Christmas in USA
The United States of America integrates different elements from different places in its Christmas celebrations. The Christmas tree tradition comes from Germany, parades from Latin America, Carols from the English and Australians, Santa Claus from the Europeans and more. Apart from the general celebration with feasting, caroling, decorating and gift-giving, each family in the US has their individual Christmas celebrations. And even the traditions vary from one place to another within the US. In Washington DC for instance, there's this central celebration with lighting of the tree on the Ellipse. Here you'll find one big tree (which represents the nation) and other smaller trees (standing for other states). In New Orleans, caroling is the focus of Christmas – thousands throng the Jackson Square each year on Christmas to have a huge group / community caroling around big bonfires lit along the river Mississippi. The oldest city in the US, St. Augustine, Florida, has the whole of the city lit up in white lights on Christmas. No lights except white are allowed on Christmas. Then again, many Americans love to hit Hollywood, California to treat their eyes to the annual Parade of Stars, while others entertain themselves at Christmas concerts or caroling festivals in and around the cities.
Christmas in France
Joyeux Noël! For all the curious, that's 'Merry Christmas' in French. In France, Christmas is called Noël and Father Christmas is known as Père Noël. Christmas trees are decorated with red ribbons and candles. Fir trees are also lighted on Christmas. People gather together and stress on meat and fine wine. The French kids put shoes and boots by the hearth for Santa to keep Christmas goodies in them. And nearly every family sets up a Nativity scene at home on Christmas.
Christmas in Spain
Feliz Navidad! Now that's 'Merry Christmas' for the Spanish-speaking population. Spanish Christmas is essentially religious in spirit and celebration. Virgin Mary is the country's patron saint and hence, Spain observes a pious Christmas festivity. Here, Christmas officially begins from December 8, the day of the fever of the Immaculate Conception. Each year, the Spanish celebrate Christmas in front of Seville's Gothic cathedral with a ceremony known as 'los Seises' or the 'dance of six'.
Christmas in Portugal
Portuguese Christmas is much in the same street as Christmas in Spain. Whatever gifts Father Christmas brings to the kids, are kept at the base of the Christmas evergreen or in shoes by the fireplace. At midnight on Christmas Eve, the Portuguese have a special Christmas meal of dry and salted cod-fish and boiled potatoes. And in the early morning of the Christmas day, they have a meal called 'consoada', where seats are left empty at the table for the 'alminhas a penar' or the 'souls of the dead'. This comes from the ancient practice of leaving seeds to the dead elderly in hopes of getting rewarded with a more bountiful harvest. So boas festas! Have a great party this Christmas and New Year!
Christmas in England
England holds claim to the origin of hanging stockings on Christmas. It's believed that Father Christmas once dropped some gold coins while coming down a chimney and the coins landed on one stocking hanging out to dry. Since then, the idea of hanging stockings on Christmas held ground and children today, make it a point to hang their stockings for Santa Claus to fill these up with Christmas goodies. In some parts, 'pantomime' is also a popular Christmas tradition. And the wishing 'Merry Christmas' and gift-giving is of course there in England.
Christmas in Germany
In Germany, the St. Nicholas Day celebration of December 6 is similar to the Christmas celebrations of the English. Apart from wishing each other 'Froehliche Weihnachten' or 'Merry Christmas', the Christmas customs and traditions of Christmas vary from one region to another in Germany. The St. Nicholas Day is primarily a day reserved for the young ones to have fun and get pampered in gifts. After this, the actual Christmas gift-giving kicks off at the Christmas Eve night. Gifts are usually kept under the Christmas tree and people enjoy a traditional roast goose in their Christmas meal. The Weihnachtsmann (a look-alike of St. Nicholas) presents gifts on Christmas and sometimes these are bought by the Christkind (a fairy child often like baby Jesus).