“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”
Colorful lights, decorating houses and trees, cheerful songs filling the air, gift wrapping, visiting family, and the sight of a manger are all reminders of this season. Whether you absolutely love it, or you absolutely dread it, one thing is for sure: Christmas is here!
During our travels as we’ve sought to see the Gospel taken to the ends of the earth, we’ve had the opportunity to hear about some very interesting Christmas traditions celebrated by many different nations. Today, we wanted to take a look at some of these! What does Christmas look like around the globe?
Did you know that in Ukraine, Christmas is celebrated on January 7th? This is because most Ukrainians are a part of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and they follow a different calendar than we do. They have a mixture of the typical Christian traditions, such as the Nativity scene, and more ancient and pagan ones. These vary significantly depending on which region of Ukraine you visit. For example, in some villages of Western Ukraine, they organize folk performances where they dress up as monsters and run around the village scaring everyone. Once they arrive at a designated place on the outskirts of the village, they are “defeated” and the costumes are burnt while people dance around the fire celebrating the triumph of Good over Evil.
In Mexico, Christmas celebrations begin with the “Posadas” that go from December 16th until Christmas Eve. “What on earth is a ‘Posada’?!“, you may be asking. They are parties that tell the story of Joseph and Mary trying to find a place to stay.
In each Posada, people are given candles and sent out to walk the streets, knocking on their friends’ and neighbors’ doors while singing a song at each stop. The song is about Mary and Joseph asking for a place to stay, and those inside the house respond by saying that there is no room for them. Finally they are welcomed in, the family prays together, and the party begins with fireworks, food, and songs!
Have you thought of celebrating Christmas during the summer, with lots of sun, warm temperatures, and beautiful flowers blooming? How about having Christmas dinner as a picnic on the beach with family and friends? Although it might sound a bit strange, that’s what this holiday looks like in South Africa. All the way on the other side of the globe, Christmas just so happens to fall in the summertime. South Africa is such a diverse nation that there isn’t just one universal way of celebrating Christmas — there are many depending on the ethnic group you belong to. Because of the nice weather, families normally have their celebration outdoors, at a park, in the woods, along the river, up in the mountains, or at the beach.
Some countries have their main Christmas celebration on December 24th, and Czech Republic is one of those nations. They generally kick things off with a big family dinner, usually comprised of traditional Czech food, such as Carp, potato salad, and Schnitzel (a breaded and fried piece of meat). Gifts are opened at midnight on Christmas Eve, paired with a Christmas tree, mistletoe, and Christmas carols. Some interesting traditions many of the Czech people used to observe include fasting before their Christmas meal so that they might see the “golden pig”, sticking a candle into half of a walnut shell and putting it in water and let it sail, and having a single girl throw a shoe behind her – if the shoe points toward the door, she will get married in the following year; if it points in any other direction, she will remain single. However, these traditions are no longer observed by many families.
The Christmas Yet To Be Celebrated
As Christmas day draws near we pray, we remember, we gather together, we rejoice, and we sing.
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive their King…”
And yet many don’t know. Many have never heard the good news of a loving God who came down to save them. Many still live wrapped in deep darkness and despair, hurting, crying in silence for hope, not knowing that Jesus already bought their freedom. There are countries far away, big cities and tiny villages, men and women, boys and girls, hungry souls who have no idea of the Nativity story and the Joy that it entails. There is a Christmas yet to be celebrated: the one who belongs to those who have yet to hear and see and come to know the manger in Bethlehem, where the Word became flesh and dwelt among His people. He is Emmanuel, God with us, and they need to hear. They need to know. Who will tell them?
He is Emmanuel, God with us, and they need to hear. They need to know. Who will tell them?