tradition called "dipping in the kettle" (doppa i grytan), in which the assembled family and guests dip bits of dark bread in a pot filled with drippings of pork, sausage, and corned beef. We know this in America as fondue.

Symbolically this calls to mind, in the midst of thanksgiving and plenty, all those who are in need and hunger. After dinner all gather around the Christmas tree to open presents. These gifts are brought by the Jultomten, a gnome who lives under the floorboards of the barn. The Jultomten is believed to look after the family and their livestock. He brings with him Julbok, the Christmas goat, who helps distribute the gifts. Toward the turn of the past century a Swedish artist began producing greeting cards illustrated with gnomes. Her figures were a tremendous success and soon the Jultomten had assumed a role comparable to that of the various Santa Claus figures in other countries. He is believed to come with presents. In many households nowadays, someone disguised as a life-sized gnome comes on Christmas Eve with a large sack of gifts. Children often leave a bowl of rice porridge for Jultomten before they go to bed. Swedes attend church in the very early hours of Christmas morning. In olden days it was a custom to have a race to or from the church services in sleds or wagons. The winner of the race was believed to have the best harvest the coming year. The day is spent quietly with family. Christmas parties and get-togethers begin on December 26, and last throughout the holidays until Knut's Day. Twelfth Night (Epiphany) is celebrated on January 6th, and in many villages people will dress up as Biblical characters and go from house to house singing hymns. The Christmas season in Sweden doesn't officially end until St Knut's Day on January 13th. This is because King Knut IV (who ruled Sweden from 1080 - 1086) decreed that Christmas should be celebrated for twenty days. King Knut was known for his generosity toward the poor. Christmas trees are taken down on this day to signify the end of festivities, as they sing this song: Christmas has come to an end, And the tree must go. But the next year once again We shall see our dear old friend, For he has promised us so.

Bangladesh Craft: oil lamp, tropical fruit, leaves Greeting: Shuvo Naba Barsha Bangladesh is mainly a Muslim country, so there is no official Christmas celebration. However, it IS celebrated as a gift-giving ceremony. Christian villagers decorate mango or banana trees at Christmas time. They even cut down scores of banana trees and replant them in pairs along the paths to church and outside their homes! They bend over the huge leaves to make an arch, and then tie bamboo oil lamps across them to brightly light the way to church. They also decorate their homes with mango leaves. The capital city of Dhaka becomes very colorful on Christmas Eve.

Pakistan Craft: manger Greeting: Naya Saal Mubarak Ho In Pakistan, December 25th is a public holiday, but it is in memory of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Like in India, Christians make up a very small part of the population. But as Pakistan has a population over 162 million people, there are more than 5 millions Christians! Most Christians in Pakistan live in the country and are quite poor. Before and during Advent, spiritual seminars take place to help people to prepare for Christmas or 'Bara Din' (which in Urdu and Punjabi means the 'Big Day'). This expression is very popular, even among Muslims in Pakistan. During the last week of Advent, in many Christian areas, carol singing is performed by various groups. They go from house to house singing carols and in return the family offers something to the choir. Mostly the money collected from such carols is used for charity works or is given to the church. In the big Christian areas, each house is decorated and has a star on the roof. The streets are also decorated and lit. The crib and Christmas tree are also important decorations. Sometimes there are crib competitions! Christians also sometimes exchange Christmas cakes. On Christmas Eve, Churches are packed for the midnight or vigil-mass services. The choirs sing very special hymns. After the vigil-mass, in some places, there are fireworks which help celebrate the start of Bara Din. People dance, exchange presents and enjoy the special night. On Bara Din or Christmas day, Christians go to Church again for the Bara Din celebrations. People wear their best, colourful clothes. They can stay in the Church courtyard for hours, enjoying various foods from the different stalls. The evening is usually celebrated with immediate family or relatives where special food is enjoyed. Adults often visit their parents. The traditional Christmas greeting in Punjabi is 'Bara Din Mubarrak Ho', which means, 'the blessing of Christmas on you'

