Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated most commonly on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. People call it Noel, Nativity, Yule, and the more popular slang version, Xmas.
The traditional Christmas narrative, as many are familiar with, is that Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem. In accordance with the prophecies of the Old Testament, Joseph and Mary arrived in the city only to find the inn had no room. They were then offered a stable where Christ was born, with angels proclaiming this good news to the shepherds who then spread the message further.
Moreover, for many Christians, it is a day where God came into the world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity. Thus, it’s considered to be the main purpose for celebrating Christmas.
However, in other places around the world, this special day is not only to remember Jesus’ birth to the world. It is also a day for families to get together, exchange generosities through gifts, and spend quality time with their loved ones. So what does Christmas look like in various part of the world?
Christmas in Italy is celebrated starting from early December until the day of Epiphany, which is the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi in Matthew 2:1-12. Especially in Vatican City in Rome, the spirit of Christmas is everywhere. In front of St. Peter’s Basilica, a massive Christmas tree is erected and many families buy tickets to join the festive midnight mass held by the Pope.
A nativity scene, or a ‘presepe,’ is believed to have originated from Italy before being popularized in many countries around the world. In Italy, you can find nativity scenes in churches, houses, and town squares. In the Abruzzi region, there is a tradition that bagpipers or ‘zampognari’ come into the towns and play their instruments for the people. They do this to symbolize the shepherds who came in search of the baby Jesus.
One of the unique Christmas celebrations in Germany is the festiveness of their Christmas markets. Many towns around the country hold open-air markets which open throughout the month of December. You can find many traditional German delicatessens such as Stollen (a rich German fruit and nut cake made) and ‘Lebkuchen’ hearts or gingerbread hearts. The most famous German Christmas market is in Nuremberg, so if you’re in Germany during the holiday season definitely put this city on your itinerary!
The Philippines is a country with Christianity as the dominant religion. About 81% of the population professed Catholicism specifically. That means during Christmas, the celebration is a big deal for the majority of Filipinos.
There is a special tradition in the Philippines where people decorate their homes with ‘paról’. It’s a lantern in the shape of a star comes with colorful wrapping papers and glitters to remember the star of Bethlehem. People create paróls using bamboo and paper, you can find them easily in street vendors throughout the Philippines during Christmastime.
Christmas on the beach? That is what you’ll get if you happen to be in Australia during the month of December. Because of its location in the southern hemisphere, December in Australia is summer time. It’s common that various churches will organize picnics and carol on the beach. While in other parts of the world Christmas equals to a wintery wonderland, in Australia you’ll get sunshine and warmth!
It is the fourth-largest nation by population (250 million) and also the largest Islamic nation in the world. However, close to 9 percent of the population are Christians and they celebrate Christmas differently depending on the region. In central Java, you’ll find shadow puppet shows with nativity themes in the local theaters.
Whereas in Borneo, Christians have “open houses” and serve guests with delicatessen and drinks. They welcome anyone who wants to pay a visit and wish a merry Christmas to all. Similarly, in Bali, which is where the nation’s largest Hindu community lives, the Christians will give gifts (usually food) to their Hindu neighbors. They also decorate the front of their homes with “penjor” which is a traditional Balinese decoration made from the bamboo stalk and leaves in the shape of a dragon’s tail.
Christmas is a big celebration in the United States and its tradition is widely popularized around the globe. People usually prepare a feast on Christmas Eve and family members will gather together from near and far. Christmas shopping is common and a gift exchange is one of the highlights of the occasion, especially for children.
Many people, whether they’re practicing Christians or not, will send Christmas cards to their friends and relatives. Churches around the nation usually prepare a special sermon for their Christmas Eve service. Whether people celebrate the birth of Jesus or wait in anticipation for Santa Claus to slide down through the chimney and give gifts to children, it’s a festive celebration in the United States during Christmas.
StayMarta is a Christian hospitality marketplace, connecting travelers with local hosts and various accommodations and adventures. We provide safe lodgings and experiences with Christian values, which travelers can book through our online platform.
Got an accommodation space or adventure to share? Become a host with us. Sign up for free!