There is no official estimate as to exactly how many people celebrate Christmas globally, but Christmas is now largely a secular holiday celebrated across 160 countries. It is seen as one of the most celebrated holidays in the world, and every country has their own traditional ways of celebrating the season. We’ve put together a fun guide to some of the unusual ways in which other nationalities mark the occasion.
A big part of the celebrations in Germany is Advent, with several different types being used in German homes. As well as having traditional ones made from card, there are others made from a wreath of fir tree branches decorated with 24 hanging boxes or bags. Each box or bag will have a little present inside. On 6 December in some regions, Nikolaus (St Nicholas) leaves children with small gifts in their shoes, and sometimes ‘Krampus’ accompanies Nikolaus, punishing naughty children by giving them a birch as a present.
One of the most important traditions is to celebrate the Nativity crib scene. Naples is world famous for its cribs and crib making. Many people hang cribs in their own home around 8 December, but the figure of baby Jesus isn’t put in until the night of Christmas Eve. An extra special feature of Neapolitan cribs is that they also display ‘everyday’ people and objects (houses, waterfalls, food and even figures of famous people and politicians!) as well as characters and figures from the Christmas story.
Christmas comes at the beginning of the summer holidays, but Australians still hang wreaths on their front doors and bunches of ‘Christmas bush’, a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream coloured flowers. In summer, the flowers turn a deep shiny red over a period of weeks. When Santa gets to Australia, he gives the reindeer a rest and uses kangaroos. He also changes his clothes for less ‘hot’ ones!
Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is quite a small occasion in India, due to the lower Christian population. Having said that, the population of India is over 1 billion, so there are still over 25 million Christians there! Instead of having a Christmas tree, people decorate banana or mango trees. Goa adopted many western customs for their celebration, but they eat their main Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, with roast turkey or chicken proving especially popular.
Christmas trees are imported from Denmark because no trees grow as far north as Greenland. They are decorated with candles and bright ornaments. Unusual foods are eaten around the festive period. ‘Mattak’ is whale skin with a strip of blubber inside. it is supposed to taste like fresh coconut, but is often too tough to chew and is usually swallowed. Another Christmas delicacy is ‘kiviak’, which is raw flesh of little auks (a type of arctic bird), which has been buried whole in sealskin for several months until it has reached the advanced stage of decomposition.