The festive season around the world
We take a flying trip around the planet to look at different Christmas customs
A time for feasting
In Ukraine Christmas Day is celebrated on January 7, in line with the old Julian calendar of church festivals. The main Christmas meal, called ‘Sviata Vecheria’ (or Holy Supper) is eaten on Christmas Eve and has 12 dishes which represent the 12 disciples. The feasting only starts once the youngest child has seen the first evening star appear.
South Africa is perhaps home to the most unusual festive dinner – as some tuck into deep-fried caterpillars of Emperor Moths. In Japan, the season is known as a time to spread happiness and typically fried chicken is the Christmas Day lunch and a trip to KFC.
Deck the halls
If you think November is too early to put up the Christmas decorations, in the Philippines they start celebrating from September onwards with extravagant décor and giant lanterns in every colour!
In Poland, they decorate their trees with spider webs because, according to legend, a spider wove a blanket for baby Jesus. Even in India where only two per cent of the population celebrate Christmas, most households – including those of nonbelievers – twinkle with oil lamps on their courtyard or roof.
We used to leave mince pies and a carrot out for Father Christmas and Rudolph the reindeer, but in Norway children leave out porridge for Jul Nisse, a cheeky sprite who is said to guard farm animals and play tricks on children if they don’t leave him some tasty hot oats.
In Germany, instead of stockings, children leave shoes outside their front door, which Father Christmas – or Nikolaus – will leave presents in if they’ve been good. But if they’ve been naughty his servant, Knecht Ruprecht, will just leave them twigs!
And in Greece families hang sausages or sweetmeats in the chimney to appease goblins, said to plays tricks on people from December 25 to January 6.