Christmas in Ireland
Christmas in Ireland lasts from Christmas Eve to the feast of the Epiphany on January 6, which is referred to as Little Christmas. Ireland's Christmas is more religious than a time of fun.
Lighted candles are placed in windows on Christmas Eve, as a guide that Joseph and Mary might be looking for shelter. The candles are usually red in color, and decorated with sprigs of holly.
Irish women bake a seed cake for each person in the house. They also make three puddings, one for each day of the Epiphany such as Christmas, New Year's Day and the Twelfth Night.
After the Christmas evening meal, bread and milk are left out and the door unlatched as a symbol of hospitality.
St Stephen's Day, the day after Christmas, is almost as important, with football matches and meetings going on.
For children, the Wren Boys Procession is their big event. Boys go from door to door with a fake wren on a stick, singing, with violins, accordions, harmonicas and horns to accompany them. The reason for the ceremony is to ask for money 'for the starving wren', that is, for their own pockets.
Children often put out Christmas sacks instead of stockings.
It is tradition to leave mince pies and a bottle of Guinness out as a snack for Santa.
Christmas in Germany
Christmas preparations often start before the end of November. People often set aside special evenings for baking spiced cakes and cookies, and making gifts and decorations. Little dolls of fruit are traditional Christmas toys.
Children leave letters on their windowsills for Christkind, a winged figure dressed in white robes and a golden crown who distributes gifts. Sometimes the letters are decorated with glue and sprinkled with sugar to make them sparkle.
December 6 is Nikolaustag or St. Claus Day. Children leave out a shoe or boot by the door on December 5th and the next morning they find gifts (if they were good kids) or a rod (if they were bad).
Germans make beautiful gingerbread houses and cookies. The German Christmas tree pastry, Christbaumgeback, is a white dough that can be molded into shapes and baked for tree decorations.
In parts of Germany, people believe that the Christ Child sends a messenger in Christmas Eve. He appears as an angel in a white robe and crown, bearing gifts. The angel is called Christkind. There is also a Christmas Eve figure called Weihnachtsmann or Christmas Man, he looks like Santa Claus and also brings gifts. Some homes in Germany have several Christmas trees, and in all towns across Germany, they can be seen glittering and glowing.
They use Advent wreaths (Adventkranz) of holly with four red candles in the center. They light one candle each Sunday and last on Christmas Eve. Children count the days until Christmas using an Advent calendar. They open one window each day and find a Christmas picture inside.
In Germany the traditional visitor is the Christkindl who is the Christ Child's messenger. She is a beautiful fair-haired girl with a shining crown of candles who visits each house with a basket of presents.
In some homes a room is locked up before Christmas. On Christmas Eve the children go to bed but are woken up at midnight by their parents and taken down to the locked room. The door is opened and they see the tree all lit up, with piles of parcels on little tables.
Boys and girls dress up as kings for Three King's Day (Epiphany) on January 6 and carry a star round the village, singing carols and collect money and donations for various worthy causes.
Christmas in Italy
The Christmas season in Italy goes for three weeks, starting 8 days before Christmas known as the Novena. During this period, children go from house to house reciting Christmas poems and singing.
In some parts shepherds bring musical instruments into the villages, play and sing Christmas songs.
In the week before Christmas children go from house to house dressed as shepherds, playing pipes, singing and reciting Christmas poems. They are given money to buy presents.
A strict feast is observed for 24 hours before Christmas Eve, and is followed by a celebration meal, in which a light Milanese cake called panettone features as well as chocolate. In verona, the cake is called pandoro.
Presents and empty boxes, are drawn from the Urn of Fate - lucky dip, which always contains one gift per person. By twilight, candles are lighted around the family crib known as the Presepio, prayers are said, and children recite poems.
At noon on Christmas Day the Pope gives his blessing to crowds gathered in the huge Vatican square. Christmas lunch is tortellini in brodo which is filled pasta parcels in broth along with boiled capons. In central Italy it is common for roasts to be served.
The children wait until Epiphany, January 6, for their presents. According to tradition, the presents are delivered by a kind ugly witch called Befana on a broomstick. It was said that she was told by the three kings that the baby Jesus was born, she was busy and delayed visiting the baby.
She missed the Star lost her way and has been flying around ever since, leaving presents at every house with children in case he is there. She slides down chimneys, and fills stockings and shoes with good things for good children and it is said leaves coal for children who are not so good.
Christmas in Czech Republic
Celebrations for Christmas begin with the visit of St. Nicholas on December 6th and end with the visit of the Three Kings.
St. Nicholas is called Svaty Mikalas and is believed to climb to earth down from heaven on a golden rope along with his companions: an angel and a whip-carrying devil.
A girl can tell her future, it is said that according to tradition, by putting a cherry twig in water on December 4th. If the twig blossoms before Christmas Eve, the girl will marry sometime during the year.
The famous King Wenceslas of the Christmas Carol was a real King in this country. His goodness and his beliefs in Christianity infuriated his mother, and his brother murdered him on the Church steps. Before he died he asked for God's mercy for his brother's evil act. He became the patron saint of Czech Republic.
