Christmas can be celebrated in many different ways, but we know that for everyone it has a similar meaning.
In Spain, the Christmas period starts on the 22nd of December with the traditional Lottery Draw. Two days after, on the 24th of December, Christmas Eve is celebrated with a family dinner. The following day, the 25th of December, Christmas officially starts. The typical food eaten on this day includes lamb, stuffed turkey and desserts such as polvorón (a type of shortbread biscuit) or turrón (a type of nougat). It’s a day spent with family and friends. And when the end of the year arrives, and the clock strikes midnight, it’s traditional to eat 12 grapes, one with every chiming of the clock.
Like the Spanish, the French also spend Christmas with the family. They get together and have their traditional dishes, such as foie gras (with duck or goose), boudin blanc (a type of white blood sausage), roast turkey and a bûche de Noël (Yule Log). Father Christmas leaves presents near the fireplace or under the tree, and they are opened on the morning of the 25th of December. You can see French streets full of lights and decorated trees.
In the United Kingdom, Christmas begins with Christmas cards to friends and families and putting up the Christmas tree. The most exciting thing for children is hanging up stockings on the fireplace or at the foot of their beds so that Santa Claus fills them with presents. A British Christmas dinner begins with a stuffed turkey and then there’s Christmas pudding. Perhaps the most interesting tradition is mistletoe. For the Brits, this is a symbol of Christmas. They stand underneath a branch of mistletoe and kiss the person in front of them. They believe that mistletoe protects them from harm and brings good luck.
In Japan, Christmas is celebrated a bit differently. When Christmas arrives, the Japanese embark on an extensive spring-clean, and they sort out a new wardrobe for the New Year. On the 31st of December, Omisoka (New Year) is celebrated. When the New Year arrives as the clock strikes midnight, the Japanese head to a Shinto shrine.
Italians, on the 24th and 25th of December, leave biscuits and milk near the chimney for Father Christmas, and celebrate the 25th with the family, opening all the presents under the Christmas tree in the morning. On the 31st of December the ‘cenone di capodanno’ takes place – this is a great big family dinner, where they eat lentils (which supposedly bring good luck) waiting for the New Year.
In Turkey it’s completely different. It’s a country in which various religions coexist: Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox, Jews… Most Turks are Muslim, but many are Christian too. The owners of restaurants, bars and clubs prepare a dinner on the 25th of December, and Christians go to these to celebrate Christmas Eve. On New Year’s Eve, the streets and squares are full of lights, with concerts and shows taking place. Just like the Christians, Muslims too come out to celebrate the arrival of the New Year after having a meal with family or friends.
In Russia, Christmas isn’t celebrated on the 25th of December, but on the 7th of January, which was when Jesus was born according to the calendar that the Orthodox Church follows. On this day, a meal made up of 12 dishes and beetroot soup is served. Instead of Father Christmas, children are brought presents by Ded Moroz (the Ice Grandfather).
And finally, Christmas in the United States traditionally starts on the fourth Thursday of November, when there is a Santa Claus parade marking the begin of the Christmas shopping period. An American Christmas Dinner usually includes turkey and mashed potatoes, and traditionally, on Christmas Eve, liquor, eggnog, brandy or rum are consumed. Children get pyjamas as presents and they can’t open them until the morning of the 25th. The streets in the US are always decorated with loads of lights and decorations.