Philippines Craft: Christmas star, crche or Nativity scene, tambourine Greeting: Maligayang Pasko The Philippine Islands is the only Asian country where Christians are in the majority. The Filipino Christmas is the longest in the world, and said to also be the merriest. I can attest to this, having been there from 27 December thru 12 January one year, eons ago! The natural resources of the Philippinesits tropical climate, the gorgeous flowers in abundance, and varied landscapealong with culinary delights and warmhearted people, add up to make the Filipino Christmas unforgettable. The official Christmas celebration opens December 16th with the celebration of Misa de Gallo, known as the Roosters Mass, for the 9 days preceding Christmas. The Masses are held early in the morning, even as early as 4 A.M,. and following Mass, the worshipers partake of traditional foods, either at home for breakfast, or purchased from street vendors near the church. Christmas Eve is celebrated by most Filipino families. Prior to the midnight feast, a street pageant takes place, depicting Mary and Josephs journey and search for a place of rest. The pageant ends at the church at midnight, and Mass is celebrated. Following Mass, the night is a sleepless night of feaststhe Noche Buena--and visits, like a huge open house. Neighbors, friends, and relatives drop by to exchange Christmas greetings. Food is often served buffet style because it has been so abundantly prepared. Among the typical foods prepared in the Philippines during Christmas are: lechon (roasted pig), pancit, barbecue, rice, adobo, cakes (Western and native rice cakes), lumpia, etc. While the elders visit, the children run in and out of the house and well-lit streets, alternating playing and eating. The children may go Christmas caroling, accompanying themselves with simple homemade musical instruments, such as tambourines made of bottle caps strung onto a wire ring. Some families have a talent show during Christmas Eve celebration. One child might sing a Christmas song, while others may play a musical instrument, or recite a poem or do a dance. The celebration continues until about 6 o'clock in the morning. Those who cannot attend Mass the night before will go to the morning Mass on Christmas day. Following tradition, Filipino children visit their godparents and elderly relatives on Christmas morning. A child bows in respect to their elders, and in return, receive a small gift, usually candy or money, or a blessing. Food and drinks are also offered each place the family visits. The day brings families closer. Filipino Christmas decorations are a unique blend of Western and Filipino traditions. Garlands of light adorn Filipino homes in different shapes, and Santa Claus, the

Christmas tree, and other Western decorations are often found. Filipino homes are ornamented with the parol, or Christmas star lantern. Simple parols can be made from bamboo sticks, rice paper, and a candle or coconut-oil lamp for illumination. The belen, or Nativity scene, is another traditional Christmas ornament in the Philippines. The belen depicts the infant Jesus in the manger, surrounded by his mother and father, and shepherds, angels, wise men, and animals, just as in a traditional Western crche. Belen are found in homes, churches, schools, and even commercial sites. One famous belen is on an office building, and it is animated, with music playing and the story being told to watchers. It takes three months to make it ready to be enjoyed.

