Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Cultures In Some Countries

Christmas in India

Compared to other religious festivals, Christmas is quite a small festival in India, due to the number of people who are Christians (about 2.3%) compared to people who belong to other religions. Having said this, the population of India is over 1 Billion, so there are over 25 million Christians in India !

One of the largest Indian Christian Communities is in Bombay. A lot of the Christians in Mumbai (previously known as Bombay) are Roman Catholics.

Midnight mass is a very important service for Christians in India, especially Catholics. The whole family will walk to the mass and this will be followed by a massive feast of different delicacies, (mostly curries) and the giving and receiving of presents. Churches in India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service.

Many different languages are spoken in India. In Hindi Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Bade din ki badhai ho (बड़े दिन की बषाई हो)'; Urdu it's krismas mubarak (کرسمس); in Gujarati it's 'sāl mūbārak (સાલ મુબારક)'; in Sanskrit it's 'Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa'; in Bengali 'shubho bôṛodin (শুভ বড়দিন)'; in Tamil it's 'Christmas matrum puthaandu vaazthukkal (கிறிஸ்துமஸ் மற்றும் இனிய புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள்)'; in Punjabi it's karisama te nawāṃ sāla khušayāṃwālā hewe (ਕਰਿਸਮ ਤੇ ਨਵਾੰ ਸਾਲ ਖੁਸ਼ਿਯਾੰਵਾਲਾ ਹੋਵੇ) and in Konkani it's 'Khushal Borit Natala'.   

Instead of having traditional Christmas Trees, a banana or mango tree is decorated. Sometimes people use mango leaves to decorate their homes.In Southern India, Christians often put small oil burning clay lamps on the flat roofs of their homes to show their neighbors that Jesus is the light of the world.

Christians in Mumbai often display a manger in a front window, (there's great competition in making the nativity scene). Also families go to great lengths to hang giant paper lanterns, in the shape of stars, between the houses so that the stars float above you as you walk down the road. Every household also makes sure that they have a stock of home made sweets ready to visitors.

In north-west India, the tribal Christians of the Bhil folk, go out night after night for a week at Christmas to sing their own carols the whole night through. They go to surrounding villages singing to people and telling the Christmas story.

In India, Father Christmas or Santa Claus delivers presents to children from a horse and cart. He's known as 'Christmas Baba' in Hindi, 'Baba Christmas' in Urdu (both of those mean Father Christmas); 'Christmas Thaathaa' in Tamil and 'Christmas Thatha' in Telugu (both of those mean Christmas old man); and 'Natal Bua' (Christmas Elder Man) in Marathi.

Christmas in Australia 

In Australia, Christmas comes in the middle of the summer holidays! Children have their summer holidays from early to mid December to early February, so some people might even be camping at Christmas !

Because it's so hot at Christmas time in Australia, there are quite often massive bush fires across the country. Many volunteer bush fire fighters are involved in saving people and property and travel from all over Australia to help in other states.

Australians hang wreaths on their front doors and sometimes go out Christmas carol singing on Christmas eve. People also decorate their houses and gardens with Christmas Trees and Christmas lights. Neighbors sometimes have little competitions as to who has got the best light display. The neighbors often visit each other to look at the light displays at night. Sometimes the displays are put out as early as December 1st. One street in Sydney raises over $(AUS)35,000 every year for charity with their co-ordinated street display !
Australians also decorate their houses with bunches of 'Christmas Bush', a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream coloured flowers. In summer the flowers turn a deep shiny red over a period of weeks (generally by the week of Christmas in Sydney).

In each State capital city there is a large Carols by Candlelight service. Famous Australian singers like The Wiggles, John Farnham, Anthony Warlow, Colin Gery, Niki Webster and many more help to sing the carols. These carol services, held in different cities, are broadcast on TV across Australia. There are also huge Christmas pageants in each state capital city, that are also broadcast across the country. Most towns and cities have festivals and parades. In some places, there is a fireworks display at the local park.
Many towns, cities and schools also hold their own Carols by Candlelight services, with local bands and choirs sometimes helping to perform the Christmas Carols and songs. As it is the middle of Summer in Australia at Christmas time, the words to the Carols about snow and the cold winter are sometimes changed to special Australian words! There are also some original Australian Carols.

When he gets to Australia, Santa gives the reindeer a rest and uses kangaroos or 'six white boomers' (a popular Australian Christmas song!). He also changes his clothes for less 'hot' ones!
On Boxing Day most people go and visit their friends and often have barbecues at the beach. A famous Yacht race from Sydney to Hobart in Tasmania is also held on Boxing Day.
The Flying Doctor Service has to work all though-out Christmas. On Christmas Day the people who live in the outback send Christmas greetings to each other over the radio network.

Most families try to be home together for Christmas and the main meal is eaten at lunch time. Most people now have a cold Christmas dinner, or a barbecue with seafood such as prawns and lobsters along with the 'traditional english' food. On Christmas Eve, fish-markets are often full of people queuing to buy their fresh seafood for Christmas day.

