Every nation has its own special Christmas tradition, but only a few people are familiar with other cultures’ celebration specialities. As the festive season is coming up rapidly, I figured it would be fun to look at how some of our foreign students’ would celebrate Christmas at home.
Before taking a close look at other countries’ festivities, let’s examine the Hungarian habits as most students from abroad have little information related to our country’s specialties. As for the roles of Santa Clause, we can say that it is somewhat since it is the so called “Télapó” who visits the well-behaved children on the 6th December and leaves them some sweets if their shoes are clean enough. The Christmas presents, placed under the nicely decorated Christmas tree, are from Baby Jesus who came on Christmas Eve. Finally, on the 31st December people go crazy celebrating the end of the year and the beginning of the new year with their family and friends.
In Spain, children have to write letters to the Kings asking for the desired presents on Boxing Day (December 26.). These wishes come true on the 5th January which is called the festival of Three Wise Kings. The kids put their shoes on windowsills or under the Christmas tree and kings would fill them with presents. If children are not well-behaved enough, they will get only pieces of coal made of sugar. It is very similar to our Santa Claus celebration. . On the 31st of December people have to eat 12 grapes with the 12 strokes of the clock at midnight to make the next year lucky, each grape representing a month of the coming year.
Germany’s traditions are very similar to ours here in Hungary. Christmas trees play a very important role in the celebration and there are many songs about their beauty in this country. On the 24th December, families go to church too, however, prior to that they celebrate the birth of Jesus only within the smaller family. They are sitting around and talking together, eating traditional Christmas foods and exchanging the present with close relatives. On the 25th and 26th December, large families are coming together and rarely seen people meet each other. At the end of the year, on the 31st December, everybody celebrates New Year’s Eve and make parties all around the country.
As many of you might have experienced already, Christmas has a completely different perception in other parts of the world. . For example in Cambodia, where Christmas as such is somewhat insignificant as the majority of the people in the country are Buddhists for whom this period of the year is not that important, they view it as the influence of the western world. According to the Cambodian students, there is no similar thing in their country, but in some schools students like to organise parties and decorate the classrooms with Christmas decoration.
As far as China is concerned, the situation is quite similar to that of Cambodia as only a small percent of population is Christian. Christmas is mostly celebrated in bigger cities where the decoration and the way of celebration are quite similar to that of Europe and America owned to the western influence. Nevertheless, it has become more and more popular in the whole country in the last few years.