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As stores and homes begin to adorn their Christmas trees with lights and tinsel and children’s letter arrive at the North Pole have you ever stopped to think about what Christmas means and how it is celebrated in different corners of the globe?
Although only about 2 percent of the Israeli population are Christians, Christmas is fervently celebrated in the Christian quarter of the Old City where Jesus is said to have lived and died. Churches bejewelled with trees and decorations conduct services nonstop in a variety of languages. Many people will make a pilgrimage six miles south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and marching bands led by Arabian horses will meander through the streets to Manger Square where Jesus was born.
In Mexico, Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter is re-enacted with door to door processions and a parade lit by lanterns in Oaxaca. Another Mexican tradition at Christmas is to break plates to signify the end of the year. There is even a century-old tradition, Noche de Rabanos – Night of the Radishes – that is held on the evening of 23 December in the city centre where farmers gather to display incredible sculptures of nativity scenes and Christmas related items that have been carved out of local giant radishes. Once a winner has been chosen the Mexican skies light up with festive fireworks.
Castleton, a village in the English Peak District is filled with song at Christmas time. On the weekends leading up to Christmas, two of the four stunning caverns host carol singing. The Treak Cliff Cavern holds afternoon candlelit sing-alongs and in the evenings, participants can visit Peak Cavern where the amazing acoustics at the entrance fill the air with carol favorites Festivities go hand in hand with song and Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” released in 1942 is said to be the best selling carol ever.
Christmas is celebrated in different ways around the world with many an interesting tradition and fact. The shortened version of the holiday, “Xmas,” derives from the X in Greek which means Christ. Many countries enjoy decorating real pine trees but it can take around 15 years to grow an average-sized tree.
To many the season is about giving and the Statue of Liberty was actually the world’s largest Christmas gift given to America by the French in 1886 however 1 in 10 people will have reportedly broken a present by the New Year. Furry friends are part of the family too and 7 in 10 people are said to get gifts for their pets. The average number of times Visa Cards are used during Christmas is staggering at 5,340 times per minute.
Food is a focal point at Christmas time and once again countries celebrate in different ways. In Eastern Europe an elaborate twelve meat-free dishes are served on Christmas Eve as the pre-Christmas season is viewed as a time of fasting to be broken on Christmas day. A place is set at tables for deceased relatives in honour of their memory and in the Czech Republic, a traditional meal of fried carp and potato salad is served. Biscuits are a feature in every household, either for visitors or to decorate trees with.
In Peru, families sit down to a feast of turkey stuffed with peanuts and ground beef and garnished with cherries and pineapple slices. Finland serves up a variety of dishes including ham, fish and a liver casserole. Mulled wine is the traditional drink at Christmas.
Different countries will celebrate Christmas with different foods, presents, decorations and traditions but the one thing they have in common at Christmas is it being the season to spend with friends and loved ones enjoying great food, song and festivity.