Christmas is traditionally a religious celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It has been heavily commercialised over the years and is no longer only celebrated by Christians but by Christians and atheists alike. Let’s dive in and learn how Christmas is celebrated across four countries around the globe: Japan, the Czech Republic, Rwanda and India. You will learn new facts, such as that Christmas is celebrated on different days globally, discover interesting traditions and cuisine, and learn that some countries celebrate Christmas in the evening, all day long or even for an entire week!
Celebrating Christmas is a relatively new phenomenon in the past few decades in Japan. It is seen as a romantic time for couples and a time to spend time together with friends. Many people are in search of ‘the one’ during this special time of the year and shopping retailers market Christmas as the most romantic time of the year in a similar way to Valentine’s Day.
WHAT’S ON THE TABLE: Kentucky fried chicken (KFC).
FUN FACT: Exchanging presents is not a tradition. Some couples may choose to buy a small gift of appreciation for each other but it is not expected. If you do get a present, ripping your present open and doing so alone is a bad omen; Japanese people open presents for each other.
The Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic, Christmas is celebrated on 24 December like in many other countries around the world (Austria, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Argentina, Colombia and Brazil to name a few). Ježíšek ‘Little Jesus’ (the Czech version of Christkind) delivers presents, not Santa Claus. Presents are not put under the Christmas tree until evening time. They remain hidden to make it appear as if Ježíšek delivered them whilst the family eats their Christmas meal. Parents of small children usually secretly ring a small bell after everybody finished eating to cue the children that Ježíšek has visited their home and delivered presents to them.
WHAT’S ON THE TABLE: fish soup with croutons, fried carp fish with potato salad, cukrovi (a small, sweet variety of handmade biscuits as can be seen in the image above).
FUN FACT: Czechs are quite superstitious, and follow some interesting traditions, such as placing a dry fish scale from a carp fish under the dinner plates as a symbol of having an abundance of money in the following year.
Christmas in Rwanda is an exciting season, usually accompanied by a big party! Rwandese people love to throw big family parties around this time and make sure to invite extended family and friends. Christmas songs can be heard in stores and homes and carols are sung in churches. Many streets are lined with palm trees, which get decorated with Christmas lights during this time and people also decorate trees in their gardens. There is a large variety of food on the table to ensure everyone eats whatever their heart desires. One thing that cannot be missed is a Christmas cake! Rwanda is predominantly a Christian country, and many churches hold services and carolling events, some lasting the whole night before Christmas.
WHAT’S ON THE TABLE: most common dishes include: grilled beef, chicken, BBQ goat, fried potatoes, rice, boiled green bananas and Christmas cake.
FUN FACT: Rwandese believe the true meaning of Christmas is to spread joy and spend quality time together therefore present gifting is not the main focus, presents are generally given to children but it is not an expectation for adults.
Christmas is quite a small festive holiday in India given the small percentage of Christians. However, that is not to say Christmas is not celebrated at all. Christmas Baba delivers presents to children from a horse and a cart. Midnight mass is a very important service for Christians in India, especially Catholics. Christmas in India equals a big feast of different delicacies, and the giving and receiving of presents. Instead of a pine or fir tree, Indians decorate a mango or banana tree with lights. Churches in India are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and candles and people sign Christmas carols for about a week before Christmas.
WHAT’S ON THE TABLE: there is no set dinner meal, but the most common dishes are curries, mutton, beef fry, rice, potatoes and Christmas cake.
FUN FACT: In Hindi Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Śubh krisamas’ (शुभ क्रिसमस); Urdu it’s ‘krismas mubarak’ (کرسمس); in Sanskrit it’s ‘Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa’; in Gujarati it’s ‘Anandi Natal’ or ‘Khushi Natal’ (આનંદી નાતાલ); in Bengali ‘shubho bôṛodin’ (শুভ বড়দিন); in Tamil it’s ‘kiṟistumas vāḻttukkaḷ’ (கிறிஸ்துமஸ் வாழ்த்துக்கள்).
Thank you for reading. If you would like, you can share your Christmas traditions in the comments.