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Christmas Traditions Around The World -Kelly Prendiville

Christmas time is vital in countries around the world. It’s a time of celebration and festivities - and lots of traditions. Most traditions center around coming together and celebrating - big meals that require a lot of preparation, singing, dancing, gift exchange, and just spending time together. But it’s always in the details, right? The slight differences make a tradition unique, even if they all have the same basic elements. Here are a few traditions from around the world:

1. Put milk and cookies out for Santa. Carrots for the reindeer, too, if you choose! (USA)

2. Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) is the main celebration of the season. It lasts from the second Saturday of November, when St. Nicholas arrives from Spain, until December 5, when the big celebration is. In anticipation of Sinterklaas’ arrival, children put shoes out overnight in hopes of finding little treats in them when they wake up. Many families teach that Sinterklaas makes weekly visits so children will put their shoes out every week. On December 5, Sinterklaas parties are held, and presents from Sinterklaas are opened. (Netherlands)

3. Instead of a big party,  people give books to others, and the day is spent reading. Also, kids put shoes out in hopes of getting little candies but find rotten potatoes instead if they’ve been naughty. (Iceland)

4. Eat KFC! -  Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Japan)

5. Enjoy cold meals, cookouts, and spending time at the beach with loved ones. (several countries in the southern hemisphere because it’s summertime)

6. Three Kings’ Day – Not a special Christmas celebration but a holiday celebrated instead of Christmas, or in addition to it. There are a lot of similarities to Christmas celebrations, but it happens on January 5 and/or 6. It focuses on the day the wise men arrived to give gifts to baby Jesus. (multiple countries)

7. Celebrating Christmas on January 7 because orthodox churches follow the Julian calendar. (several countries) 

8. Dress up in traditional garments and sing carols around town. (Ukraine)

9. In the nine days leading up to Christmas, community members participate in a giant Christmas lights competition. There are other competitions as well, and they are all community-wide. (St. Vincent and Grenadines)

10. Celebrating from September to January! It’s the longest Christmas celebration in the world, and many events and activities take place. One traditional celebration is Simbang Gali, Night Church. From December 16 to December 24, church services are held very early in the morning, and everyone gets up extra early to attend them. (Philippines)

11. Before eating the big Christmas meal, people break the Oplateks (Christmas wafers) of another and tell that person what they wish for them for the year to come. Additionally, an extra spot is always set at the table to show that anyone is welcome, even if not invited. (Poland)

What a joy it is to bring creativity into our celebrations! But no matter how you celebrate or which calendar you follow, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is worth celebrating!

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