Christmas–2. Arts, rituals, & customs around the world

Posted: 2013 年 12 月 12 日 in Christmas

 Christmas arts

Since early times, Christmas has served as an inspiration for music, art, and poems and stories. Many of these works have become closely associated with the holiday.


Christmas music covers a wide range, from light popular tunes to regal works such as Handel’s Messiah. Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker and Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors are often performed during the Christmas season.

Carols are the most traditional Christmas music. Early carols were based on dance tunes and refrains from ballads and folk songs. During the Protestant Reformation in England, carols were banned. This was because the Puritans, who took control of the country in the mid-1600s, felt that the music and merrymaking associated with Christmas were pagan customs. Carols returned after 1660, when the monarchy was restored.

Most of the carols we sing today were written in the 1800’s. They include “Silent Night, Holy Night” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Away in a Manger,” and “Joy to the World.” These traditional songs have been joined by modern ones, such as “White Christmas,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and even “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Bells are also a traditional part of Christmas music. Every Christmas Eve, church and cathedral bells ring loud and clear to call families to church services. Bells are used as decorations on Christmas trees, wreaths, and gift-wrappings.


The scene of the nativity has been painted by many artists. Among them were some of the great masters of the Renaissance, including Giotto, Fra Angelico, and Sandro Botticelli. The nativity is also depicted in three-dimensional creche (French word for “crib”) scenes. St. Francis of Assisi is given credit for setting up the first creche, using live figures, in Greccio, Italy, in 1223. In many Catholic countries, the creche is the center of a Christmas Eve pageant that tells the story of the three Wise Men bringing gifts to the infant Christ.


Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of the most popular Christmas stories ever written. Several film versions of this tale have been made. “The Gift of the Magi,” by O. Henry (William Porter), is another well-known story. It tells of the efforts of a young husband and wife to find gifts for each other.

The poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” has been part of Christmas in the United States since 1823, when it was first published. Clement C. Moore wrote it for his family, and it did much to create the present image of Santa Claus. These traditional Christmas works have been joined by some modern favorites, such as Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Christmas rituals

Religious ceremonies marking the birth of Christ begin some four weeks before Christmas. The fourth Sunday before Christmas Day is the first day of Advent, the period of preparation that comes before the holiday. Many people keep track of the days in this period with Advent calendars or Advent candles. The calendars have Christmas scenes and tiny windows, one of which is opened each day to uncover a picture or verse. The candles carry the dates leading up to Christmas and are burned a set amount each day, so that on Christmas day they are used up.

Many people also have Advent wreaths in their homes. These wreaths have four candles, one for each of the Sundays of Advent. Each Sunday, the family lights candles—one candle the first Sunday, two candles the next, and so on—and prays.

In churches, children often take part in nativity pageants, in which they act out the scenes of the Christmas story. On Christmas Eve, churches are decorated with evergreens and candles, and special candlelight and carol services are held. Most churches also hold services on Christmas Day. The message at these services is the central message of Christmas: Peace and goodwill among all people.

Customs around the world

Christmas is celebrated in many ways. Here are some of the traditional customs in countries around the world.


Children in France welcome the visit of Pere Noel at Christmastime. Instead of hanging stockings, they leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts. On Christmas Eve, after midnight Mass, many families have a special supper called Le reveillon. Turkey is the favorite food on Christmas Day, followed by a special Christmas cake called buche de Noel.


In the Scandinavia countries, Christmas gifts are brought by a jolly old man called Jultomten in Sweden, and Julenissen in Norway and Denmark. His elflike helpers, who sometimes help people throughout the year, are called the tomtar. In Sweden, the Christmas season begins on December 13, St. Lucia Day. On this day the oldest daughter of the house—dressed in white and wearing a wreath with candles on her head—serves coffee and buns in bed to the rest of the family.


For German children, Christmas festivities begin on December 6, when they leave their lists of Christmas wishes for St. Nicholas and receive candy in return. Christmas gifts are brought by the Weihnachtsmann. A Christmas tree, often decorated with small, spicy cookies, is the focus of many family celebrations. Fruit-filled breads called stollen are a seasonal treat.

Holy Land.

In Bethlehem, which is now in Israel, Christmas Eve is marked with a colorful procession. People file through the narrow streets carrying an image of Jesus in a cradle to the Church of the Nativity, where it is placed in a special glass and marble manger. Pilgrims from all parts of the world take part.


A nativity scene called a presepio, rather than a Christmas tree, is the focus of celebrations in most Italian homes. The figure of the Christ child is added to the scene on Christmas Eve. Many families have a Christmas Eve supper of capitone, or fried eels. Other Christmas specialties include panettone (a bread with dried fruit) and torrone (a candy made with nuts and honey). Presents are brought on Epiphany by La Befana, a kindly witch. But Italians parents tell their children that La Befana will leave only ashes if they are naughty.


British children hope to receive gifts from Father Christmas, and they enjoy a Christmas dinner of roast turkey and mince pie or plum pudding. Wassail, a punch made from ale, apples, spices, and other ingredients, is served. People go from house to house singing carols, often to raise money for charity.


Because there are relatively few Christians in Japan, Christmas is not widely celebrated. But many Western Christmas customs have been adopted by Japan. People exchange gifts, and streets and stores are decorated with evergreens and bright lights.


In Mexico and many other Latin American countries, children have a Christmas party that includes a pinata. This is an earthenware jug or papier-mache figure filled with candies and small toys. It hangs by a rope from the ceiling or a tree branch, and the children take turns putting on a blindfold and hitting it with a stick until it breaks and the sweets and toys tumble out. In the days leading up to Christmas, people take part in posada processions that re-enact the search of Mary and Joseph for lodgings in Bethlehem.

The Netherlands.

Saint Nicholas brings presents to Dutch children on the eve of December 6. He is said to arrive by boat from Spain, and he rides through the streets on a white horse. He is assisted by his helper, Swarte Piet (Black Pete).

Bizarre Christmas traditions around the world

Worldwide Christmas celebrations




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