The yuletide season is often one with lots of love, gladness, gifts, and lots to eat and drink. However, depending on where you are from, your traditions at Christmas might differ slightly from those in other countries.
As part of the season, we have decided to share with you a list of countries, their various Christmas customs, and traditions.
CHRISTMAS IN JAMAICA
In Jamaica, on Christmas Eve the ‘Grand Market’ happens. It is a really exciting time, especially for children. In every town and city, there is a cross between a festival and a market. During the day, people go shopping for Christmas foods, sweets, and toys, etc. You might also buy some new clothes ready for the celebrations in the evening. (But you don’t want to spend all your money during the day as there are lots of great things to buy in the evening as well!)
Around 6.00pm the evening part of Grand Market starts and it lasts until the morning! Everyone comes out in their new or best clothes, including children, to celebrate and party all night. All the streets, shops, and many houses are decorated with lights. There are normally street vendors selling food like jerk chicken, boiled corn, and sweets like candy canes and sugarcane.
Following the Grand Market, some people will go to a Midnight Mass Church Service and others will party all night. Many people will also go to a Church Service on Christmas Day morning before the end of the Grand Market.
The Christmas day meal is usually prepared on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee and saltfish, breadfruit, fried plantains, boiled bananas, freshly squeezed fruit juice, and tea. Dinner is usually served in the late afternoon and this may include turkey, chicken, curry goat, stewed oxtail, and very importantly rice and peas.
Jamaican red wine and rum fruitcake is traditional and is eaten in most homes. The fruits in the cake are soaked in red wine and white rum for months before Christmas.
CHRISTMAS IN ARGENTINA
In Argentina, the weather is warm at Christmas. Preparations for Christmas begin very early in December and even in November. Many people in Argentina are Catholic and they also celebrate Advent.
The main Christmas celebrations take place on Christmas Eve, the main Christmas meal is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve, often about 10pm or 11pm. It might be served in the garden or be a barbecue!
Some popular dishes include roasted turkey, roasted pork (in northern Argentina, some people will have goat), ‘vitel toné’ (slices of veal served with a creamy anchovy and tuna sauce), stuffed tomatoes, salads, and lots of different sandwiches like ‘pan de atun’ (special tuna sandwiches), ‘sandwiches de miga’ (sandwiches made of thin white bread without the crusts – they can be single, double or multi-layered!) and ‘torre de panqueques’ (a sandwich ‘cake’ made from several layers of tortillas with different fillings).
Dessert can be Christmas bread and puddings like ‘Pan Dulce’ and Panetone as well as fruit salad, ice cream and different sorts of pies. There will also be sweets like chocolate raisins, sugar-coated peanuts or almonds, ‘mantecol’ (a semi-soft nougat made from peanut butter), and different kinds of ‘turron’ (hard nougat).
At midnight there will be the sound of lots of fireworks. People also like to ‘toast’ at the start of Christmas day.
Children will hope that ‘Papá Noel’ (Father Christmas/Santa Claus) will bring their presents. Some will hope that ‘El Niño Diós’ (the Baby Jesus) will bring them. Both of those will probably bring presents on Christmas Eve. However, some children will wait until Epiphany (6th of January) and hope that the ‘Reyes Magos’ (The Three Wise Men) will bring their gifts!
In Argentina, the main language spoken is Spanish (still called Castellano by Argentines), so Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Feliz Navidad’.
CHRISTMAS IN SOUTH AFRICA
Due to the fact that South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas comes in the summer. So, there’s a lot of sun and beautiful flowers in full bloom.
The schools are closed for the Christmas holidays and some people like to go camping. Going carol singing, on Christmas Eve, is very popular in towns and cities. Carols by Candlelight services are also popular on Christmas Eve. And many people go to a Christmas morning Church Service.
Traditional ‘fir’ Christmas Trees are popular and children leave a stocking out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas meal is either turkey, duck, roast beef or suckling pig with yellow rice & raisins and vegetables, followed by Christmas Pudding or a traditional South African dessert called Malva Pudding (sometimes also called Lekker Pudding) – get the recipe. People also like to pull Christmas Crackers! The meal is often eaten outside in the summer sun! If it’s really hot they might even have a barbecue or ‘braai’. Mince pies are also popular.
CHRISTMAS IN CROATIA
In Croatia, preparations for Christmas start on 25th November which is St Catherine’s day. People also celebrate Advent. Over 85% of people in Croatia are Catholics so Advent is an important time for them. It’s traditional to have an Advent wreath made of straw or evergreen twigs which has four candles.
As well as St Catherine’s day, other saints days are celebrated in Advent in Croatia. On the 4th December, it’s St Barbara’s Day; on the 6th December it’s St Nicholas’s Day and on 13th December it’s St Lucia’s/Lucy’s day.
On St Nicholas’s Eve (5th), children clean their shoes/boots and leave them in the window. They hope that St Nicholas will leave them chocolates and small presents in their boot. If children have been naughty, Krampus (a big monster with horns who sometimes travels with St Nicholas!) leaves them golden twigs to remind them to behave.
There’s an old Croatian tradition that young men gave their girlfriends a decorated apple at Christmas.
In rural parts of the country, it is still customary to bring straw into the house on Christmas Eve as a symbol of future good crops.
A yule log called a ‘badnjak’ (also the word for Christmas Eve) was traditionally brought into the house and lit on Christmas Eve. But not many people have fireplaces these days!
Presents are normally exchanged on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Many people like to go to a Midnight Mass service. In Croatian Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Sretan Božić’.
On Christmas Eve, most people eat dried-cod called ‘bakalar’ or some other kind of fish as it’s considered as meat fast (so you can’t eat meat). The main Christmas Day is often turkey, goose or duck. A popular side dish is sarma (cabbage rolls filled with minced pork meat). There’s also always lots of small cookies and cakes to eat with donuts being very popular! There’s ‘Krafne’ which are filled with jam, jelly, marmalade or chocolate and also ‘fritule’ which are flavored with lemon and rum.
The Christmas celebrations finish on Epiphany (6th January).
CHRISTMAS IN SOUTH KOREA
There are more Christians in South Korea (the Republic of Korea) than in many other Asian countries such as China and Japan, so Christmas is celebrated more widely. Christians make up about 25-30% of the population; with about 15% of people being Buddhist and 56% of people not having a faith or religion.
Unlike Japan, Christmas is an official public holiday in South Korea – so people have the day off work and school! But they go back on the 26th (Boxing Day). There’s a longer official winter break in the New Year.
Presents are exchanged and a popular present is money! Giving actual gifts has become more popular, but giving money is still very common.
Santa Claus can also be seen around Korea but he might be wearing red or blue! He’s also known as 산타 클로스 (Santa Kullosu) or 산타 할아버지 (Santa Grandfather).
A popular Christmas food is a Christmas Cake, but it’s often a sponge cake covered in cream brought from a local bakery! Or you might even have an ice cream cake from a shop like ‘Baskin Robbins’!
Happy/Merry Christmas in Korean is ‘Meri krismas’ (메리 크리스마스) or ‘seongtanjeol jal bonaeyo’ (성탄절 잘 보내요) or ‘Jeulgaeun krismas doeseyo’ (즐거운 크리스마스 되세요). Christians can say ‘Sungtan chukhahaeyo’ (성탄 축하해요) to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Which of these places would you like to experience your next Christmas at? Leave your answer in the comment section below.