Christmas: a jolly worldwide experience

by Meghan Augsburger
Ramstein High School intern

Christmas is celebrated in many diverse and unique ways around the world. Gerry Bowler’s “World Encyclopedia of Christmas” provides insight on various traditions, ranging from bathtub carp in the Czech Republic to Christmas theme parks in China.

Czech Republic
The Czech holiday season begins with the arrival of St. Nicholas, known as Mikulaç, and his angel and devil assistants. The angel distributes treats to good children while the devil delivers lumps of coal to bad children. 

With the arrival of Advent comes cleaning and preparations for the Christmas Eve meal.  Traditionally, this meal consists of deep-fried carp, dumplings and plenty of delicious desserts. 

Carp feed off of the bottom of lakes, giving them a muddy taste. In the Czech Republic, carp are transferred live to fresh water tanks to rid them of the mud. Families often purchase them off of the streets and keep them fresh by allowing them to swim in their bathtubs. 

Parents decorate the tree on Christmas Eve with real candles and gingerbread. Once dinner ends, the decorated tree and gifts are revealed to the children. Midnight Mass is then attended. 

On Dec. 25, “Big Christmas,” and Dec. 26, “Little Christmas,” families attend concerts, go skating or take skiing holidays.  
Christmas in the Caribbean takes on a more festive theme with the Junkanoo custom. On Dec. 26, known as Boxing Day, performers dress in gaudy costumes and dance in the streets at 2 a.m. in order to win prize money. 

This carnival-like celebration stems from the colonial tradition of allowing slaves to participate in Christmas festivities. 

Aside from the colorful parade, businesses stay open for tourists as the locals enjoy the delicious seafood and celebrations.   

Following the Coptic calendar, Ethiopians observe Christmas on Jan. 7 after fasting for more than 40 days. Standing through a three-hour Mass is customary before spending the night praying, singing and dancing. 

On Christmas morning, thousands of pilgrims in Lalibela, the spiritual capital, form a procession to haul the Ark of the Covenant to a nearby hill. 

A service is held before feasting on injera and doro wat, a type of flat bread and chicken stew. Boys then play a traditional type of Christmas hockey called genna.  
Christmas in Ethiopia has remained relatively unchanged; however, foreign traditions such as gifts for children and Christmas trees have slowly crept in. In the cities, the government protects the juniper trees; locals continuously chop them down, leading to their extinction.  
Though only a few million Chinese are Christian, Christmas and Santa Claus, known as “Old Man Christmas,” or Dun Che Lao Ren, have become increasingly popular. 

The upper class exchanges Christmas cards, participates in gift giving, and throws elaborate parties to impress friends.

In fact, the Chinese population is so infatuated with the holiday, they built the “Clear Moon Lake Santa Claus Paradise,” a Christmas themed attraction park.  
Popularity of the Christmas season has sky rocketed due to the growing obsession with Western culture and holidays.

The Chinese government, however, is skeptical of Christmas due to its staunch atheist ideology.  

Christmas falls during the simmering Australian summer, making it a unique and hot holiday experience.   

In many ways, Christmas in Australia mirrors that of the British; parents buy gifts for their children, schools throw pageants, and families feast on traditional plum pudding and turkey.

On Christmas Eve, many towns and cities hold “Carols by Candlelight,” a gigantic gathering of carolers, which is broadcasted on television. 

However, some have combined British, European and indigenous traditions to make a unique Australian Christmas. Many eat a cold lunch or barbecue their meals at the beach on Christmas Day.       

Another strictly Australian tradition is the hanging of Christmas pillowslips on the end of the bed for Father Christmas to fill after entering through the window.  
Children often leave cookies, milk or even beer for him, as well as water for his sleigh-pulling kangaroos.   

Families decorate their houses with indigenous plants such as the Christmas bush, a red-flowered bush that only grows during the holiday season.

Clusters of yellow flowers also grow on the Australian Christmas tree, which can reach 20 to 30 feet.