In the UK, many of us enjoy turkey, mince pies and presents on 25 December, but let’s see how Christmas is celebrated in other countries all over the world.
In Poland, Christmas Eve dinner is the most important celebration of the year. During Christmas Eve, also known as Wigilia, families traditionally gather for a meal which they will start eating when they see the first star in the night sky. There is no red meat served but fish, usually carp.
The supper, which includes many traditional dishes and desserts, can sometimes last for over two hours. Wigilia will also include the family sharing a special bread wafer called “Oplatek”, which symbolises forgiveness.
Christmas starts on 8 December in Spain with the Dia de la Inmaculada Concepción (Day of the Immaculate Conception). This day is the beginning of Christmas in Spain, but there are lots of other celebrations to enjoy till the end of season.
On 22 December, there is a big lottery draw called El Gordo, which is the biggest and second longest running lottery in the world. El Gordo is shown on the television and on the radio, where lots of people win money. Christmas Eve is celebrated with late night dinners in most Spanish houses. Some traditional dishes include Turron (nougat), Polvorones (Spanish almond cookies), marzipan figurines, roasted lamb, suckling pig, and seafood.
Finnish people believe that Santa Claus or Father Christmas lives in the north part of Finland called Korvatunturi (or Lapland), north of the Arctic Circle. People from all over the world send letters to Santa Claus in Finland.
The highlight of the Finnish Christmas celebration is on Christmas Eve, and not the Christmas Day itself. Christmas Eve is very special and the most important day over Christmas. It’s traditional to eat rice porridge and plum fruit juice for breakfast. In a city called Turku, a special ceremony happens, which many people watch on television or listen to on the radio.
The Christmas festivities begin on December 13 with St. Lucia’s Day, which celebrates the patron saint of light. One story says that St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was killed in the 4th Century because of what she believed in. Swedish people mark this with many Lucia processions, led by a girl in a white dress with a crown of candles. The main celebration and the exchange of gifts takes place on Christmas Eve, December 24.
From late November until Christmas, at most Swedish restaurants, you can enjoy the beloved julbord, the traditional Swedish Christmas buffet. Swedes love their julbord so much that they do it all over again on Christmas Eve. Julbord includes pickled herring, gravlax, paté, knäckebröd, ham, meatballs with beetroot salad and lutfisk.
In Japan, Christmas in known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange presents.
On Christmas Day, fried chicken and Christmas cake are eaten. Christmas cake is a sponge cake covered in whipped cream and strawberries. The tradition to eat chicken began in the 1970s, when a “Kentucky for Christmas” campaign became very popular, making the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices-laced birds a staple of the holiday in Japan. The KFC website in Japan reminds customers to be sure to order certain chicken dinners early, because supplies are limited. It’s so serious that consumers actually need a voucher to pick up the meals.