Despite Christmas frequently being replaced by the Festival of Winter some traditions are retained. Special prayers are said and people fast for up to 39 days, followed by a supper of 12 courses: one for each apostle. Christmas dinner favourites include goose and suckling pig and Babushka distributes presents to children
Scattered hay encourages horse feed to grow and clucking noises enthuse hens to lay.
Christmas trees or Yelka, flowers and coloured lights are usual decorations
Australian Christmases feature a turkey dinner – often at mid-day on the beach. Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve sees thousands gathering in Melbourne. Décor strongly features Christmas Bush, a native plant with red flowered leaves.
Christmas shopping in shorts and t-shirts precedes Santa, who often arrives on a surfboard.
Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia with Christianity as its main religion and festivities begin with a mass known as Misa de Gallo. In The Panunuluyan the story of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter is enacted alongside old tribal customs, include serenading cumbancheros and strolling minstrels.
Midnight Mass is a highlight and children leave their shoes outside, hoping they’ll be filled with gifts.
December 25 is not a holiday but children dress up and school games are rewarded with prizes. Hymns and carols are sung and drinking, eating & merrymaking are the characteristics of festive celebrations..
Around 8% of Indonesians are Christians in a predominantly Muslim country and the minority continue to celebrate in traditional style with charity functions also organised.
Christmas in Malaysia is a public and religious holiday with the Christian community of 7% observing traditional celebrations. Shopping malls are lit and decorated and Santa dishes out sweets to children. Carollers tour homes and Midnight Mass is a highlight.
Christmas Markets feature throughout Germany, specialising in local, traditional foods and products – great places to meet some of the locals selling homemade wares such as candles, carved wooden figures, toy dolls made out of fruit, and handmade ornaments.
Delicious eats include baked apples, spiced cakes, gingerbread, roasted almonds, cooked sausages and mulled wine. Villages are decorated with white lights, advent wreaths – and dazzling Christmas trees and children dressed as kings sing carols.
Spain’s deep religious roots are evident with many nativity scenes called “Nacimiento,” and Santa often replaced by the Three Wise Men, who leave gifts for children.
Christmas markets and brightly decorated trees abound with piles of fruit, flowers, sweets, candles and wonderful hand-made decorations. At midnight on Christmas Eve, bells summon families to church, where Christmas Day is also spent, followed by enormous feasts.
One unusual tradition known as “Hogueras” sees people jumping over bonfires to protect against illness.
So, whether you’re surfing with Santa, strolling with minstrels or leaping over bonfires, we’d like to wish everyone a very happy Christmas from the IOE!