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Opinion

Christmas celebrated multiple ways by many different cultures around world

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December 6, 2012

Is there a Christmas tradition in your family that you look forward to every year?

I look forward to the traditions in my family every year, which makes Christmas my favorite holiday. Family, food and presents are always something to be joyful about. But what kinds of holiday traditions do people around the globe like to take pride in?

Most Americans probably have similar holiday traditions with a few unique to their own family. But the traditions start to differ more and more internationally based on the culture in a specific country. Many countries do not celebrate Christmas, but ones that do, like European countries, celebrate Christmas in very different and unique ways.

I am particularly interested in the Christmas traditions of my ancestors from Ireland. The Christmas celebration of the Irish lasts from Christmas Eve until the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6, also referred to by the Irish as “Little Christmas.”

In the United States, Christmas is a joyful time of fun for everybody, but in Ireland, it is more religiously focused.

Families place lighted candles in their windows on Christmas Eve as a sign that Mary and Joseph may be looking for shelter. These candles are usually red in color.

The children often use Christmas sacks instead of stockings for gifts, and it is a tradition to leave out mince pies and a bottle of Guinness for Santa. After the Christmas evening meal, bread and milk are left out and the door is unlatched as a symbol of hospitality.

Feliz Navidad! Christmas in Spain is a very festive and religious time of the year. As the stars come out on Christmas Eve, tiny oil lamps are lit in all the windows. After midnight mass and Christmas dinner, dancers and onlookers fill the street. There is a famous Spanish Christmas dance known as the “Jota,” which has been passed down for many centuries.

Children in Spain think of the gift bearers to be the Three Wise Men, who usually arrive on Jan. 6, the date they gave gifts to Jesus.

On Christmas Eve, or “Nochebuena,” families gather around the manger set up in their home to feast and rejoice. These mangers are present in nearly every Spanish home. They also like to divulge on a special holiday treat: a turron, which is an almond candy.

The Spanish Christmas is much like the American Christmas, where people attend church and exchange gifts. One unique difference is that children play on swing sets set up specifically for the day. This symbolizes the encouraging of the sun to “swing” ever higher in the sky.

Christmas in Germany has a long duration, with celebrations beginning even before Dec. 1. Families often set aside special dates during this time to make spiced cakes and cookies, gifts, and decorations. A traditional Christmas toy is a little doll made of fruit.

Children in parts of Germany believe in Christkind, a winged figure dressed in a white robe and gold crown that distributes gifts. Children write letters to Christkind and leave them on their windowsills, sometimes decorated with glue and sugar to add a sparkle.

There is also another Christmas Eve figure known as Weihnachtsmann, or “Christmas Man.” This man also brings gifts and closely resembles Santa Claus. Germans are also known to celebrate by making beautiful gingerbread houses and cookies.

There is a special Christmas tree pastry, known as the Christbaumgeback, which is a white dough that can be molded into shapes and used as Christmas tree decorations. Christmas trees and wreaths, like in the United States, are also prevalent in Germany.

In some homes, a room will be locked before Christmas. Then on Christmas Eve, the children are awakened at midnight by their parents to go to the locked room. The door is opened and they see the tree all lit up, with little parcels on tables.

There are many more traditions that are unique and interesting to a certain country. Learn something this Christmas and discover the different holiday traditions around the world. You never know what unique traditions are out there in other countries. Maybe you would like to try one!

Cristin Dempsey is an English major and music minor from Eagan, Minn. She enjoys writing, playing the flute and swimming. After college she would like to pursue a career as an editor.