Christmas Traditions from Around the World: Spain, China, Iceland
Christmas in Spain
Now, for the third and final part in our series of Christmas traditions from around the world, let’s go to Spain. ¡Feliz Navidad! If you love Christmas, we recommend a visit to Spain or any number of Latin American countries where Christmas is a nearly one-month long event, filled with feasting, music, and pageantry. We could write a 14-part blog on Christmas in Spain alone. Instead, we’ll just give you some of the highlights. Spaniards begin celebrating Christmas on December 8th, which is The Feast of the Immaculate Conception. They also celebrate the entire 12 days of Christmas. Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena (the good night) is the first day of Christmas. Families feast around nativity scenes while eating traditional foods. There are activities and celebrations at churches and cathedrals all season long.
During the 12 days of Christmas, Spaniards celebrate the journey of the Three Wise Men. On the last night, January 6th, children place their shoes out with straw to feed the hungry camels. The following morning, the straw has been eaten and is replaced with small gifts.
Christmas in China
Our next stop is China. Christmas in China is a relatively new celebration, since traditionally, Chinese people were Buddhist or Taoist, and religion was outright outlawed during the Mao years. In fact, Christmas didn’t really catch on in China until the 1990s. Unless you’re a Chinese Christian in China, you might not even really know what Christmas is all about. Christmas traditions have begun to trickle into the culture, via commercialism, especially in the larger cities.
In China, those who choose to celebrate the Christmas holiday with either a religious or secular slant, may put up a Christmas tree and decorate it with colorful handmade paper ornaments in the shape of flowers, chains and lanterns. Children may hang stockings up and wake to see them filled with gifts from Dun Che Lau Ren, “Christmas Old Man”. It is also a tradition to give apples as gifts on Christmas Eve because the Chinese word for apple, ping guo sounds similar to their word for Christmas Eve, ping an ye, which means “silent or quiet night”.
Christmas in Iceland
Finally, we’ll visit Iceland. Many of Iceland’s Christmas, or Jól, traditions are similar to those we are familiar with in the US. Houses are bedecked with festive decorations, the most traditional being the Christmas tree and Advent lights. Icelanders celebrate all 13 days of Christmas, beginning on Christmas Eve and concluding on January 6th, when the Three Wise Men arrived to lay their gifts at the manger of the baby Jesus.
Christmas dinner is celebrated with a big feast. Historically, the traditional Christmas dish was called Kjötsúpa, and was made from lamb. Now, families usually dine on ham, smoked lamb, or ptarmigan, which is a type of grouse.
We hope you have enjoyed our series on Christmas traditions across the globe. Chang-Castillo and Associates wishes you a happy holiday season, no matter what your traditions may be!