With Christmas just around the corner, we can gear up to enjoy festive traditions, such as stockings hung on the mantelpiece, trees decorated with baubles and bright lights, turkey with all the trimmings, and Bridget Jones on the TV (again!), but have you ever wondered how Christmas is celebrated around the world?
In France on Christmas Eve, families feast on foie gras, oysters and smoked salmon, followed by turkey or goose and “La Bûche de Noël” (yule log). At midnight presents are exchanged around the tree, with “le Père Noël” (Father Christmas) bringing presents to good children whilst his partner in crime “le Père Fouettard” (Father Spanker) visits naughty children!
Denmark also celebrates on Christmas Eve, dancing around the tree and opening presents. Dinner is marked with friends and family, with rice porridge topped with cinnamon and butter, followed by duck, goose or roast pork with special sausages for the main course, and rice pudding with warm cherry sauce for dessert.
Children believe their presents are brought by the “Julemanden” (Christmas Man). He resembles Father Christmas, travels by sleigh, lives in Greenland, likes rice porridge and is helped by little elves.
In Italy, many homes are decorated with “Presepe” (nativity scenes of little figurines). Children receive gifts on the eve of 6th January (Epiphany) from the “Befana”, an imaginary, ugly, old lady who rides a broomstick through the air and is friends with Father Christmas.
Italian dishes vary per region, but typically fish is eaten, followed by cakes filled with candied fruit and raisins, such as panettone or pandoro.
Travelling musicians called “Zampognari” are popular; they wear traditional costumes and perform Christmas songs on bagpipes, flutes and oboes in market squares.
Russia celebrates the festive fun on New Year’s Day, with children dancing around a large tree and waiting for Father Frost and his granddaughter “Snegurochka” (the Snow Maiden).
The festive table is heaped with food and families dine on leftovers until the Russian Christmas Day which falls on the 7th of January.
This date is different as the Orthodox Church uses the old Julian calendar for religious celebrations. Many Orthodox Christians will attend a special church service on Christmas Day and fast beforehand in order to fully celebrate the Nativity of Christ.
Meanwhile, Japan celebrates this festive period with traditional dishes and activities, typically on New Year’s Day, gifting money to children in special envelopes, visiting temples and wearing Kimonos.
To wish Merry Christmas in Japanese you can say “Meri Kurisumasu”!
Christmas Eve is the equivalent of Valentine’s Day, where couples go out for dinner together and exchange presents. On Christmas Day itself, people often eat roast or fried chicken, followed by sponge cake decorated with strawberries and cream.
Think you know your Christmas pudding from your Panettone, or your mince pies from your Bûche de Noël? Take our Christmas quiz:
Wherever you are and whatever you do, enjoy the festive season!