Many of our favorite Christmas traditions came from ancestors who moved here from other countries. Different people celebrate Christmas in very different ways, but it’s interesting to see how similar many traditions are.
Brazilians enjoy going to Christmas plays called “Os Pastores,” which translates to “The Shepherds.” In these stories, there is a traditional shepherdess as well as a woman who tries to steal baby Jesus. Santa Claus is called Papai Noel and Bom Velhinho (Good Old Man). Sometimes, children will leave a sock near a window so that if Papai Noel finds it, he will exchange it for a present. Employers get into the spirit too. Employees receive extra pay, known as the 13th salary, at the end of the year, or twice the normal pay for that month.
On Christmas Eve, children will go out and sing carols playing drums and triangles and also carrying model boats, painted gold and decorated with nuts. Carrying a boat is a very old custom.
The kallikantzaroi are considered bad spirits that appear during the 12 days from Christmas to Epiphany (Jan. 6). They supposedly came from the middle of the earth and get into homes via the chimney. They play pranks like putting out fires. Burning a fire in the fireplace through the 12 days is meant to keep them away.
Christians only make up a small portion of the population in India, but their Christmas spirit is still there. Instead of the evergreen we consider traditional, a banana or mango tree is decorated. Frequently, small oil burning clay lamps are placed on the flat roofs of their homes to demonstrate that Jesus is the light of the world. On Christmas Eve, giant paper lanterns in the shape of stars are placed between houses so that the stars float above people as they walk down the road.
One of the biggest celebrations is St. Lucia’s Day on Dec. 13. St. Lucia was a young Christian girl, according to stories told by monks when they first arrived in the country, who was martyred for her faith in AD 304. As the tale goes, the young girl would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome who hid in the catacombs under the city. She wore candles on her head so that she could have both her hands free to carry the supplies. Today, a girl is dressed in a white dress with a red sash around her waist and a crown of candles on her head.
Swedes also love to watch Donald Duck on Christmas Eve. Ever since 1959, the special holiday show has been aired at 3 p.m., and nearly half of the population still stop to watch it.