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Celebrating Christmas Around the World

By Simone Design Blog @HomeSpire

We are approaching celebrations for Christmas Day, when we will enjoy festivities and family traditions (such as special meals and religious observances) that have been passed on from generation to generation. Every country has its own traditions reflecting its local culture. However, some traditions are nearly universal, such as Christmas trees, wreaths, stockings, and Christmas cards. In countries that are predominantly Catholic, the Nativity scene is the focal point in Christmas decorations. In many countries, songs are sung about the character we know as Santa Claus (although in other countries he’s sometimes referred to as St Nicholas, Father Christmas, Christkind or Grandfather Frost). Other traditions are observances of fasting, midnight Masses or Vespers on Christmas Eve, the burning of a Yule log, and the giving and receiving of presents. For most Christians, the festive part of the season lasts for about a week. In some countries, however, the festivities last for a month starting with the Advent on the Sunday next to November 26 and ending on January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany.

Let’s sample some Christmas traditions in a few countries in Europe:

In Italy, the main day for gift giving is Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men gave Baby Jesus their gifts. However, Christmas-day gift exchanges are becoming more common these days. Presents aren’t brought by Santa Claus–they’re delivered by La Befana (The Christmas Witch), who is said to visit towns and villages on Christmas Eve night to fill children’s stockings. There are a lot of nativity scenes, but actual Christmas trees are quite rare. Christmas Mass is celebrated in Vatican Square, where the Pope gives his seasonal blessing. Millions of Catholic pilgrims come from all over the world for this holy event.

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This is the Vatican’s 78.74 ft. Christmas tree, located in St. Peter’s Square.

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In France, the season begins with St. Nicholas Eve on December 5. Christmas Eve is a big evening for the French: church bells ring and voices sing French carols, called noëls. Christmas Day starts with families going to church. They then enjoy an abundant feast of wonderful dishes, ending with the traditional Buche de Noël, a rich frosted buttercream-filled cake shaped to look like a Yule log.

Here is the famous boulevard of the Champs Elysees looking towards the Place de la Concorde. The ferris wheel in the Tuileries gardens is in the background.

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The beautifully lit Christmas tree outside the Notre Dame Cathedral

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Finally, let’s look at Austria, the country that’s responsible for the famous carol “Silent Night”. For the Christmas season, Vienna is transformed into a shopper’s paradise, with market after market lining the streets. A variety of Christmas trees are erected throughout the town, each showcasing a different theme. The skyline lights up like twinkling stars due to the number of lights that are used in the holiday displays.

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These are just a very small sample of how Christmas is celebrated around the Europe. I hope you sometime get the opportunity to experience it yourself. I know I would love to.


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