Christmas Is Approaching,
How Do Different Cultures Celebrate?
As the summer warmth disappears into memory, and autumn has seen the last leaves drop from trees, the drop in temperature signifies the arrival of another winter, and with it, a favourite holiday of people worldwide draws closer.
That holiday is of course, Christmas.
Christmas is universally recognised as a joyful occasion bringing people together regardless languages and borders. Let’s go on a quick romp around the globe to see what Christmas means to different cultures.
Christmas in SEA countries
As international travel becomes more and more popular, Christmas celebrations are also rising in popularity around the world, and the region of Southeast Asia (SEA) is no exception.
Although the spread of Christmas is somewhat restricted in SEA, it is by no means nonexistent. Far from it in fact, many countries and cities in SEA decorate streets, and many people celebrate by eating delicious seasonally appropriate celebratory food, walking the city streets to view the Christmas decorations, or just enjoying time with family.
The way that SEA celebrates Christmas is rarely, if ever, accompanied by the sort of fan fair that is celebrated with in Europe and North America. However, many places do a very good fan fair job when it comes to the signifiers of season in the form of beautiful public decorations.
In Thailand you will be able to find Christmas decorations scattered around, particularly at popular tourist attractions. Shopping malls in Bangkok love to put up Christmas trees, the Central World mall is particularly well known for its extravagant decorations and its enormous Christmas tree.
Also in Bangkok is the Great Gatsby Christmas market. A 1920s Christmas themed market selling a variety of gifts and providing entertainment like Christmas caroling, rides and games. The market is a lovely family affair held at night to take advantage of the cooler weather.
Singapore’s famous shopping district, Orchard Road, is festooned with glittering Christmas lights, while many restaurants offer a Christmas menu. Shopping malls also offer extended opening hours for those scrambling for last minute holiday gifts.
While in Singapore for Christmas, a trip to the Christmas wonderland at Gardens by the Bay is also a must, experience ‘snow’ in the tropics as the gardens are transformed with decorations and lights. Stages with entertainment and stores with Christmas gift ideas abound, there is also the opportunity to meet Santa Claus.
Christmas in Other Asian countries
In China, Christmas is still quite new, and only really celebrated in major cities.
A particularly Chinese custom at Christmas is the giving of Christmas apples. These apples are called ‘peace apples’ in English and they are gifted to friends. It is thought that eating a Christmas apple will help ensure peace and prosperity for the New Year.
Another interesting point about these Christmas apples is their Chinese name. The word for apple in Mandarin is “píngguǒ” (苹果), which sounds like the word for peace.
Couples in China also use the holiday as an excuse for romantic gestures and gift giving.
In Japan Christmas Eve is celebrated more than Christmas day itself and the celebrations center around being joyous. When Christmas day is celebrated in Japan, it is done so with a very different type of meal served and that is fried chicken! Another Christmas food in Japan is the Christmas cake.
The Japanese style of Christmas cake is not the European fruit cake, but rather, a sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries, and interestingly it is also very popular for Christmas in Korea!
In Korea, Christmas is celebrated widely, but it is similar to China as much as Christmas is seen as a day for couples. Christmas is observed as a national holiday in Korea.
Christmas in European countries
A particularly British tradition is Boxing Day. Originally from the UK, it is still celebrated by many countries in the British Common wealth. Boxing Day is celebrated on December 26. The day was formerly used as an opportunity to put together a ‘Christmas box’ which would then be given to employees of a family to say thank you for another year of service. Today the name is the same, but the tradition of handing out Christmas boxes has since disappeared.
In Spain, on December 28, a few days after Christmas, the Spanish celebrate a sort of April fool’s day named Dia de los Santos. The day is used to play pranks and dress up in funny wigs and hats.
In Germany, the ceremony of gift giving occurs on Christmas Eve, unlike many other western countries, where the gift giving usually takes place on Christmas day.
Christmas in North America countries
Meanwhile in North America and the United States in particular, there are many idiosyncratic celebrations.
For the last 60 years, the city of Chandler in Arizona has used tumbleweeds to build a huge town Christmas tree. In San Francisco, as many as 100 boats parade along the city wharf with huge displays of Christmas lights and decorations. Along the banks of the Mississippi river, the residents of Louisiana light bonfires to help guide ‘Papa Noel’ (Santa Claus) and ensure he does not get lost.
In the town of Christmas in Florida, the festival is celebrated year round with an evergreen Christmas tree that stays decorated 12 months a year!
Canada is a large country that experiences cold winters so the most iconic Christmas activities are common place. Activities like sledding, skiing, skating as well as making snowmen and having snowball fights are all popular!
The globalisation of Christmas
Regardless of the country in which the festival is celebrated, it has common themes worldwide. Christmas is always about togetherness, family and joy. Children enjoy the festivities and gifts with particular gusto!
Christmas has taken on different meanings, for different cultures around the globe; those different interpretations are a natural way of appealing to the local people in each region. Each country puts their own spin on the celebration in order to appeal to the local population in their own languages.
This is much like the process that elionetwork undertakes in order to make sure your companies most important points of difference and the unique selling points are clearly communicated in each different country of our global community.
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