Japan Crafts: butterfly, umbrella, stork, fan, origami, swan, lantern, wind chimes Greeting: Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto Less than 1% of the Japanese population is Christian, so observance of this holiday is widely secular. After WWII ended, the Japanese were more open to American influence. Japans Christmas industry also provides decorations for Christian nations. As the industry grew, the Japanese became interested in celebrating Christmas and began to adopt some Western Christmas customs as their own. In a few homes you may find small artificial Christmas trees decorated with small toys, dolls, ornaments, gold paper fans, lanterns, and even wind chimes. Candles are also placed on the branches. One of the most popular ornaments is the origami swan. The Christmas trees are usually purchased with the decorations already in place. Homes are also decorated with evergreen branches. Since the evergreen tree is actually one of the most important Japanese New Year decorations, many homes are decorated with trees but theyre not really a Christmas tree. One Japanese tradition that is a boon to the baking industry is the Christmas Cake, which is usually made of sponge cake, strawberries and whipped cream. Just as popular is a strawberry gateau. People purchase them since it is not normally a home project. The Daiku, or "Great Nine, refers to Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony." This is traditionally performed in many places in Japan during the Christmas and New Year Season. In Tokyo, unusual decorations are often created such as a 14-foot tall tree made from 3,795 champagne glasses. It's illuminated from within and the colors light up the night. Christmas is often a time for adults to party heavily. They also very much enjoy exchanging gifts. Christmas Eve is considered by many to be a prime time of the year for buying and diamonds and other jewelry to give to a romantic partner. Presents are given to children, but the children do not give presents to their parents. The idea is that only Santa brings gifts, so once you dont believe in Santa, no more presents are given! Japanese Christians prefer to spend Christmas doing nice deeds for others and visiting those who are sick in hospitals, rather than spending it overeating and with family like Western celebrations tend to be. On December 26, the decorations are taken down and the Japanese prepare for the fastapproaching New Year's holiday. New Year's Eve is the day to thoroughly clean the house and to dress in your finest clothes. New Year's decorations are usually fashioned from bamboo and pine. The kadomatsu, or gate pine, is placed at the front entrance and the main emphasis of the season is new beginnings. People dress in their finest kimonos. The father of the family marches throughout the house, followed by all of the family

members, to drive away evil spirits and invite good luck to enter the home as he throws dried beans into corners of each room. They then attend the Shinto Shrine, where they clap hands to get the attention of the gods and request good fortune. The New Year festivities continue until January 3.

Korea Craft: Greeting: Sung Dan Juk Ha Christmas is recognized as a public holiday in South Korea. Christians celebrate by attending religious services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as in the West. Following Christmas Eve services, the younger people go caroling to the homes of older church members, and receive treats of hot drinks and snacks. Non-Christian Koreans go about their normal daily routine on December 25, but may follow some holiday customs, such as gift-giving, sending Christmas cards, and decorating their homes with Christmas trees. Children have embraced the Santa Claus tradition. They call him Santa Haraboji (Grandfather Santa.) Christmas carols in Korea are the same as those in the United States, except that they are sung in Korean. Christmas dinner consists of local dishes such as ddeok guk (rice-cake soup), bulgogi (barbecued beef), naeng myeon (clear noodles made from sweet potatoes or green mung beans.) The ever-popular kimchi (spicy pickled Chinese cabbage) may be served for Christmas dinner, along with fruit and assorted sweets.

India Craft: poinsettia, red flower, oil lamp, paper stars Greeting: Shub Naya Baras Christianity came to the country of India in the year 52 AD, just twenty or so years after the crucifixion of Christ. Today, Christians make up 2.3% of the total population of India, and Christianity is the third largest religion in India, after Hinduism and Islam. Since some Indian states are more heavily populated by Christians, the celebration of Christmas varies from state to state in. In the larger cities of India, processions of carolers wind their way through the streets, collecting cakes and other edibles along the way from those whom they entertain. Festive Christmas bazaars and markets are organized, and the stores offer special Christmas bargains for shoppers. Children can visit with Father Christmas in the department stores. In the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, people hang people hang beautiful floating starshaped paper lamps of various colors and sizes outside their homes. The star lamps of Kerala are more elaborate, with some patterns or cutwork designs on them. In Southern India, small clay oil-burning lamps are placed on the edges of flat roofs and on the tops of walls and used as Christmas decorations. In Northwest India the tribal Christians of the Bhil people go out every night during the Christmas season to sing their special carols through the whole night. They visit surrounding villages singing to the residents and telling the Christmas story. Many homes in Bombay have a crche displayed in the front window. There is a great sense of pride in creating a beautiful Nativity scene and people walk through the neighborhood to admire the handiwork of their friends and neighbors. Some people decorate their homes with artificial Christmas trees, while others decorate the main room with a mango tree or banana plant trimmed with ornaments and garlands. They also may have wreaths with bright red decorative baubles, festoons, bells and other small trinkets. Churches are also decorated with greenery, poinsettias, and lit candles. Christmas Eve services often last two to three hours, and are social as well as religious in nature. The people of India wear fine new clothing and perfumes to the service. After the service, they mingle in the streets as they make their way homeward. The children especially enjoying burning sparklers and setting off fireworks on the way. On Christmas Day, many towns hold special carnivals or put on circus shows as the revelry and merriment continues. Families also gather and exchange gifts and feast together. Often, acts of charity are performed for those less fortunate. Traditional Indian Christmas foods may include turkey or chicken served with curried rice and vegetables; a pork dish called vindaloo, which is served with a rice dish that

