Christmas around the world

A big part of the Christmas celebrations in Germany is Advent. Several different types of Advent calendars are used in German homes. As well as the traditional one made of card that are used in many countries, there are ones made out of a wreath of Fir tree branches with 24 decorated boxes or bags hanging from it. Each box or bag has a little present in it. Another type is called a 'Advent Kranz' and is a ring of fir branches that has four candles on it. This is like the Advent candles that are sometimes used in Churches. One candle is lit at the beginning of each week in Advent.

This is Christmas in Germany in 2014. Christmas Eve is the main day when Germans exchange presents with their families.

Mistletoe is a plant that grows on range of trees including willow, apple and oak trees. The tradition of hanging it in the house goes back to the times of the ancient Druids. It is supposed to possess mystical powers which bring good luck to the household and wards off evil spirits. It was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology and that's where the custom of kissing under Mistletoe comes from.

When the first Christians came to Western Europe, some tried to ban the use of Mistletoe as a decoration in Churches, but many still continued to use it! York Minster Church in the UK used to hold a special Mistletoe Service in the winter, where wrong doers in the city of York could come and be pardoned.

In France, a Nativity crib is often used to help decorate the house. French cribs have clay figures in them. During December some towns and cities, such as Marseilles, have fairs that sell Nativity figures. As well as having the normal Nativity figures in them, French scenes also have figures such as a Butcher, a Baker, a Policeman and a Priest.

In French Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Joyeux Noël'. In Breton (spoken by some people in Brittany, Northern France) it's 'Nedeleg Laouen' and in Corsican it's 'Bon Natale'. Happy/Merry Christmas in lots more languages.

"The First Noel" (also written "The First Noël" and "The First Nowell") is a traditional classical English Christmas carol, most likely from the early modern period, although possibly earlier. Noel is an Early Modern English synonym of "Christmas".

In popular folklore Befana visits all the children of Italy on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany to fill their shoes with candy and presents if they are good. Or a lump of coal or dark candy if they are bad. In many poorer parts of Italy and in particular rural Sicily, a stick in a stocking was placed instead of coal. Being a good housekeeper, many say she will sweep the floor before she leaves. To some the sweeping meant the sweeping away of the problems of the year. The child's family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with a few morsels of food, often regional or local, for the Befana

The whole month of December is dominated by Christmas. In most towns, the main shopping streets are decorated with fir garlands and lights. In squares and gardens, there are Christmas trees with fairy lights, a custom dating back to 1914, when the first Christmas tree was lit on the Town Hall Square in Copenhagen. In recent years, it has also become common to cover many other trees or objects with fairy lights.

It is dark, cold, and snowy in Sweden in December. The days are short and the nights long. Families begin the Christmas season by attending church on the first Sunday of Advent, which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The children count the days from the first day of December until Christmas with an Advent calendar. Each morning, they open a flap in the calendar's Christmas scene to see the charming picture behind it

Everybody loves christmas, but you will have to look hard to find nations that gorge in the holiday season as much as the Nordic countries. After all, we need something special to look forward to during the short days, the long dark nights and cold weather of winter.

In Poland, Advent is the beginning of Christmas Time. It's a time when people try to be peaceful and remember the real reason for Christmas. People try not to have excess of anything. Some people give up their favorite foods or drinks and parties and discos are not widely held. Some people also go to Church quite frequently. There is the tradition of the 'roraty', special masses (or communion services) held at dawn and dedicated to Mary for receiving the good news from the angel Gabriel.

During Advent, people also prepare their houses for Christmas. There's lots of cleaning and people wash their windows and clean their carpets very thoroughly. Everything must be clean for Christmas day!Before Christmas, children in schools and preschools take part in "Jasełka" (Nativity Plays). They are very popular and often more secular than religious. The Christmas story is also sometime put into modern times.The smell of tangerines in schools or workplaces is widely thought to mean that Christmas time is about to start!

Christmas in Switzerland shares many of the customs from its neighbors Germany and Austria. But it has many traditions of its own!Advent marks the start of the Christmas preparations. Advent calendars and crowns are both popular. In some villages, there are 'real' advent calendars with different houses decorating an 'Advent Window'. On the day when it's your house with the advent window, you hold a party for the villagers in the evening. There's food, mulled wine (called Glühwein) and music.

'Star Singing' is also very popular among children. They go carol singing from the last week of Advent until Epiphany, carrying a large star infant of them. The star represents the star that the Wisemen followed when they visited the baby Jesus.

In Switzerland St Nicholas is known as 'Samichlaus' and he might visit you on 6th December. You might also be fortunate enough to have some presents from the baby Jesus (or Father Christmas) on the 25th and on Epiphany (6th January) you might be visited by the Befana (in South Switzerland) and/or the Three Kings (in the rest of Switzerland).

Reindeer are also known as Caribou. In Europe they are called Reindeer all the time. America we called them Caribou in the wild and when domesticated we call them Reindeer. Scientific Name: Rangifer Tarasndus. Reindeer live in the Northern parts of North America including Canada and Alaska also in Europe, Russia and Greenland. Lets us not forget with Santa at the North Pole. They live on tundras. A tundra is a vast flat, treeless Arctic Region. Reindeer are herbivores meaning they are plant eaters. They eat lichen a type of moss, grass and plants. A reindeer can live up to 15 years in the wild. A reindeer mostly has different shades of brown soft fur with white fur on their neck and parts of their back. Their fur may also be gray or a rust like color. They can weigh anywhere between 240-700 pounds. Reindeer are usually 4-5 ft tall not including their antlers. Their antlers are 3ft tall!

feliz Navidad is the way MEXICO says marry christmas.From December 16th to Christmas Eve, children often perform the 'Posada' processions or Posadas. Posada is Spanish for Inn or Lodging. There are nine Posadas. These celebrate the part of the Christmas story where Joseph and Mary looked for somewhere to stay. For the Posadas, the outside of houses are decorated with evergreens, moss and paper lanterns.

As with many cultural differences between the U.K. and the United States, you’d be forgiven for believing that Christmas is the same on either side of the Pond. After all, Christmas is Christmas, right? Well, while the overall message of Yuletide is largely the same in both countries, there are some subtle, if crucial, variations. The language of Christmas, for instance, is not strictly uniform. Americans will chuckle to themselves (or appear bemused) if you wish them “Happy Christmas” (as opposed to “Merry Christmas”), while the shortening of Christmas to “Chrimbo” is almost universally unknown in the United States. Come to that, so is the name “Father Christmas”; Americans refer to him as “Santa Claus” or simply “Santa.”

Credits:

Created with images by Thomas Rousing Photography - "December 11 - All the beauty of Christmas" • Bengt Nyman - "Christmas_2654"

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