7. Christmas Around the World

Christmas in the Birthplaces of Traditions — Bethlehem, Germany and England
Christmas as celebrated today is a culmination of centuries of
traditions that are religious and secular and which came from different
countries around the world. It is interesting therefore to look at some of the
general ways in which Christmas is celebrated in these countries. The traditions
examined for each country will be examples of some of the things that are unique
to that country and which are done today, or which were once done by people in
those countries.
To begin, it is symbolic to look at the town of Bethlehem, which is
believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. The Church of the Nativity is located in
Bethlehem and at Christmas it is decorated with a lot of flags and other
Christmas decorations. A very large crowd usually gathers at The Church of the
Nativity on Christmas Eve to see a dramatic parade procession of horsemen, led
by police who are mounted on Arabian horses. Following the police in the
procession is a lone horseman who carries a cross, followed by churchmen and
government officials. Members of the procession solemnly enter the doors of The
Church of the Nativity and place an ancient effigy of Jesus in the church. A
silver star located deep in an underground cave-like section of the church marks
the site where Jesus was born. A star is also set atop a pole in the town’s
square. In Bethlehem, homes of Christians usually have a cross over the door and
a manger scene is usually set up inside the house.
In Germany, home of the Christmas tree tradition, the Christmas tree
is not seen until Christmas Eve. The tree is usually kept in a special room, or
elsewhere, and decorated in secret with lights, ornaments, tinsels, angels,
candies, nuts and cookies. It is then lighted, the presents placed underneath
and then shown to the delight of Children on Christmas Eve. In Germany, Dec. 6
is known as St. Nicholas Day when Santa visits the homes of boys and girls. On
the day before, Dec. 5, children leave a shoe or boot outside or by the
fireplace for Santa Claus. If they were good, he places gifts and candies inside
the shoe. But if they were naughty, children will find twigs or a rod in their
shoe. Dinner on Christmas Day includes roast goose, long loaves of bread filled
with raisins, nuts and dried fruits. Other sweet delicacies are also enjoyed.
Many traditions in England are similar to those in the United States because
such traditions originated in England and were brought to the United States by
immigrants. The tradition of sending Christmas greeting cards started in England
and is still popular at Christmas, as well as the tradition of neighborhood
caroling on Christmas Eve. Children also hang stockings on Christmas Eve in
anticipation of Santa Claus filling them with Christmas gifts or treats. The
holly, ivy and mistletoe are also used a lot in Christmas decorations. In
England, the traditional Christmas Dinner is roast turkey, goose or chicken with
stuffing, vegetables and roast potatoes. Dessert consists of the British or
Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. A rich, fruit-filled Christmas cake may
also be enjoyed later in the day. A tradition of pulling Christmas crackers
also goes with the serving of food on Christmas Day. A cracker is a paper tube
that contains a party hat, riddle, toy or trinket, and is brightly colored and
twisted at both ends. It gives out a crack as the contents pop out when it is
pulled at each end. Also on Christmas afternoon, the Queen broadcasts a
Christmas message to the nation, which is heard on radio and television. The day
after Christmas is also a holiday that is known as Boxing Day.