Christmas Around the World
Although we celebrate, Christmas Day on December 25th, many nations celebrate this on January 7th. This is because different calendars are used to calculate the dates. Here in the West, we use the Gregorian calendar, which was originally proposed by Pope Gregory in 1582. Much of the Soviet bloc and the Middle East remains on the Julian calendar, which was created in the reign of Julius Ceasar in 45BC. Nowadays the Gregorian calendar is used in most countries, while still referring to the Julian calendar for traditional holidays. There is a difference of 13 days between the two with December 25th on the Julian calendar equating to January 7th on the Gregorian one.
Some of the Christmas traditions are the same, or similar, among most of the countries that observe the Julian calendar. Their traditions begin with a period of fasting, lasting 40 days, when meat is cut out of the diet. The manger scene is recreated, with hay bought into the house to decorate the rooms. A special dinner is eaten on Christmas Eve, usually featuring 12 dishes, to represent the apostles. Christmas Day itself is then celebrated in grand style, with delicious food and pried delicacies for that country. There are also traditions that are unique to that particular nations too. In Serbia, there is a tradition for families to go out on Christmas Eve to search for oak branches to decorate their homes.
A different celebratory meal is eaten in South Africa, where they prefer to eat plump, fuzzy caterpillars, fried in oil. Armenians fast for the week before Christmas Day, then break their fast on Christmas Eve with a meal they call ‘khetum’, which includes rice, fish, yogurt soup dried nuts and for dessert they eat grape jelly. In the Philippines, on Christmas Eve, the children are taught to polish their shoes and leave them by the window sills, in anticipation of the magical Three Kings walking past at night and to leave the children presents.
Each year, while we in the west celebrate the Christmas traditions that have been passed down through the generations, there are still many countries where it is not celebrated. One of those is Qatar, which is a non-Christian country, though, with a growing ex-pat community living there each year, there are traditions carried out and organized by them and for them. The Ritz Carlton and other 5-star hotels in the country annually hold traditional Christmas buffets, and even have real Christmas trees on display! Mongolia is officially a Buddist country, so December 25th is treated like any other working day, with children going to school as usual.
The common theme is celebration and enjoyment, so it’s worth celebrating as the end of the year approaches. Amongst the most appreciated presents by many of us is that of a prediction or insight into what lies ahead for us in the coming year. Now would be a good time to book a reading for yourself, or as a great personal gift to someone you know would appreciate it. Happy Christmas!