Celebrating Christmas around the world: Czech Republic, Ghana or Japan

Apps by Annie

American, or better called Western traditions, are well known all around the world from Christmas themed movies such as Home Alone and Love actually. We all know that Santa Claus brings the presents, we remember seeing the kids run down on Christmas Morning ready to open the presents and look into the stockings they put up above the fireplace.

We also all know that traditionally, the Americans serve turkey with cranberry sauce and various side dishes and usually decorate their houses heavily with Christmas lights and inflated Santas. But do you also want to know how people celebrate Christmas in different parts of the world? Let’s find out!

CZECH REPUBLIC

The main celebrations take place on Christmas Eve (24th). The Czechs eat a traditional Christmas dinner, the meal consisting of fish soup and potato salad with fried carf or snitzel (řízek). Some people fast before Christmas Eve dinner in the hopes of seeing a vision of ‘the golden pig’ as a sign of good luck.

Right after dinner, Baby Jesus (Ježíšek) leaves presents under the Christmas Tree and children know that he had beed there because he rings a bell to show that the presents are ready to be opened. Amongst some traditions are means to foretell the future such as pouring lead into water or cutting an apple in half to see the star in the middle, or putting fish scales under dinner plates to ensure wealth in the upcoming year.

After dinner is eaten and presents are unwrapped, it’s time to sing some Christmas carols and go to Midnight mass. The Czechs may be one of the most atheistic countries in the worlds, but many people cherish going to church on Christmas Eve to feel the true spirit of Christmas. These masses usually start at 10 so everyone in the family can attend.

The 25th and 26th of December are usually spent visiting family members and friends and exchanging presents – these two days are National Holidays!

GHANA

People in Ghana start celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve with Church services that have songs and dances. Choirs sing, children put on a Nativity Play and the people come to dance and enjoy the holiday spirit. Songs are sung in many languages as Ghana has many language groups.

On Christmas Day, people dress in traditional colorful clothes and go to Church together. After Church mass is over, people return to their home to exchange presents.

As in many other countries, food is an important staple in the celebrations. Ghanaians cook stew or okra soup and a traditional paste called ‘fufu’ made of yam and flour and also eat many fruits and nuts, while the houses are decorated with paper ornaments made by the whole family. People also decorate a tree in their yards, often mango or cashew trees.

Gifts are given by Father Christmas, which is a carry over from the colonial times, usually in the form of chocolates, special cookies, new clothes, shoes or perhaps books. As it is in Western countries, Christmas in Ghana is about friends and family gathering together over a nice meal to enjoy each other’s company, but the main focus remains on the message of the birth of Christ.

JAPAN

Christmas is not celebrated as a religious holiday because there are not many Christians in Japan, but it has become widely popular in the last few decades mainly due to American influence after World War II.

Japanese people celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, the 24th of December. It is thought to be a romantic day that couples can spend together, walking around cities decorated with lights and exchanging presents.

A traditional Christmas food in Japan is in fact Christmas cake! It’s usually a sponge cake decorated with whipped cream and fruits – families often bake and decorate the cakes together to get into the Christmas spirit. What is even more interesting is the Japanese tradition of eating fried chicken on Christmas Day.

For restaurants such as KFC, this is the busiest time of year with people placing orders weeks in advance. The Japanese now believe that a chicken dinner is a traditional Western meal instead of the more traditional turkey or ham.

On the other hand, the Japanese New Year is more like a traditional Western Christmas. Families get together to eat and spend time together, send greeting cards and exchange presents with one another. The New Year’s celebrations last until the 3rd of January.

Do you find some of these traditions unusual? Tell us about your experience from different countries in the comments.