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Thursday
Dec142017

Christmas Around The  World

 It is safe to say that Christmas has become a global holiday season; a multinational celebration now acknowledged by both Christian and non-Christian alike.  We all love to feast, exchange gifts and relax during this period, but that may be all we have in common when it comes to Christmas traditions around the world! From food to activities, let’s find out about the various things that take place on Christmas.

 

Lebanon

Being in the Middle East where Abrahamic religions have their roots, lots of the Lebanese Christmas traditions have a theological influence. The nativity scene is almost the same as the Western one except for the manger. The central part of the Lebanese scene is the centre of a cave in which baby Jesus lies in a crèche made of small buds that were planted in the weeks running up to Christmas. Chickpeas, beans, lentils and sprouts are planted into some damp cotton and are grown to represent the bed of baby Jesus. The tradition is reflective of important messages during the Christmas season such as growth and living well, as well as it remembering the story of Jesus.

Flickr | Paul Saad

Another tradition that remains in most parts of the world is the appearance of Santa Claus. Lebanon also embraces St. Nicholas as a symbol of Christmas time. However, his persona is very different to the one we’re used to in the West. Rather than being a secret, magical character, Santa Claus is known as Baba Noël in Lebanon, and he is someone who is concerned with helping the poor. He also enters people’s houses through the front door to greet children rather than sliding down a chimney during the night.

During the evening of Christmas, friends and family usually come together around a bonfire to do a dance called ‘Dabke’. A circle or semi-circle is formed, and whilst holding hands, the line starts to dance form right to left. The dancers are usually dressed in flamboyant colours and outfits, whilst others play percussion and sing along to folk songs.

Flickr | British Embassy Lebanon

Catalonia

Catalonia is known for its stunning and enduring architectural scene. From Gaudi to Montaner, Catalonia buildings are drenched in innovation and have made it a popular holiday spot. It is known for its art and sophistication but the Christmas tradition is a definitely more light hearted. This time, it’s not the food that distinguishes Catalonia, as their Christmas dinner is something that sounds quite familiar, meat and veg with lots of sides. Instead, it is a type of gift and decoration that makes Catalonian Christmas tradition stand out: the caganer. A caganer is a defecating figurine used in the nativity scenes and is sold as a gift across Catalonia during this holiday season.

Flickr | lamoix

It has become a huge hit with tourists and markets are filled with the figurines. Anyone and everyone can be depicted by a caganer, including famous figures. From Barack Obama to Obi-Wan Kenobi, no one is safe from becoming the small ornament. ‘Caganer’ literally means ‘pooper’ in Catalan and they are meant to symbolise fertile lands, bringing a good harvest to farmers. It is also meant to be a humorous way to depict unity as we can all relate to being a ‘caganer’. Another common character is the Caga Tió which is a festive log resembling exactly what you think it is supposed to resemble. He, like all caganers, resembles hope and prosperity for coming year.

Flickr | Enrique González

Japan

Back to festive food! Although only approximately 1% of Japan’s population is Christian, Christmas remains a big event with familiar tropes such as Santa and pine trees. Japan is known for its healthy and tasty cuisine. Steamed gyoza, buckwheat noodles and fresh fish are all a part of the Japanese diet. It is considered to be one of the healthiest diets leaving Japan with one of the highest life expectancies in the world. So, Japanese Christmas dinner may come as surprise. Thanks to a powerful and successful advertising campaign in 1974, KFC has managed to convince the entire nation to eat their fried chicken on Christmas! They originally started the campaign to target tourists who could not source roast chicken for their Christmas in Japan. KFC made a swift marketing move and offered their food as the next best alternative.

Flickr | Robert SanzaloneWhat they didn’t know was they would create a national tradition for years to come! Another traditional food, predating the fried chicken motif, is a strawberry sponge cake. A light baked treat, it is entirely unlike the boozy and fruity Christmas pudding. It’s made with freshly whipped cream, plain sponge and is topped with fresh strawberries. It’s known as Christmas cake, naturally! However, despite its name, the cake is actually a common celebratory food used to represent prosperity and wealth in the coming year. It has its roots in Japan’s rise after being defeated in WWII. All food was scarce and so when aid was sent over to them, sweet items were seen as a luxury. Now, this sweet cake is a reminder of all that has been overcome.

Flickr | Shibuya246

 

Overall, despite all the differences, Christmas has a universal reach. It seems that most places acknowledge it as a time to celebrate with loved ones. Enjoy yours this year!

 

Bonus fact!

Tinsel was invented in Germany in 1610. It is based on a legend about spiders whose web turned into silver when they were spun in a Christmas tree, and it’s become a worldwide tradition ever since.

 

By Hanna-Johara Dokal - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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