contained slivered almonds and raisins; vegetarian dishes; Indian bread called roti; homemade ginger wine; and homemade sweets and special pastries made with dough that has been tinted red or pink.

Egypt Craft: candle, light, manger Greeting: Milad Majid The majority of Egyptian people are Muslim, but there is a large number of Christians as well. Most of them belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, and according to their calendar, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th, with Advent being observed for the forty days prior. Egyptian Christians become vegetarian for forty-five days, from November 25 to the night of January 6th, because they are prohibited from eating any meat or dairy products. Christian homes in Egypt are decorated with Christmas trees, lights, and small mangers. Churches are decorated with special lamps and candles, representing the candles that Joseph used to protect and light the way for Mary on the night of Jesus birth. On Christmas Eve everyone goes to church to celebrate. Church bells ring for joy, and the priests were their best ceremonial garments. The people have new clothing, as well. Following the service, the people go home to a special midnight Christmas meal, where they eat soup and fatta, which consists of meat and rice. They also dine on kahk, special sweet biscuits marked with a cross. On Christmas morning people in Egypt visit friends and neighbors. They take with them kahk, which they take with them to give to the people they visit, and enjoy them with a drink known as shortbat. Christmas Day is a public holiday for Christians. They also distribute to the poor donuts called zalabya, and mullet fish called bouri. According to tradition, all children receive new clothes for Christmas, along with a few gifts. Even though it is forbidden by law, many children buy firecrackers to set off as part of the Christmas celebration.

Benin Greeting: Joyeux Noel (French) Our church sponsors a mission family in Benin, hence our particular interest in this tiny country. Africa Craft: crinkle-paper chain Africa is the second-largest continent in area and population, and is made up of 53 separate countries, plus several other political units. As you can imagine, with that much cultural diversity, there isnt one standard Christmas celebration for the whole continent. Christmas preparations in the Congo begin early, as people get ready for the annual Christmas pageant. On Christmas Day, groups of carolers walk through the village. Villagers may be awakened by groups of carolers as they make their way toward the church. The key part of the Christmas Morning worship service is the love offering, given in honor of Jesus. Each attendee at the service goes forward and lays down their gift on a raised platform near the communion table. No one attends the service without giving a gift. Following the worship service, Christmas dinner is served. Often, thanks to the mild weather, the meal is served on tables in front of the home. Friends are invited to share and fellowship. In South Africa, Christmas occurs during the summer. Bright, hot, sunny days invited people to the beaches and rivers and shady mountains for camping and recreation. While South Africa lacks snow, it more than makes up for that lack with flowers. South Africans take pride in their many species of cultivated and wild flowers. In both urban and rural areas, carolers serenade the towns-people on Christmas Eve. Public celebrations on Christmas Eve may include a candlelight carol-singing service, as well as special drama events. South Africans decorate their homes with pine branches, and a Christmas tree will also be found in the home. Children hang stockings on Christmas Eve, in hopes that Father Christmas will fill them with goodies. Christmas dinner, as in the Congo, may be an open-air luncheon. Christmas dinner mirrors that of the formerly heavy British population. Traditional foods include turkey, roast beef, mince pies, or suckling pig, yellow rice with raisins, vegetables, plum pudding, crackers, paper hats, etc. Following dinner, families spend time in the country playing games or swimming.

