10 Interesting Ways How Christmas is Celebrated in the West

  • December 23, 2017 / Evengeline Ho / 0 Comment

Merry Christmas Kawa Nation! However, if you do not celebrate Christmas, happy holidays or Happy Hanukkah to you! This blog will be our Christmas special. We will discuss the how Christmas is celebrated in the Western Society such as Australia or America.

 

When I mention the word “Christmas”, what are the first things that come into your head? Would one of them be either snow or snowmen?

Most of the time, Christmas can be associated with the winter season, such as in Europe, America and even some Asian countries. This is due to the fact that TV shows and social media have popularised the winter season to be associated with Christmas. Also, the majority of the population that is involved in social media lives in the US, UK or Asia. (The weather in those countries is normally cold around the Christmas period).

However, that is not at all the case in Australia! In Australia, Christmas time is usually during the hottest time of the year, summer, so forget about the snow and hot cocoa. Instead, we indulge our Aussie selves at 40 degrees Celsius heat with the additional has possibly having a heat stroke on the side.

But let us move on to the more festive side of Christmas! Like any good holiday, there is an origin to the celebration of these kinds of events.

 

ORIGIN of CHRISTMAS

Christmas is actually an annual celebration that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas Day (usually the 25th of December) has been made a public holiday. Even though it has a very religious origin and background to the event, many non-religious people still celebrate it.

The term “Christmas” is short for the actual term “Christ’s mass” where all people devoted to Jesus Christ would go to church.

Apart from the origin of Christmas, there are also many traditions people do during the Christmas holidays. There are many different types around the world, but for this blog post, we shall focus on the major and popular traditions done within America, England and Australia.

1. Greetings

As you may know, one way people wish others a good Christmas in English is to say “Merry Christmas”. However, you could also say “Happy Christmas” as well. The two greetings mean exactly the same thing, and the only difference is where the two terms originated from.

The term “Happy Christmas” was first used as the original greeting back in England. However, the term “Merry Christmas” got popular afterward in the US. Thus it is more common for Americans to say “Merry Christmas”, while the English and most Australians would more commonly say “Happy Christmas”.

The American culture has been influencing many countries around the world by their tv shows and news. Thus the term “Merry Christmas” is starting to be more popular worldwide, even in England and Australia.

 

Fun Fact: The full greeting is “Wishing you a merry/happy Christmas!”. People use the term “wishing” because “wish” means: feel or express a strong desire or hope for something. Therefore, it is very polite to express to another person that you want them to have a very good Christmas.

2. Christmas Trees

A Christmas tree is a tree (usually spruce or pine) decorated with special ornaments (called-surprisingly- Christmas ornaments! Or Christmas baubles). The Viking era is where you can trace back the origin of the Christmas tree.

The Scandinavian Vikings thought that the evergreen trees (such as spruce or pine) were a special flora created by the Sun God, Balder. Therefore, having the Christmas tree located inside a household is a common occurrence. It is due to the fact that it got popularised in the 16th century.

3. Christmas Lights

Christmas lights are also otherwise known as fairy lights (commonly used in the US and Italy). These are often spotted on a Christmas tree or located throughout the inside or even the outside of the house. (They are usually on the fence, garden plants, windows, and even the rooftops).

The tradition of utilizing Christmas lights originates from when people back then used candles instead back in 18th century Germany. It symbolizes Jesus Christ being the light of the world. By the mid-20th century, it also became customary to display strings of Christmas lights as along streets and on buildings.

4. Bon-Bons

Otherwise known as Christmas Crackers. This aspect of Christmas was very popular among the UK population. They were first made in around 1845-1850, and they were originally called ‘cosaques’.  ‘Cossack’ soldiers is where they were thought to be named after who had been associated with riding on horses and firing guns!

The Christmas Crackers used today are short cardboard tubes wrapped in a colorful paper. The bonbon is usually next to a plate on the Christmas dinner table during Christmas. When the crackers are pulled (with a bang!) a colorful party hat, a toy or gift and a festive joke come out of it.

The party hats look like crowns and they symbolize the crowns that have been worn by the Wise Men.

5. Presents

Christmas presents are one of the most customary parts to celebrating Christmas (and it is usually known about world-wide). A Christmas present (or any present in general) is basically an item wrapped in decorative paper. That item is usually something that the recipient would like.

The Christmas presents are normally placed underneath the Christmas tree. They are also usually opened on Christmas Day (25th of Dec). However, there are other places where Christmas presents can be stored. This can be inside a Christmas stocking (more commonly done in Italy, UK and the US) which are usually hung by a fireplace or near the Christmas tree.

The history of Christmas presents dates back to when Jesus Christ was alive. One of the main reasons we have the custom of giving and receiving presents at Christmas, is to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the Wise Men. These are Frankincense (a type of perfume), Gold (a rare element and ore) and Myrrh (another type of perfume used on corpses).

6. Christmas Cards

There are cards that have a Christmas greeting located on the inside of the card (usually saying “Wishing you a merry Christmas!” or something similar). The idea of the Christmas card was first proposed by Sir Henry in 1840. They are usually sent to loved ones far away via the postal service, or given by hand to family members and friends.

7. Candy Canes

Candy canes are sticks in a shape of a hook made out of sugar. They originated from Germany in around the 1750s to 1770s. The flavor of the candy canes is usually peppermint or wintergreen.

The shape of the candy cane looks like an upside-down “J”, and the ‘J’ can also mean Jesus. The white of the cane often represents the purity of Jesus Christ and the red stripes are for the blood he shed when he died on the cross. The peppermint flavor is commonly symbolized as the hyssop plant that was used for purifying in the Bible.

8. Christmas Carols

The Christmas carols originated from Europe many millenniums ago, and they first started out as pagan songs and dances. The tradition changed in 1223, where the system of carol singers where similar to modern day Christmas carol singers.

Carols can be defined as the song and dance of joy. Christmas carols ceased when Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in 1647 but then continued again during the Victorian era.

9. Mistletoe

Mistletoe is a plant that grows on trees such as the willow, apple, and oak. The tradition of hanging it in the house goes back to the times of the ancient druids. Supposedly they contain mystical powers which bring good luck to the household. It can also prevent evil spirits from coming during the Christmas period.

Moreover, it was also used as a symbol of love and friendship in Norse mythology and therefore it is a tradition to kiss someone under a Mistletoe.

10. Santa Claus

Otherwise known as Father Christmas or Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus is well known for being the mascot of Christmas. The real man behind the story of Santa Claus and Father Christmas was Saint Nicholas. He was a bishop who lived during the 4th century in Turkey (back then it was known as Myra).

He was very kind and had a reputation of aiding the poor and secretly giving gifts to those in need. There are many tales associated with Saint Nicholas (it is still unknown is they are true or not), and that is where the story of him bearing the title of “Father Christmas” and “Santa Claus” originates from.

 

Well there you have it! I hope this blog post has taught you more about the traditions of Christmas in the Western countries such as the US, UK and Australia. I am sure that many of these customs are also common among other countries such as Asia as well. Just in case there are a few aspects which are not common, then there is something new that you have learned!

Have a very Merry Christmas Kawa Nation (even though I grew up in Australia, I still use the term “merry” instead of “happy”)! Until the next blog post. 🙂

 

Also, remember to check out our free downloadable English e-Book! It teaches you almost everything you need to know how to improve your English pronunciation.

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