How do we understand Christmas? Surely, the answer depends on the individual, his or her religious beliefs, background and cultural understanding.
Many homes worldwide will have a Christmas tree, some kind of Christmas decoration, special meal, or some other festive treat during the holidays. Children send their wish lists to Santa Claus or the Three Kings and everyone starts talking about feelings of love, brotherhood, solidarity…
But Christmas is not celebrated in the same way worldwide. In fact, some traditions are a far cry from Christmas as we know it in Europe. Even within Europe, festivities vary from country to country. Many countries have substituted the figure of Santa Claus with another character in charge of bringing presents to children.
In Holland, this figure is called Sinterklaas, a kindly bishop wearing red robes and riding a white horse. In Spain, children await the arrival of the Three Wise Men. The Christkindl, a fair haired girl, brings baskets of presents to German homes, while in Italy a witch called La Befana brings children gifts and sweets during the feast of the Epiphany.
But what do we know about celebrations in other places? Let’s look at some different Christmas customs across the world.
In the Brazilian Copacabana, the Filhas do santo (African priestesses) light candles and throw small boats full of flowers and gifts to the sea. If the tide takes them, it is a good omen, because it means that Yemaya, Goddess of the Seas, blesses the New Year.
In Colombia, it is the Baby Jesus, and not Santa Claus, who brings gifts to children, and leaves them on the bed of the youngest child, who wakes up on December 25th happily surrounded by gifts.
When Christmas arrives in [...]