Around the world in 80 sleighs

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Everyone, everywhere in the world has their own view on what makes Christmas. In my opinion a perfect Christmas is spent with the family, from a very early hour of the morning, with a large Christmas dinner. My Dad may make us watch Top of the Pops every year and my dog may decide that the wrapping paper is far tastier than its present but to me this is the perfect Christmas. Festivities in Britain vary greatly but if you begin to move further afield you will begin to see just how different celebrations can be.

Despite being our closest neighbours, Christmas traditions across Europe can vary greatly from that of Britain. In Central Europe Christmas Eve can mean a day of fasting with a big Christmas Dinner in the evening. After dinner is the time for the opening of gifts, which are said to be brought by Christkind (little Jesus).

In Eastern Europe and Slavic countries presents are delivered by Djed Mraz (Grandfather frost). Legend says that Djed Mraz rides upon a reindeer drawn sleigh and only delivers presents to children who are asleep.

In Italy the traditions vary between regions: in the south there is great emphasis on the religious meaning of Christmas and it is most common to attend a midnight mass on Christmas Eve. In the north of Italy the festivities are less religious and it is likely that a family will celebrate Christmas on the 25th with lunch together. In many european countries, particularly Scandinavian countries, it is the norm to celebrate Christmas on December 24.

In South Africa, Christmas is a summer holiday so instead of snow there are many varieties of flowers which decorate the streets. Carolers traditionally walk the streets and people attend church to celebrate the birth of Jesus, gifts are can also be taken as an offering. Like in Britain it is traditional for children to hang their stockings on Christmas Eve in a hope Father Christmas will bring them gifts. Boxing Day is also seen as a day of rest and is most commonly celebrated relaxing in the sun.

Christmas in South America is a highly religious holiday which focuses upon the scene of the manger in the nativity. It is common to see large decorative scenes designed to depict the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem; some may be more elaborate featuring wise men on camels or electric trains in some cases. Christmas in Brazil is celebrated much like Christmas in North America and Northern Europe with a traditional Christmas meal usually based upon chicken and rice, but a variety of other ingredients can be added. Chile on the other hands celebrate a more religious based holiday, the nation’s Catholics observe nine days of prayer and fasting prior to Christmas day. The family meal is often eaten very late on Christmas Eve, after Midnight Mass.

In China, December 25 is not a legal holiday; however in former western powers such as Hong Kong there is a Christian heritage and Christmas Day is a public holiday. There is a very small percentage of Christians in China and they chose to observe Christmas privately and celebrate in a Western way. In India as a former British colony and a religiously diverse country, Christmas is still a public holiday. Christmas coincides with Makar Sakranti, a festival of harvest in India, which is celebrated throughout the country with prayers to the sun God and the flying of kites.

Though Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, it is widely celebrated with the exchanging of gifts and a variety of parties on and around Christmas Day.

So whoever you are and wherever you are in the world your idea of the perfect Christmas is most likely unique to you and your family, but nevertheless the spirit of Christmas remains the same. A perfect Christmas, we can all agree, is one spent with those you love the most.

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