Most of us here at Seren can’t wait for Christmas, and I suspect it’s the same for most of our readers…but what does Christmas celebrations look like on the other side of the world? Join us for a peek into five different countries’ celebrations.
Christmas in Sweden is celebrated on the 24th of December, not the 25th. On a typical Christmas day people would wake up, have a long breakfast together and give each other their stocking gifts, for children in particular – to occupy them while the adults are cooking and preparing. Most of the day is then spent preparing lunch, which includes a variety of different traditional and new dishes. For example Janssons Frestelse, (homemade) meatballs and sausages, pickled herring, boiled eggs and smoked salmon and red cabbage. Lunch is then enjoyed quite late and lasts for hours, before traditional dessert: Rice Pudding or Rice Á la Malta. The evening is for Santa Claus and presents, often with entertaining rhymes.
Christmas in China is celebrated on the 25th, but with much less fuss than in Europe. Many families buy gifts for their children and each other for this day, but it seems over commercialised more than anything else. I spent Christmas in China a couple of years ago, and none of my Chinese-born colleagues celebrated it at all at home. It’s acknowledged as a western festivity but bears little meaning for Chinese people.
As Christianity is a minority religion in India, it has perhaps less meaning than for many here in the west. However Christmas is widely celebrated, especially in larger cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. Gifts are bought for family, neighbours and friends, and in Christian homes, preparations start as early as November. One of the main highlights is the Christmas cake which is loved by the entire family. New clothes are also bought for the festival and the house is thoroughly cleaned. Customs vary throughout India; for example, in south china clay lamps are lit on roofs, and in many states it is popular custom to decorate a banana or mango tree instead of a pine tree.
The Finnish Christmas celebration fills the right time slot: A beam of light to the darkest time of the year. This is the time when the Finnish people give up their depression and head to churches to listen to the Christmas Eve sermons which in Evangelic-Lutheran terms mean to sing depressing hymns. Afterwards they fill their tummies with yummy Scandinavian titbits, such as swede casseroles and pickled beets—might not sound much but they’re delish! As Finns celebrate Christmas on the 24th, Santa seems to have one-on-one time with them; it is common to have old Saint Nick to come around and give children their presents.
Different from many other countries’ Christmas traditions, Switzerland combines customs from three different areas: France, Italy and Germany. Present wise, kids get a first taste of presents in the beginning of December, but the main load will be given either on the Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day. In addition, Santa has two side-kicks in Switzerland, Christkindl—the Christ child, who will also give out presents and Schmutzli, a dark-clad accomplice, who helps Santa with his burden by giving out presents and being scary—many kids are afraid of him, instead of Santa.