On the west coast of Africa, in the country of Ghana, churches and homes are decorated with evergreens or palm trees massed with candles, beginning the first week in Advent, which is the four weeks prior to Christmas. This season becomes wealthy due to the cocoa harvest, which occurs at the same time. On Christmas Eve, children sign Christmas carols and shout Christ is coming, Christ is coming! He is near! in their language. At Christmas Eve services, the people sing hymns, and Nativity dramas are also presented. On Christmas Day, carolers also serenade the houses in the village or town. This time, the carolers represent the angels who appeared to the shepherds the night Jesus was born. Villagers attend church again, dressed in their native attire or Western dress. Following church, families and close neighbors feast together on rice and yam paste called fufu, served with stew or okra soup, porridge, and meats. Christmas in Liberia, on the west coast of Africa, includes palm trees in place of the traditional evergreen Christmas tree. The palm tree is decorated with bells. Gifts, such as cotton cloth, soap, sweets, pencils, and books, are exchanged. At the Christmas morning church service, the Christmas scene is re-enacted, and hymns and carols sung. Christmas dinner again becomes an outdoor potluck, as it has in other countries we have studied. The meal may include rice, beef, and biscuits. Children play games in the afternoon, and at night, celebrants are rewarded with a beautiful fireworks show.

Antarctica Craft: penguin, sun

Christmas in Antarctica falls during the busy summer research season. Since most of Antarcticas inhabitants are scientists, they dont take much time to celebrate. The holiday is pretty low-key, since there isnt TV or magazine/newspaper advertising (there is no TV or locally printed material!) and streets needing decoration are basically nonexistent. Most of the scientists are able to take at least Christmas Day off from their work, however. They will celebrate with a meal together and a costume party later in the day. Since fresh vegetables and meat are not readily available, they cook with dried, tinned, or frozen varieties. The highlight of the day will hopefully be a phone call home via satellite, and/or receiving emails or chatting with family members. Often, Christmas gifts will have been sent months in advance and saved to be opened on Christmas Day. Here are some interesting facts about Christmas in Antarctica: A white Christmas is guaranteed! The sun never sets on Christmas in Antarctica, since the day falls just a few days after the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

Alaska Craft: tinsel wheel stars, snowflake Greeting: Hriztos razhdaetsya (Christ is born!) Alaskans are guaranteed a white Christmas every year! In some parts of Alaska where people from Russia had settled prior to the Alaska Purchase by the United States, Christmas celebrations resemble those of the Eastern Orthodox religion in Russia. The celebration often includes a procession called Carrying the Star. Beginning on January 7 and going for three nights, people move from house to house over icy roads, carrying tinsel-trimmed wheels called stars. A lampada, or hanging lamp of candlelight, was the traditional light source at the head of the procession. The star bearers represent the angels who announced Christs birth here on earth. The stars are elaborately decorated eight-point stars. A mix of Russian Orthodox hymns and old Aleutian songs are sung both in the church and as part of the procession. The carols include Aleut words gristuusaaq suuuq, or Christ is born. Everyone joins in the closing words, Mnogaya leta, or God grant you many years. Following the caroling, the hosts give the carolers maple-frosted doughnuts, cookies, candy, piruk (which is fish pie,) or smoked salmon.

