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Christmas Celebrations: Cultural Differences

Christmas Celebrations: Cultural Differences

In many Western cultures, the Christmas celebrations are more or less the same or thereabouts. The family gathers on Christmas Eve, a Christmas mass is possibly attended and presents are unwrapped. There are numerous cultures, however, that like their Christmas traditions a little less conventional…

Can’t get enough of Christmas? Go to the Netherlands!

In most cultures, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th and 25th of December. Instead of Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the Dutch have a ‘First Day of Christmas’ and a ‘Second Day of Christmas.’  These days take place on the 25th and 26th of December.

Dutch society is pretty secular, but quite a few families attend a midnight Christmas Mass on the evening of the 24th, which means Christmas will even cover three days if you’re lucky! The Netherlands also have a very 'interesting' character called Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) who comes out as Santa's Helper at festivals and the like. The continued practice is considered racist by many.

xmas rollerskates oldman

Another a-typical Christmas practice can be found in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

Citizens of the city usually attend a morning mass in the jolly season. Nothing special about that, you might think – but what if we told you most people travel to their church on roller skates? Even more remarkable is the fact that the city is totally prepared for this, as roads are cleared to ensure the Venezuelans get to church safe.  

Portuguese Christmas Dinner

Even though the practice is now obsolete, the Portuguese have a Christmas tradition that is far too interesting to omit from this article.

In Portuguese culture, people used to set the Christmas table for a few guests that would probably not eat that much... The tradition required the Portuguese to set the table for relatives that passed away during consoada, the traditional Christmas celebration in Portugal. According to the Portuguese, this was supposed to bring prosperity to the household.

In Spain, they don’t do silly English Christmas carols!

Instead, they sing villancicos, traditional Spanish Christmas songs. The word is derived from the Spanish word for city, ville, the place the songs probably originated. Songs were usually sang during religious celebrations in general, but gradually evolved in simpler songs that are now only sung at Christmas.  Always wanted to hear a typical villancico? Click on the video below!

More happy celebrations can be found in Ethiopia! After the Christmas dinner (which, among other foods, funnily enough consists of popcorn), people leave their seats to get the party started! People dance the Eskista, a traditional Ethiopian dance that involves a lot of head and shoulder movements. This dance is performed on Zefen, a very happy type of music. The tradition actually kills two birds with one stone: it is a festive way to end your Christmas evening and burns away all those extra Christmas pounds at the same time!

Wishing you a Happy Christmas no matter how you celebrate!

by Elise Kuip

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