(ABC4 News) – Today, more than 2 billion people in more than 160 countries consider Christmas to be the most important holiday of the year.
In the United States, 9 in 10 people celebrate the holiday, even if they aren’t Christian. No matter their major religion, Christmas has a cultural significance in many countries.
Christmas in America:
Americans like to decorate the outsides of their homes with lights and festive decorations. It’s common to see figures of Santa Claus and his reindeer. Children leave out milk and cookies for the big guy in red on Christmas Eve, and windows are filled with brightly lit Christmas trees.
The traditional American Christmas meal is turkey or ham with all the trimmings.
Christmas in France:
If you’re spending Christmas in France this year, expect to see clay nativity scenes inside friends’ and families’ homes. On Christmas Eve, instead of filling stockings, Pere Noel, the French equivalent of Santa Claus, fills children’s shoes with treats. It’s common for French families to attend midnight mass at their church or cathedral.
The traditional French Christmas meal is likely to end with a Buche de Noel, a traditional Yule log-shaped cake specially prepared for Christmas.
Christmas in Japan:
In Japan, Christmas is more of a commercial event than a religious one. Only one percent of the Japanese population identifies as Christian.
Hotei-osho, the Japanese equivalent to Santa Claus, is a Buddhist monk who leaves presents for children. Several Japanese Christmas traditions are similar to to Valentine’s Day traditoins in the United States, with occasional expressions of love to significant others.
Christmas in China:
In China, only about one percent of the population identify as Christian, and the holiday is only celebrated in major cities. In those big cities, it’s common to see large Christmas trees and lights.
Santa is known as “Sheng dan lao ren,” which means old man Christmas.
Foods eaten on Christmas are usually associated with Chinese New Year and include roast, barbecued pork, chicken, dumplings (jiaozi), and soup with wood ear fungus.
Christmas in the Netherlands:
In the Netherlands, Christmas is celebrated on December 5th and 6th. On these days, Sinterklass leaves gifts for children in the clogs that they leave by the fireplace.
Traditional Dutch Christmas dinners consist of venison, goose, hare or turkey with plenty of vegetables and Kerstbrood, which means Christmas bread.
Christmas in Brazil:
Many Brazilian Christmas traditions come from Portgual. It’s common for Brazilians to set up nativity scenes known as Prespios, in churches throughout December.
Catholic Brazilians will attend midnight Mass service or Missa do Galo (Mass of the Roster) with large firework shows afterwards.
A traditional Brazilian Christmas dinner includes pork, turkey, ham, salads, and fresh and dried fruits.
Christmas in Russia:
Russian Christmas is celebrated on January 7th. The date is different because the Russian Orthodox Church uses the old ‘Julian’ calendar for religious celebration days.
Following the revolution in 1917, Christmas was banned as a religious holiday. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, people were free to celebrate again.
However, Christmas comes in second to New Year celebrations, which most festivities center around.
A traditional Russian Christmas dinner includes roasted meat chunks in jelly called kholodets.
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