Christmas celebrations around the world

Christmas around the world

With parcels whizzing off around the world at this time of year, we thought it apt to take a look at some of the gifts you might like to send at Christmas time, as well as some traditions from around the globe.

Mexico

Christmas is kind of a big deal in Mexico, the festive period running from December 12 to January 6, with one last big celebration on February 2. Homes are decorated with poinsettia plants and nativity scenes over the season. Church plays a central role and after a late night mass on Christmas Eve, it's traditional to dig in to a midnight feast.
Christmas day brings a piñata for children filled with sweets. During the Epiphany on January 6 - el Dia de los Reyes - Mexican children expect presents left by the kings. Cake is also eaten which has a figure of the baby Jesus hidden inside.

Japan

Not an officially recognised holiday in Japan, Christmas is mostly a commercial celebration. More thought of as a couples' holiday than one for families, romantic meals at restaurants are a popular way for young people to spend Christmas Eve. More and more Western marketing has played its role, and now for many families the traditional Christmas dinner is a special KFC meal, which can include champagne and cake. Christmas cakes in Japan can be bought from many shops and are traditionally topped with whipped cream and strawberries.

Australia

Down under, Christmas falls during the hot summer holidays, although many of the cards and decoration still depict snowmen and frosty climes. As such a multicultural society, many of the country's traditions come from other cultures. In recent times Christmas dinner has become a BBQ or picnic, accompanied by champagne and pavlova. 'Carols by Candlelight' - outside concerts - are a popular celebration in the run up to Christmas.

Germany

In Germany the tradition of Christmas is strong - traditional markets mean treats of mulled wine, stollen and gingerbread. Earlier in December, children in Germany celebrate Nikolaustag on the evening of December 5. They place a boot or shoe outside their front door and Nikolaus will visit the house overnight and fill the boot with sweets and smaller presents, of course only if the child has been good. If they haven't then they are left with only a rute - a birch cane!

If you have a Scandinavian friend then they may be grateful to receive a straw 'Yule Goat' to guard their Christmas tree this year. It doesn't need to be anything as grand as the Swedish Gävle Goat, though, which measures 13 metres tall!

Elsewhere in Europe, Italy and Spain have a great love for their nativities. In Italy the nativity crib scene is an important part of the festivities. Neapolitan cribs include not only the usual Christmas story characters, but also models of every day people and objects; sometimes even celebrities.
If you're struggling for a gift idea for a Catalonian friend in Spain, then why not send them an El Caganer for their nativity? Literally translating as 'the defecator', the tradition for this seemingly inappropriate nativity figure dates back two centuries and is thought to bring good luck. Traditionally a figure of a peasant or shepherd, now you can find all sorts of weird and wonderful varieties including Marilyn Monroe, Hello Kitty and even the Pope.

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