Many of you reading this page know the Biblical story of Christmas. But do you have any idea about how some of the customs and traditions of Christmas came about? What do the Italian children do at this time of the year? What kinds of food is served in Spain for Christmas? During this festive season, I would like to share a bit of the history of some of these celebrations in various parts of the world.

 

I’ve also included some suggestions so you and your family can create your own Christmas traditions and customs.

 

I hope you enjoy our travel around the world at Christmas.

 

The Christmas season is a special time I look forward to throughout the year. I enjoy learning about traditions and beliefs from other countries. Every country has unique Christmas customs and beliefs. Let’s take a look at how the French celebrate Christmas.

 

Church

In France, Christmas is known as Noel, which comes from the French expression “les bonnes nouvelles” which means “the good news” and denotes The Gospel. One very important part of Christmas for many French families is attending Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It is followed by a huge feast, called le Reveillon (which comes from the verb reveiller – to wake up), which is a symbolic awakening to the meaning of Christ’s birth. Many families go so far as to leave a candle burning in a window in case the Virgin Mary passes by.

 

Gifts

Christmas is primarily seen as a children’s holiday, and they open small gifts on Christmas Eve. The remaining main gifts and cards are exchanged on new Year’s Day. Adults can open their gifts on Christmas Day. Children place their shoes in front of the fireplace in the hope that Pere Noel will fill them with gifts. Just like children around the world, French children like to send gift requests to Santa. And they are sure to get a postcard in reply! You see, a law was passed in 1962 that all letters written to Santa would receive a postcard in reply.

 

Food

French cooking has a prominant place at Christmastime. There are many traditional dishes to be found in many of the houses. Each region has its own traditional menu, with dishes such as goose, chicken, capon, and boudin blanc (which is similar to a white pudding). It is thought to be good luck to eat oysters, but the main course is almost always turkey stuffed with chestnuts.

 

Another tradition is that meat should not be eaten on Christmas Eve. And it is said to be good luck to have 13 desserts during the Christmas Eve festivities. Yummy! This number represents the 12 apostles and Jesus at the Last Supper. The traditional dessert dishes may include raisins, dates, oranges, dried figs, nuts, and the Buche de Noel (Yule log). The Buche de Noel is usually made from chocolate, rolled with a butter cream or whipped cream filling, then covered in a chocolate icing. Can you say delicious!?!

 

Some regions of France serve a Three Kings Cake. This is supposed to be in honour of the three kings who play such a significant role in the Christmas story. This cake has a bean hidden inside it. Whoever is the lucky one to find the bean in their slice of cake is made King or Queen for a day.

 

Decorations

The Christmas tree, if displayed, is put up just a few days before Christmas. Nearly every home has a Nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus, along with the three Kings, shepherds, and even other French figures, such as local dignitaries or characters.

 

Although mistletoe is hung above the door during the Christmas season, it is more related to the New Year. It is thought to bring good fortune throughout the coming year. You might be lucky and receive a kiss. The French kiss under the mistletoe and offer their best wishes for the coming year as they hear the bells toll signaling the start of the New Year.

 

Some families burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day in the belief that if they do, they will have an abundant harvest the following year.

 

These are just some fun facts about Christmas customs in another part of the world. We at GlobalChristmas.com wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

 

December

4

The Right Attitude Toward Christmas

Let me paint you a picture. There is a Bible laying on a table in the corner, a Nativity standing in another corner, and Silent Night is softly playing on the stereo. It is December 24th and the Jordan-St. Clair family is setting around the fireplace. The children, Karen, Keith, and Kelly, are talking about what they think they’re getting for Christmas. Mom is humming to herself while playing a game on the computer, and Dad is reading while quietly watching the children, chuckling to himself. Let’s go in closer and listen to this family’s conversations.



“I know what Kelly got you for Christmas, Keith, but I’m not gonna tell you! Ha! Ha! Ha!” says Karen.  “Aw, come on, Karen. Tell me!”  “Karen, don’t you dare tell him or I won’t take you shopping with me ever again” says Kelly. “Kelly, you know I promised not to tell, and you know I keep my promises. I’m not gonna tell.”



“Is it something I can wear, or is it something I can play with?” “I’m not gonna tell you, so you might as well stop asking.” “That’s alright – I know what I’m getting anyway. So there… you don’t have to tell me. And I know what Karen is getting too!”



Karen looks up and says, “Oooh! Tell me!” “I ain’t – unless you tell me what Kelly got me” “Don’t you…” “Don’t worry, I won’t. Keith, you’re just gonna have to wait until tomorrow to find out.”



“Alright kids,” says Dad. “That’s enough. Let’s sing a Christmas carol and have our Christmas Bible lesson. Now what do you want to sing? Karen?” “Aw Dad,” says Keith, “she always gets to pick what we sing.” “Well, Keith, what do you want to sing?” “I don’t know”, answers Keith, with a grimace and a shrug. Everyone laughs. “Well, since you don’t know, I guess Karen has the best choice. What do you want to sing this time, Karen?” “Let’s sing “O come All Ye Faithful.” “Mom, start us off.”



“O Come All Ye Faithful, Joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him, Born the King of Angels; O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”



“Dad,” says Mom, “instead of having our usual Bible reading, why don’t we each tell what Christmas means to us? Keith, why don’t we start with you?” Keith responds, “Well, it means a vacation from school and new games and lots of football on TV and lots of food.” “It means I get lots of toys to play with”, says Karen. “I get to sleep late and get new clothes”, says Kelly.



“Mom, your turn.” “Well, kids, Christmas means more than a lot of toys and gifts. Christmas is the time when people should be remembering that it is the time when the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, came into the world as a baby. Dad, why don’t you read that passage in Luke 2?”



“That’s a good idea. Hand me my tablet. This year, I’m going to read from the Message version.” Keith jumps up and gets Dad’s tablet and hands it to him. Dad quickly flips to Luke 2, and clears his throat.



“About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.”



“Hmmm,” says Karen, “then, we should not consider ourselves but think of Jesus Christ.” “That’s right”, says Keith. “I’m gonna try and remember that from now on” Kelly chimes in, “Me too. Im gonna tell all my friends about it too so they will know.”



I think that each of us should consider and remember the message that the Jordan-St. Clair family learned today and apply it to ourselves.


Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace


Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born


Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth