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International
Differently! It's Christmas Celebration

Armenia

The Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates Christmas on January 6th. On this day it also celebrates the Epiphany. Epiphany is now mainly the time Churches remember the Visit of the Wise Men to Jesus. Some Armenians fast (don't eat anything) in the week before Christmas. The Christmas Eve meal is called Khetum. It often includes dishes such as rice, fish, Nevik (green chard and chick peas) and yogurt/wheat soup called Tanabur. Desserts include dried fruits and nuts, including Rojik (whole shelled walnuts threaded on a string and encased in grape jelly), Bastukh (a paper-like dessert made of grape jelly, cornstarch and flour). This lighter menu is designed to ease the stomach off the week-long fast and prepare it for the rather more substantial Christmas Day dinner. Children take presents of fruits, nuts, and other candies to older relatives.

Santa Claus Gaghant Baba / Kaghand Papa traditionally come on New Year's Eve (December 31st) because Christmas Day it is thought of as more of a religious holiday in Armenia.

Egypt

Christmas Day isn’t celebrated on the 25th December but on 7th January. The Coptic month leading to Christmas is called Kiahk. People sing special praise songs on Saturday night before the Sunday Service. For the 43 days before Christmas advent from 25th November to 6th January, Coptic Orthodox Christians have a special fast where they basically eat vegan diet.  They don’t eat anything containing product that came from animals. This is called “The Holy Nativity Fast”. On 6th January Coptic Christian go to church for service which starts at 10.30pm where people reach by 9’0 clock to meet the family and friends over there.  The services finished in midnight around 4’0 clock in morning. When Christmas service ends people go home to eat the big Christmas meal.  

Ethiopia

Ethiopia still uses the old Julian calendar, so they celebrate Christmas on January 7th instead of 25th December. Ethiopian Orthodox Church is called Ganna. Most people go to church on Christmas Day. Many people take part in a special Advent fast during 43 days before Christmas. Its start on 25th November and its called “Fast of the Prophet”.  At dawn on the morning of Ganna people get dressed in white or else they wear a traditional dress called “Shamma”. The early Ganna mass start at 4am. They head to church gives services with holding candles.

Montenegro and Serbia

Christmas Eve celebrate on 6th January and Christmas Day on 7th January. Advent starts at 28th November. Outside church there is often bonfire on Christmas Eve. Under the dinner table there should be some straw as a symbol of the stable/ cave where Jesus was born. When the straw is spread out some people make the noise of Chicken. Clucking like a chicken symbolizes that Jesus wanted people to follow him like one big family. It’s also common for a handful of walnuts to be spread on the straw.

Russia

Christmas is Russia is normally celebrated on 7th January. Advent starts at 28th November to 6th January, so its long 40 days. Some people fast during Christmas Eve until the first star has appeared in the sky. People then eat (Kutia) Porridge made wheat or rice with honey, poppy seeds, fruits, berries and dry fruits. Kutia is eaten in one common bowl symbolizes the unity. Some thrown one tablespoon of Kutia toward the ceiling, if it gets stuck to ceiling it will bring good luck and good harvest. Some orthodox Russian Christian doesn’t even eat meat or fish on Christmas Eve.

Sweden

Around Christmas time in Sweden one of the biggest celebrations is St. Lucia’s Day on December 13th. The celebration comes from the stories by the monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden.  St. Lucia’s day is now celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red shash around her waist and a crown of a candle on her head. It symbolizes new life in winter. St. Lucia’s day is also celebrated in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Bosnia and Croatia. On 13th January after the Christmas Eve is taken down the Christmas tree and eaten over the left over cookies and sweets.

Ukraine

Christmas in Ukraine is normally celebrated on 7th January. Advent starts at 28th November to 6th January, so its long 40 days. People fast during Christmas Eve until the first start has appeared in the sky. The star represents “The Journey of a Wise Man to find Jesus” and that Jesus was born. St. Nicholas visit children are on 19th December which is also celebrated as St. Nicholas day. Christmas tree is decorated with artificial spider web and finding a web on your tree is considered as a good luck.

Belgium

Children in Belgium believe that 'Sinterklaas/St. Niklaas' (Flemish) or 'Saint Nicholas' (Walloon) brings those presents on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day.

Children put their shoes in front of the fireplace, together some for Sinterklaas like a drawing or biscuits; they might also leave a carrot for Sinterklass's horse and something for Zwarte Piet (Black Peter, Sinterklass's assistant). Then in the night, Sinterklaas arrives on the roof on his horse with Zwarte Piet. Zwarte Piet climbs down the chimney and leaves the presents in and around the shoes. Sinterklaas has a book in which he keeps all the names of the children and tells if they've been bad or good. Children are told that if they've been bad, Zwarte Piet will put you in his sack and take you back to Spain! Traditional foods that are left for Sinterklaas include tangerines, gingerbread, chocolate and 'Mokjes' (cookies made in the shapes of letters. There are lots of songs that children sing about Sinterklaas. Different regions of Belgium have different customs and traditions about St. Nicholas.

Netherlands and Holland

For most children in The Netherlands, the most important day during December is 5th December, when Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) brings them their presents!

St. Nicholas' day is on the 6th December, but in The Netherlands, the major celebrations are held on the 5th December. The name Santa Claus comes from the name Sinterklaas.

It all starts on the second Saturday of November (the first Saturday after 11th November) when Sinterklaas travels to a city or town in The Netherlands. Dutch tradition says that St. Nicholas lives in Madrid, Spain and every year he chooses a different harbor to arrive in Holland, so as many children as possible get a chance to see him.

Sinterklaas travels with his servants called 'Zwarte Pieten' ('Black Peters'). When Sinterklaas and the Black Peters come ashore from the steam boat, all of the local church bells ring in celebration. Sinterklaas, dressed in his red robes, leads a procession through the town, riding a white horse. Every town in The Netherlands has a few Sinterklaas helpers, dressed the same as Sinterklaas who help give the presents out. (And sometimes you might one see one or more Zwarte Pieten with Sinterklaas!)

 



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