Canada Craft: aurora borealis, bell, tree skirt, evergreen tree Greeting: Merry Christmas or Joyeux Noel (Joyous Christmas) Canada is the second largest country in the world. It is a cultural blend, because people of so many different nationalities settled and lived there. As a result, there are many different Christmas traditions in Canada. Since Canada was claimed by the British in the 1400s, and later by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in the 1600s, it is a country with two distinct backgrounds, living as one. Other cultural heritages and traditions come from Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and the Ukraine, and from the people of the First Nations (what we know as Native Americans in the United States.) Nova Scotia, an eastern Canadian province, is well known for the fir and pine trees it grows. One Canadian tradition is to send the biggest, best fir tree (grown in Nova Scotia) to Boston, Massachusetts, because of the assistance given during the great disaster known worldwide as the Halifax Explosion. On December 6, 1917, two ships collided in the harbor and caused a large explosion heard over 100 Km away. The explosion and the tidal wave in its aftermath destroyed over 325 acres of the north end of the city, killing over 1900 people, and injuring over 9000 more. In response to this devastation, the people of Boston sent help in the form of doctors, nurses, food and supplies. And as a small token of appreciation, Canadians send a special Christmas tree to Boston every year. Bostonians place this tree in the city and then light it during a special ceremony to begin the Christmas season. Mummering is a tradition which takes place in small towns in the provinces of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. People dress up in disguise, ring bells loudly, and knock on someone's door and say in a disguised voice, "Are there any Mummers in the night?" or "Any mummers 'loud in?'", meaning 'are mummers aloud in the house?' Then they sing and dance and have Christmas cake and an alcoholic beverage before moving on to the next house. In some places, if the host does not guess who the Mummers are, the host must join the Mummers in their merry-making. Going Mummering is a fun Christmas season activity for adults. Mummers usually come out between the dates of Dec. 26 and Jan. 06. (The 12 Days of Christmas.) But some come out only before Christmas Day. In northern Canada, some people plan a Taffy Pull. This is held in honour of Saint Catherine, the patron saint of single women. This party provides an opportunity for single women to meet eligible single men! "Sinck Tuck" is a festival started by the Inuit that is celebrated in some provinces of Canada. This celebration consists of singing, dancing, and gift giving.

Labrador City, in Newfoundland, holds a Christmas Light Contest each year. People decorate the outside of their houses with lights, and often have big ice sculptures in their yards! Theres no difficulty in finding enough snow or ice, because they average about 12-14 Feet of snow every year! Labradorians save turnips from the summer harvest and give them to children with lit candles pushed into them. Many families of French descent in Quebec display a crche, or Nativity scene. After decorating their Christmas tree, they place the crche beneath it, and then attend Christmas Eve Mass, called La Messe de Minuit. Following mass, they have a huge feast, the reveillon or awakening, that lasts well into the early hours of Christmas morning. The feast consisted of la toutiere (meat pie,) boulettes (small meatballs,) and various other dishes. Topping off the meal is the Yule log, a chocolate cake in the shape of a log to symbolize the birch log burned in the fireplace on reveillon before the French came to Canada. The children open their gifts from their stockings during reveillon, saving the big gifts for New Year's Day. Christmas day for the French is a day for relaxation and for children to play and have fun. Christmas for Canadians of English descent includes the exchanging of gifts on Christmas day in the morning, followed by attendance at a church service, then a great feast. In the past, they feasted on roast goose or beef along with plum pudding, but the American turkey has made inroads into this tradition. One fun tradition they had was the kissing ball -- a ring of evergreen boughs with candles, apples and nuts hung in doorway. Although it really represented the return of light after the winter solstice, young men used this opportunity to steal a kiss from any single lady standing under it, hence the name of kissing ball. German settlers arriving in Canada in the 1700s brought the traditions of the Christmas tree, Christmas cards, carols, Advent calendars, gingerbread houses, cookies, and more. Today, in households with German ancestry, children still anxiously await the arrival of Christkindl, who comes as a messenger from the Christ Child. Stollen and Christmas cookies are baked, and the tannenbaum, or Christmas tree, occupies a place of honor in the home. In Vancouver, British Columbia, a flotilla or parade of ships is organized two weeks before Christmas. Childrens choirs on the ships sing, echoing the ringing of bells. Spectators onshore view the scene of beautya harbor filled with ships silhouetted in lights, their mastheads decorated with Christmas trees. French Jesuit missionaries established Christianity in native villages in the late 1600's. As a result of this heritage, gift giving, feasting, singing, dancing and drumming, and games of strength are all a part of the mid-winter celebrations for the First Nations groups. Children of the Cree Nation visit the homes of relatives on Christmas Eve and a cloth bag is hung for each child. On Christmas morning, the children collect the bags which have been filled with gifts and candy.

