Christmas Around the World

Christmas in the Birthplaces of Traditions — Bethlehem, Germany and England
Christmas as celebrated today is a culmination of centuries of
traditions that are religious and secular and which came from different
countries around the world. It is interesting therefore to look at some of the
general ways in which Christmas is celebrated in these countries. The traditions
examined for each country will be examples of some of the things that are unique
to that country and which are done today, or which were once done by people in
those countries.
To begin, it is symbolic to look at the town of Bethlehem, which is
believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. The Church of the Nativity is located in
Bethlehem and at Christmas it is decorated with a lot of flags and other
Christmas decorations. A very large crowd usually gathers at The Church of the
Nativity on Christmas Eve to see a dramatic parade procession of horsemen, led
by police who are mounted on Arabian horses. Following the police in the
procession is a lone horseman who carries a cross, followed by churchmen and
government officials. Members of the procession solemnly enter the doors of The
Church of the Nativity and place an ancient effigy of Jesus in the church. A
silver star located deep in an underground cave-like section of the church marks
the site where Jesus was born. A star is also set atop a pole in the town’s
square. In Bethlehem, homes of Christians usually have a cross over the door and
a manger scene is usually set up inside the house.
In Germany, home of the Christmas tree tradition, the Christmas tree
is not seen until Christmas Eve. The tree is usually kept in a special room, or
elsewhere, and decorated in secret with lights, ornaments, tinsels, angels,
candies, nuts and cookies. It is then lighted, the presents placed underneath
and then shown to the delight of Children on Christmas Eve. In Germany, Dec. 6
is known as St. Nicholas Day when Santa visits the homes of boys and girls. On
the day before, Dec. 5, children leave a shoe or boot outside or by the
fireplace for Santa Claus. If they were good, he places gifts and candies inside
the shoe. But if they were naughty, children will find twigs or a rod in their
shoe. Dinner on Christmas Day includes roast goose, long loaves of bread filled
with raisins, nuts and dried fruits. Other sweet delicacies are also enjoyed.
Many traditions in England are similar to those in the United States because
such traditions originated in England and were brought to the United States by
immigrants. The tradition of sending Christmas greeting cards started in England
and is still popular at Christmas, as well as the tradition of neighborhood
caroling on Christmas Eve. Children also hang stockings on Christmas Eve in
anticipation of Santa Claus filling them with Christmas gifts or treats. The
holly, ivy and mistletoe are also used a lot in Christmas decorations. In
England, the traditional Christmas Dinner is roast turkey, goose or chicken with
stuffing, vegetables and roast potatoes. Dessert consists of the British or
Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. A rich, fruit-filled Christmas cake may
also be enjoyed later in the day.  A tradition of pulling Christmas crackers
also goes with the serving of food on Christmas Day. A cracker is a paper tube
that contains a party hat, riddle, toy or trinket, and is brightly colored and
twisted at both ends. It gives out a crack as the contents pop out when it is
pulled at each end. Also on Christmas afternoon, the Queen broadcasts a
Christmas message to the nation, which is heard on radio and television. The day after Christmas is also a holiday known as Boxing Day.

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Interesting Facts/ Notes About Christmas

It is an accepted fact that the Christmas tree tradition is one that was
brought to the shores of America by German immigrants who continued a practice
that was popular in their former homeland. Today, a Christmas tree, even a
miniature one, is present in just about every home at Christmas. It is therefore
interesting to note some little-know facts about the Christmas Tree and other
traditions related to Christmas.
The first interesting fact is the source of real Christmas Trees for some
Americans. These can be bought at a Christmas Tree Farm or at many local stores
and other places of business in just about every town and city across the
country around Christmas time. But according to the National Christmas Tree
Association, Americans buy about 330,000 Christmas trees that are real through
e-commerce or from a catalogue and have them shipped by mail-order.
The scent of real Christmas trees is the reason they are so popular. But as they
stand silently in their decorative wonder, they also are providing another
benefit. The Christmas Tree Association says the amount of oxygen produced on a
daily basis by one acre of Christmas tree is enough to provide enough oxygen for
18 people. And during the first week, a Christmas Tree at home will use up to
one quart of water each day to help retain its longevity for the many days of
Christmas.
Since Christmas celebrations gained popularity in America, the Christmas Tree
has always been a big tradition. During the 1950s however, artificial Christmas
trees were not always green. It was very popular during those times to have
artificial trees with other colors such as silver, pink and aqua. The appeal in
having these colored Christmas trees may have been due to the fact that they
looked shiny and bright and appeared like tinsel instead of green foliage.
An important ceremony related to the Christmas tree that gains national
attention during the Christmas season is the lighting of the National Christmas
Tree at the White House. This tradition can be credited to President Calvin
Coolidge who lit the first decorated Christmas tree outside at the White House
in 1923.
The lighting of the National Christmas Tree has also been used to convey some
symbolic meaning not related to Christmas. It was not lighted until Dec. 22 in
1963 because of a national mourning period of 30 days for the assassination of
President Kennedy. And while Teddy Roosevelt was President he gave an order that
banned the Christmas tree from the White House, not for the assassination of
President McKinley in 1901, which caused him to become president, but for
reasons related to the environment.
Also of note is that when the National Christmas Tree was lighted on Dec. 13 in
1984, temperatures were in the 70s during an unusually warm December.
Christmas has been celebrated in the United States since the 1600s although it
wasn’t always very popular. It took more than two centuries into the mid-late
1860s for Christmas to become a popular holiday season all across America. So
maybe the rest of the country owes the holiday of Christmas Day to the state of
Alabama, which in 1836 became the first state to declare Dec. 25 a legal
holiday.
It is interesting to note that on Christmas Day of 1789 Congress was in session.
And to show how far ahead of the game Alabama was, it wasn’t until June 26, 1870
that the federal government declared Christmas as a federal holiday.
Although Christmas is based on the Christian religion, not all Christian groups
celebrate the season. Among the Christian groups who do not celebrate Christmas
and related traditions such as sending greeting cards are Jehovah Witnesses.
Jehovah Witnesses and other non-participating Christian groups say Christmas
isn’t specifically mentioned in the Bible as a time or reason to celebrate and
since they strictly adhere to the word of the Bible, they refuse to celebrate
Christmas.

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