Christmas is a quiet and peaceful religious time here. They fast for one day, and have baked carp for Christmas dinner. St Nicholas visits, and brings good children gifts, and for those children who are bad, the devil is said to come with switches.
At midnight, most families go to Holy Mass or Pasterka as it is known. On Christmas Day, the churches are filled with evergreens and Christmas Trees. Celebrations go on for three days.
Czechs eat a soup made of cod roe and tempt each other with tales of a mythical golden pig.
Christmas in Portugal
In Portugal the tradition of gift-giving was defined mostly by the strong Christian religious beliefs of the people. Children await the coming of the Three Wise Men during Christmas time. On the eve of January 5th children place their shoes along windowsills and doorways and fill them with carrots and straw. They do this hoping that this will lure the wise men's horses to their houses during the night and that they will find their shoes packed with gifts and treats in the morning. The treats left is more likely to be candied fruits and sweet breads.
They do not recognize the red suit of most traditions as the person who brings gifts, but, gifts are a big part of the many Christmas celebrations. The Christmas Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of the Holy Innocents both involve the sharing of gifts.
They have a feast known as the consoda which takes place on the morning of Christmas Day. They set extra places at the table for the souls of the dead. They give a gift of food to these souls and hope that by doing so the fortunes of the next year will be good.
The Portuguese "Christmas log," or cepo de Natal, is a piece of oak that burns on the hearth all through the day while people enjoy a lingering consoda.
Tradition Submitted by Alda Moreira who says traditions are incorrect.
The children receive the presents at midnight of 24/25 December or early in 25 th December morning, but never on 5th January. They put the shoes near the fireplace as a receptacle for the presents and not at the window.
We recognize the red suite; the children believe in Santa Claus (called "Pai Natal" - wich means: Father Christmas) and the parents tell them that is the baby Jesus who helps Santa with the presents, ( not the Three wise men...).
The most part of family set up a Nativity scene (called Presépio), with Mary, Joseph, the cow and the donkey, the three wise men, and lots of other figures The figure of the Christ Child is added to the scene after the family attends Midnight Mass or after midnight....But everybody have a Christmas tree too; the typical colours are the gold, red and green.
The Christmas Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the Feast of the Holy Innocents do not involve the sharing of gifts.
The consoada is the reunion of the family, until they wait for the coming of Father Christmas at midnight and takes place on the dinner of 24 th December/Christmas Eve, not in the morning of 25. There are families who reserve an empty place for the persons who died, but it doesn't happen very often. During the consoada we dinner (boiled codfish and Portuguese sprouts (in pure olive oil) normally) and then everybody puts lots of desserts in the table and typical plates (rice pudding with cinamon, "rabandas"-seems like french toast, "filhoses"-fried desserts, "broas de mel" (pastries made with honey) “Sonhos” -pumpkin fritters ) Another very traditional desert is the "Bolo Rei" (King's cake) "which is a wreath-like very rich fruit cake laced with crystallized fruits and pine nuts." There is a little present inside the cake and a broadbean-who find the broadbean in one slice, must pay the next “King Cake”.
At midnight, there are also families who attend to the church for a special Midnight Mass, called "Missa do galo"-"Rooster’s Mass", but it happens more in the interior, who are more religious.
During the Christmas day Portuguese people visit the friends and family and have a big lunch normally with roast chicken, lamb or turkey.
Christmas in Venezuela
In Venezuela on December 16th families bring out their pesebres which is a specially designed and thought out depiction of the nativity scene.
It is a custom to attend at one of nine carol services is observed by most Venezuelans. Firecrackers explode and bells ring to call worshippers from bed in the predawn hours. The last of the masses takes place on Nochebuena de Navidad Christmas Eve. Families attend a mass on this night and then return home to a huge and fancy dinner.
On January 6th when the children awaken they will discover that the straw that they had left beside their bed the night before has gone and in its place are gifts the children know that the Magi and their camels have been and when they go to look in the mirror if they have a black smudge on their cheek they know that Balthazar, King of the Ethiopians has kissed them whilst they slept.
Christmas in Ethiopia
The Ethiopian Christmas known as Ganna is celebrated on January 7th. This celebration takes place in ancient churches carved from solid volcanic rock and also in modern churches that are designed in three concentric circles. Men and boys sit separately from girls and women. Also the choir sings from the outside circle.
People receive candles as they enter the church. After lighting the candles everyone walks around the church three times, then stands throughout the mass, which may last up to three hours.
Food served at Christmas usually includes injera, a sourdough pancake like bread. Injera serves as both plate and fork. Doro wat, a spicy chicken stew might be the main meal. A piece of the injera is used to scoop up the wat. Baskets decorated beautifully are used to serve the wat.
Gift giving is a very small part of Christmas celebration. Children usually receive very simple presents such as clothing.
In Ethiopia Christmas day is January 7, so on Christmas Eve the city is crowded with pilgrims from all parts of the country. They remain outdoors all night, praying and chanting. In the morning, a colorful procession makes its way to a nearby hilltop where a service is held. Three young men march at the head of the crowd, lashing whips from left to right to keep the people in line. Those who worship are fed with bread and wine that has been blessed by priests. After the service is over the rest of the day is spent dancing, playing sport and feasting.