Missionaries also brought Christianity to the Inuit and today they celebrate Christmas with huge feasts that feature caribou, seal, and raw fish, along with turkey. Santa Claus comes for the children and Christmas activities include harpoon throwing, whip cracking, wrestling, and igloo building, along with modern day entertainment such as snowmobile racing. Ukrainian immigrants arrived in Canada in the late 1800s, bringing with them a rich blend of Eastern Orthodox and age-old Pagan customs. They celebrate following the traditions we learned of when we visited the Ukraine earlier in this study. At the end of the Christmas season, January 6th, people in the province of Quebec have a celebration called "La Fete du Roi" They bake a cake and place a bean in the middle. Whoever is the lucky discoverer of the bean gets to be the king or queen, according to tradition. This is similar to a tradition in Spain. In Southwestern Nova Scotia, many families eat lobster, a shellfish caught off the shores of Nova Scotia in the North Atlantic Ocean, for their Christmas dinner instead of the traditional turkey or ham. At Christmas Canadians eat sweets called Barley Candy and Chicken Bones! They are really sweets made by local candy companies. Barley Candy is usually on a stick and is shaped like Santa, reindeer, snowmen, a tree and other symbols of Christmas. Chicken Bones are a pink candy that tastes like cinnamon. You melt them in your mouth and once melted, they reveal a creamy milk chocolate center.

Other Countries Brazil Greeting: Feliz Natal Ethiopia Craft: concentric rings Greeting: Melkm Ganna (Good Christmas) Jamaica Vietnam Greeting: Chung Mung Giang Sinh Iran Greeting: Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad Iraq Greeting: Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah Syria Greeting: Milad Majid Kenya Greeting: Merry Christmas Zimbabwe Greeting: Merry Christmas Belgium Craft: bell, accordion, drum Greeting: Joyeux Noel (French) or Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! or Zalig Kerstfeast (Dutch) Denmark Craft: heart, woven basket Greeting: Gldelig Jul Finland

Craft: Cornucopia basket Greeting: Hyvaa joulua Germany Craft: gingerbread, Christmas tree, candles, bell Greeting: Frohliche Weihnachten (Merry Christmas) Norway Craft: reindeer, yarn doll, birdhouse Greeting: God Jul, or Gledelig Jul Croatia Craft: candle, bell, red dough heart, stained glass, boot Greeting: Sretan Bozic On Christmas Eve, called Badnjak in Croatia, preparations begin early in the morning. First, the Christmas tree is brought into the house. Then, dinner preparations begin. Christmas decorations are checked and set out, in readiness for an afternoon decorating session. While the tree is decorated, Christmas carols and folk songs are played or sung. The traditional Croatian Christmas tree is decorated all in red and green. Ivy, holly, branches of oak or maple, fir or evergreen, ornament the home. Candles and licitar edible decorations made of special pastry colored red in different shapes like the heart, cross, cherries, dolls, horses, etcadorn the tree, along with cookies, fruit, nuts and candy, along with beautiful glass ornaments, colored ribbon, paper chains, and lights. Straw, symbolic of Jesus birth in a stable, is brought into the house and wishes are made on it, and candles are lit for the departed. According to tradition, Croats spend Badnjak awake, burning candles and lighting the yule log. Following the decoration of the tree, the mother and children would gather in the kitchen, for it was time for Kristkindl, the Christ child, to come. The father of the family would talk to him and tell him that the children had been good and that they deserve presents. It always seemed like it took an eternity! Finally, the father would ring a tiny bell to announce that Kristkindl had departed and they could enter the room, which was now dark with only candles lit on the tree. The carol King is Born would be sung, and then the candle flames extinguished while giving Christmas greetings to all, and then gifts were exchanged. However, this was not the primary gift-giving time. Depending on the region of Croatia the family lived in, St. Lucia or St. Nicholas were the primary giftbearers, and gifts had already been received on the days in December that honor these Saints.

