The World really is a wonderful place, and no matter which part of the globe you’re in, Christmas and the end of year celebrations are a good chance to relax and think about the past year’s good fortune. Check out these end of year celebrations from different cultures.
A relatively new celebration in Japan, Christmas Eve is more of a big deal than Christmas Day, which is not a national holiday. Young couples like to go for walks to discover Christmas lights, but make sure you get a restaurant reservation because spots are hard to get. The Japanese like to eat fried chicken on Christmas Day and can pre-order Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii – translated as KFC for Christmas. Japanese Christmas cake is the traditional Christmas food and is a sponge decorated with strawberries and whipped cream. New Year is called o shogatsu which is more like a traditional Western Christmas where families have a special meal together, pray and send greeting cards. It’s Suntory time!
Christmas will always be as long as we stand heart to heart and hand in hand – Dr Seuss
Christmas Eve is for singing kalanda (carols) and children play in the streets often carrying a boat which is a very old custom in the Greek Islands. Christmas trees are popular but an older tradition is a wooden bowl with a sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross. Once a day, usually the mother of the family dips the cross in holy water and sprinkles it in each room of the house. This keeps the kallikantzaroi away, or bad spirits. Midnight Mass is very important for most Greeks, and after the service Advent fasts end. Traditional Christmas food include melomakarono and oblong shaped biscuit made from flour, olive oil and honey, then rolled in chopped walnuts. Presents are brought to children by Saint Basil on the 1st January, if they’ve been όμορφη not Άτακτος, nice not naughty.
With only about one percent of people identifying as Christian, Christmas is usually only celebrated in major cities, a bit like Valentine’s Day. Santa Claus is Shen Dan Lao Ren which translates as Old Christmas Man. A new tradition becoming popular on Christmas Eve is giving apples. Apples are exchanged because Christmas Eve is called “Ping’an Ye” (平安夜) in Chinese, and means ‘peaceful evening’, which has been translated from the carol ‘Silent Night’. The word for apple in Mandarin is “píngguǒ” (苹果) which sounds like the word for peace. Like, literally!
Image: Christmas in Japan