Australians often have Christmas Crackers at Christmas meal times.
Thank you to the students at Georgiana Molloy Anglican School for their help in giving me information on Christmas in Australia!

Christmas in Brazil 

In Brazil, Santa Claus is called Papai Noel & Bom Velhinho (Good Old Man). Many Christmas customs are similar to ones in the USA or UK
Favorite  Christmas foods in Brazil include chicken, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork and fresh and dried fruits.

Many people start the Christmas celebrations on Christmas Eve with fireworks and a big churrasco (barbecue).

Sometimes children leave a sock near a window. If Papai Noel finds your sock, he'll exchange it for a present !

Christmas in Argentina 

In Argentina the weather is warm at Christmas. Preparations for Christmas begin very early in December and even November. Many people in Argentina are Catholic and so also celebrate Advent.

House are beautifully decorated with lights and wreaths of green, gold, red and white flowers. Red and white garlands are hung on the doors of houses.Christmas Trees are also very popular and they are often decorated by 8th December (the feast of the Annunciation - when Christians remember when Mary was told she would have the baby Jesus). Some people like to put cotton balls on the Christmas Tree to represent snow! Any tree might be made into a Christmas Tree - not just the traditional fir tree !

The Nativity scene or 'pesebre' is also an important Christmas decoration in Argentina. The pesebre is put near to the Christmas tree.The main Christmas meal is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve. It might be served in the garden or be a barbecue! Some popular dishes include roasted turkey, roasted pork, stuffed tomatoes and Christmas bread and puddings like 'Pan Dulce' and Panetone.

At midnight there will be the sound of lots of fireworks! People also like to 'toast' the start of Christmas day. Some people like to go to midnight services, but other prefer to stay at home and let off fireworks and then open their presents under the tree.

Another Christmas Eve night tradition are 'globos', paper decorations with a light inside that float into the sky (like Chinese Lanterns). The sky is filled with them on Christmas Eve after midnight !

Some people stay awake all the night chatting and seeing friends and family and then spend most of Christmas Day sleeping..!

In Argentina the main language spoken is Spanish (called castellano by Argentines), so Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Feliz Navidad'.

Christmas in Pakistan 

In Pakistan, December 25th is a public holiday, but it is in memory of Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Like in India, Christians make up a very small part of the population. But as Pakistan has a population over 162 million people, there are more than 5 millions Christians! Most Christians in Pakistan live the country and are quite poor.

At Christian festivals, like Christmas and Easter, a big procession takes place, in Lahore, from St. Anthony's Church to the Cathedral. It takes hours to reach the Cathedral for the services. These are then celebrated with lots of enthusiasm! Before and during Advent, spiritual seminars take place to help people to prepare for Christmas or 'Bara Din' (which in Urdu and Punjabi means the 'Big Day'). This expression is very popular, even among Muslims in Pakistan.

During the last week of Advent, in many Christian areas, carol singing is performed by various groups. They go from house to house singing carols and in return the family offers something to the choir. Mostly the money collected from such carols is used for charity works or is given to the church.

In the big Christian areas, each house is decorated and has a star on the roof. The streets are also decorated and lit. The crib and Christmas tree are also important decorations. Sometimes there are crib competitions! Christians also sometimes exchange Christmas cakes.

On Christmas eve, Churches are packed for the midnight or vigil-mass services. The choirs sing very special hymns. After the vigil-mass, in some places, there are fireworks which help celebrate the start of Bara Din. People dance, exchange presents and enjoy the special night.

On Bara Din or Christmas day, Christians go to Church again for the Bara Din celebrations. People wear their best, colourful clothes. They can stay in the Church courtyard for hours, enjoying various food from the different stalls. The evening is usually celebrated with immediate family or relatives where special food is enjoyed. Adults often visit their parents.

The traditional Christmas greeting in Punjabi is 'Bara Din Mubarrak Ho', which means, 'the blessing of Christmas on you'.

In Pakistan Santa Claus/Father Christmas is known as 'Christmas Baba'.

Christmas in Egypt 

In Egypt about 15% of people are Christians. They are the only part of the population who really celebrate Christmas. Most Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church and they have some very unique traditions for Christmas.

For the 40 days before Christmas Coptic Orthodox Christians fast (don't eat any meat products except for fish). This is called 'The Holy Nativity Fast'. The Coptic month leading to Christmas is called Kiahk. People sing special praise songs on Saturday nights before the Sunday Service.

Christmas Day isn't celebrated on the 25th December but on 7th January (like in Ethiopia and by some Orthodox Christians in Russia and Serbia). On Christmas eve (on 6th January), Coptic Christians go to church for a special liturgy or Service. On the Orthodox Christmas Day (7th) people come together in homes for parties and festivities.
Even though not many in Egypt are Christians, a lot of people in the country like to celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. Christmas is becoming very commercial and most major supermarkets sell Christmas trees, Christmas food and decorations. Hotels, parks and streets are decorated for Christmas.

In Egypt, Santa is called Baba Noël (meaning Father Christmas).

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