Christmas is one of those holidays that have nearly universal appeal. It is celebrated by people living in nearly every country on the planet, with only a few exceptions. As this year's Christmas season is now upon us, we thought it might be nice to explore some of the different traditions from around the world.
There are so many to talk about that it would be difficult to include them all in a single post, so we are carrying the same theme on our Australian and New Zealand sites this week as well. Go check them out. With that said, off we go to:
Christmas in Iraq
You might find it hard to believe, but Iraq does have a significant Christian population more than eager to celebrate Christmas. A traditional Iraqi Christmas includes families gathering on Christmas Eve for a recitation of the Christmas story by one or more of the family's children. Following the reading, the family enjoys a bonfire complete with the singing of traditional Christmas carols. Once the fire dies, those who want to participate can jump over the ashes while making wishes for the upcoming new year.
Christmas Day includes another bonfire in the churchyard and a 'torch blessing'. This blessing involves the local priest offering a blessing to the first person in a long line who takes a torch and passes it down the line. Each person who receives and passes the torch has participated in the blessing.
Christmas in Mexico
Because Mexico is a heavily Catholic country, their Christmas celebrations start weeks in advance and are very deeply rooted in religious tradition. The festivities begin with the setting up of large booths in the open-air markets of every city and town; the owners of the booths sell everything from dried fruits and nuts to small gifts.
The focus of Mexico's Christmas celebrations is a community procession intended to re-enact the travels of Mary and Joseph as they looked for a place to stay in Bethlehem. The procession begins nine days before Christmas, with individual family members and friends playing the parts of Mary, Joseph, local innkeepers, and pilgrims. It continues from house to house until the couple playing Mary and Joseph finally arrive at a house at which a nativity has been erected.
Christmas in Japan
Although Christmas is not celebrated as a religious holiday in Japan, it is celebrated as a day to spread happiness through the gift giving. Christmas cards are very popular as a way of spreading happiness near and far. On Christmas Eve, it is all about couples. They get together and exchange gifts of romance. Christmas Day is a normal business day in Japan, but many celebrate in the evening with a 'traditional' meal of Kentucky fried chicken!
What are your family's individual Christmas traditions? Is there anything special you do in your local community? We hope you have plenty to enjoy during this year’s Christmas season, and plenty to share with others. Happy Christmas!