Here in the UK, Christmas is a BIG thing! We spend billions on gifts, decorate our houses, and eat so much food we’re practically forced to join a gym come the new Year. This got us thinking… what is Christmas like around the world? We did a little research about the holiday to see how Christmas across top TEFL destinations unfolded, so here goes…
Christmas (or Navidad as it is known in most parts of Spain) is an officially recognised holiday; and on Christmas Eve (Nochebuena), a large family dinner is held, which can last until 6am (very late). The food served can vary as each Spanish region has its own distinct specialities: although typically, the meal starts with a seafood dish, and is followed by a bowl of delicious hot soup. On Christmas day, children usually receive one or two presents brought by Papa Noel (Father Noel) and there is also a special Christmas dance called the Jota which has been performed for hundreds of years throughout the holiday season. Another tradition is the welcoming of the Three Kings to the city (on January 5th). Children often put their shoes in the window in the hope that the Three Wise Men will deliver them presents!
Christmas is a popular celebration in Japan, although it’s not a public holiday (so you don’t get the day off work, strange for the Western world!); but Christmas decorations and trees occupy the streets and malls, making the atmosphere extremely festive! Food-wise, Japanese Christmas cake is often eaten throughout the holiday period: a delicious white sponge smothered in cream and strawberries. Also (and rather strangely!), a successful campaign in the 1970s made KFC an alternative to the traditional festive cuisine. Could you imagine eating fried chicken on Christmas day? Nope, neither could we!
Again China does not recognise Christmas as a public holiday (so the normal 9-5 applies to the 25th December!), although it is a designated public holiday in both Hong Kong & Macau. Christmas is mostly celebrated privately with customs including sending cards, exchanging gifts and hanging stockings (quite similar to western celebrations). Due to the increasing interest in western culture, commercial Christmas decorations, signs and other symbols can be seen throughout large urban centres across mainland China during the month of December.
As Poland is largely Roman Catholic, Christmas Eve begins with a day of fasting and then a night of feasting! The traditional meal is known as Wigilia (vigil), and being invited to one of these dinners with a Polish family is considered a high honour. Before sitting down to eat, everyone exchanges Christmas greetings by sharing a piece of Christmas wafer, usually stamped with a religious picture and blessed by the local bishop! The feast begins when the first star is seen, and is followed by exchanging gifts. After the feast, people attend Midnight Mass to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ!
Christmas Day is officially a national holiday in Brazil and in most ways, the celebrations resemble those happening in Europe, with traditions like the Christmas tree, the exchanging of gifts and Christmas cards and the decorations of houses and buildings with colourful lights. Brazil is well known for its hot weather and climate, but decorations with themes of winter and snow can be seen around the country. Christmas Eve is the most important day throughout the festive period; and celebrations take place at midnight, and the celebration of the “Missa do Galo” (the rooster’s mass) in churches throughout the country.
Were you surprised by some of the traditions celebrated throughout Christmas across top TEFL destinations? Maybe you have some more stories you’d like to share? If so, please post a comment and we’ll be sure to add it to the list!