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International Christmas Traditions

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Billions of people around the world celebrate the Christmas holiday season. The holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ in most cultures. In the 4th century, the Western Christian Church-all of the people who are Christians-declared December 25th Christmas Day, although historians and scholars do not know when Jesus was actually born. In some countries, including Ethiopia, Serbia and Ukraine, people celebrate Christmas on January 7th, which is caused by differences in the Gregorian and Julian calendars. Different people celebrate Christmas in different ways and many traditions exist, depending on the country and its people.

USA

In the United States, people celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Some of the most popular traditions in the United States include Christmas stockings and trees. People hang stockings over the fireplace, or in another location, and place gifts in them. The Christmas tree represents the spirit of Christmas and people hang ornaments, lights and other decorations on their trees.

Christmas Gifts to USA

Christmas Stockings

Christmas Tree Traditions

Italy

In Italy, people celebrate the Christmas season from December 17th to January 6th. Children open their presents on January 6th after the Epiphany. Italian families also enjoy a Christmas tree, although they call it a wishing tree. People write their wishes on slips of paper and place them on the tree.

Christmas Gifts to Italy

Christmas in Italy

The Wishing Tree

Brazil

The Brazilian Christmas involves large lighted outdoor trees and homes decorated with fresh flowers. The people of Brazil also enjoy creating a nativity, also called a Presépio, which depicts the birth of Jesus Christ. The Brazilian people also celebrate the season with the Ceia de Natal or Christmas turkey feast. People serve the feast after the midnight Mass celebrated at their Catholic church.

Christmas Gifts to Brazil

Christmas in Brazil

Ceia de Natal (Brazilian Christmas Turkey Feast)

Canada

The Canadian Christmas celebration resembles the holiday in the United States. French-speaking Canadians say "Joyeux Noel" in French while English-speaking Canadians say "Merry Christmas." The first Thursday in December represents a mass lighting; public buildings and parks light their decorations at 6:55. In addition, Canadian carolers sing for two weeks before the holiday and French Canadian families enjoy tourtiore-a meat pie-on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Gifts to Canada

A Canadian Christmas

Holiday Traditions: Canada

China

In China, Christmas is not a national holiday, although many people celebrate the season. The younger generation participates in Christmas celebrations without paying special attention to its religious meaning. Young women dress as Santa Claus and businesses decorate their store fronts to attract shoppers. In addition, many people decorate their homes with Christmas trees and other decorations.

Christmas Gifts to China

Chinese Festivals

A Chinese Christmas Story

Germany

In Germany, children place boots outside their doors so that Nikolaus can leave them gifts. Children spend time cleaning the boots the night before Christmas. In addition, German families make their own decorations. Families make many decorative items from natural materials, including straw and wood. In several parts of Germany, Das Christkind, or the "Christ-child" brings gifts.

Christmas Gifts to Germany

Christmas in Germany

Christmas Traditions in Germany

Japan

In Japanese culture, families celebrate the Christmas holiday with trees and bright decorations, similar to Western cultures. Japanese families enjoy large holiday feasts and exchange gifts. The priest Hoteiosho represents Japan's Santa Claus; he brings gifts for children and adults tell children to act their best when he makes an appearance. Families also decorate a pine tree to celebrate the holiday season.

Christmas Gifts to Japan

Old Japanese Christmas and Samurai Santa

Christmas Traditions: Japan

UK

In the United Kingdom, people recognize Santa Claus as "Father Christmas". English legends tell the story of how Father Christmas dropped money down chimneys. Families decorate their homes with Christmas trees, toy soldiers and Christmas crackers. People usually place the Christmas cracker, an item that makes a loud noise, on the table during the family feast. People open them and find candy, a small toy and a hat.

Christmas Gifts to UK

Celebrate Christmas in England with Smithsonian Journeys

Boxing Day

Australia

In Australia, people celebrate Christmas during the summer season. Australians decorate their homes with the Christmas bush and Christmas bells, two popular plants in the country. Families participate in a number of water games to celebrate the season. Christmas pudding, turkey and seafood are popular meal items to celebrate the holiday.

Christmas Gifts to Australia

Australia Traditions

Christmas in Australia

Denmark

Danes celebrate Christmas and the country produces a large number of Christmas trees for European households. Danish families attend a Christmas Eve service, which has become more and more popular. Nisse, the Danish elf, lies in farmhouses and plays practical jokes on people during the season. For dinner, Danish families enjoy caramelized potatoes, rice pudding and duck, to name a few.

Christmas Gifts to Denmark

Christmas in Denmark

Christmas Trees and Greenery in Denmark

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