Following the opening of the gifts, dinner was served at a table that had been topped with straw and then covered with ornamented tablecloths. No meat was allowed at the Christmas Eve dinner, so dinner would consist of dishes containing fish, and a special Christmas Eve bread called Badnji Kruh that was braided into a wreath and filled with honey, nuts, and dried fruit. Another special bread, called Christmas braid, was made of a dough that contained nutmeg, raisins, and almonds, and was braided into a wreath and glazed. The meal also included fruits and nutswalnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, apples, figs, and other dried fruits. Wine and brandy are set on the table as complimentary drinks. The family would attend midnight mass with family and friends at their church. On Christmas morning following breakfast, families would gather at the home of their grandparents, where there was another Christmas tree with more presents under it, for, as the grandmother would say, Kristkindl stopped by last evening and left something for you. A centerpiece of wheat with candles was placed on the table as decoration for Christmas dinner, and left until Epiphany on January 6, when it was cut and eaten. The big Christmas lunch began with appetizers followed by homemade soup, and then sarma (a dish made of minced meat and sauerkraut,) followed by turkey with mlinci (special Croatian pasta,) roast suckling pig, roast beef and potatoes, salads, and an extravagant array of desserts, cookies and cakes. A cake called Croatian Kuglof, a walnut and poppy seed cake glazed with egg, was a centerpiece of the dessert course. Sometimes it was topped with a candle and a pine bough for decoration. The six-course meal lasted about three hours! The rest of the day was spent playing games, talking, and being together. On Stefans Day, the day after Christmas, still more celebration occurred, for that is the day to visit friends and relatives and bring them a little something for the fruitful year to come. The Christmas festivities officially end on the Epiphany, when priests visit their parishioners to bless their homes. Families take down Christmas trees and decorations on that day as well. Estonia Craft: crown, elf, bell, gingerbread, peace Greeting: Ruumsaid juulup|hi Christmas was not officially celebrated in Estonia when it was under Soviet rule, because under Communism, religious holidays were stifled. Since the Estonian people are still very much aware of the customs and traditions associated with their peoples Christmas celebration, its obvious that even under oppression, the people still celebrated quietly in their own homes.

Christmas celebration mingles with folk tradition in the Estonian way of celebrating. Not only are they marking the birth of Christ, but they also celebrate the mid-winter holidays. The magic and mysticism of ancient pagan traditions share the season with the sacred and spiritual celebrations. Ancient folk tales warned that wild demons rode broomsticks through the countryside in December. To prevent these beasts from playing naughty tricks on people, all brooms have to be especially clean from the first Sunday of Advent until Christmas night. Christmas Eve in Estonia is full of mysteries and wonders. An old story tells us that somewhere at the bottom of the sea there is a mighty kingdom, which, just like Atlantis of old was sunk for its evilness. As folklore has it, if a ship happens to pass near this spot on Christmas Eve, a deep and mournful bell tolling can be heard by the passing sailors. This same bell tolling can also be heard on land in church spires. During Advent, gnomes bring candy and fruit to the children. The gift-bringer on Christmas Eve is an old man called Jouluvana. Following a 350 year old tradition, the Estonian president declares December 24 to be a day of peace. Another old tradition that nearly died out was the making of Christmas crowns, in imitation of church chandeliers. In recent times, the tradition has been awakened and Estonians once again create crowns. Christmas Eve begins with a trip to the sauna to be made clean. Children often receive new clothing and shoes to wear for the days worship and family feasting. Families usually gather together on Christmas Eve to await the arrival of Santa and his sleigh full of gifts from Lapland. Both old and young earn their gifts by reciting verse, singing, or dancing. Estonians have carefully shared the preparation of traditional Christmas foods from generation to generation. The Christmas table is loaded with fried goose with apples, fried turkey, pork and sauerkraut with potatoes, blood sausage, meat jelly, potato salad made with beets, and traditional cookies called pipparkogid that are made with peppercorns, cocoa, and cinnamon. There is also fruit, and different kinds of sweets and cakes. Estonians grow sugarbeet and make a syrup of it for making homemade gingersnap dough. Gingerbread cookies are made and cut into different shapes gingerbread men and women, little stars and moons, birds, cats, dogs, and bears. Marzipan and fruit salad are also found at the Christmas feast.