We work in over 30 countries worldwide and each one has its own way of celebrating Christmas. We asked some of our partners to tell us what Christmas looks like for them.
In Serbia, we celebrate Christmas on 25 December and 7 January (which is Christmas day according to the old Julian calendar). Serbians have an elaborate set of traditions – from western customs such as decorating a tree in your house, to eastern practices such as burning a withered oak branch on Christmas Eve or sowing wheat on a plate a few weeks before. The wheat is expected to be fresh and green by Christmas and acts as a metaphor for Jesus’ death and resurrection. The majority of Serbians are Orthodox Christians and fast from all food of animal origin for the six weeks before Christmas.
For the vast majority of Serbians, Christmas day will be one of a few days of the year when they go to church. Most churches emphasise traditions and national pride rather than the gospel. People will visit each other in their homes and greet one another with the Christmas greeting, ‘Christ is born’, ‘He is born indeed’. But most will not know what the birth of Jesus practically has to do with them.
In Kenya, most people travel from the cities to their home villages to spend time with their larger families. Big meals of goat are prepared and shared. On the flip-side, Christmas is a time when some people drink too much.
Many people who haven't been to church for the whole year will go on Christmas day. Children often present a skit in the service and, in most rural churches, gifts are exchanged at the end of the service.
In Cuba, Christmas has changed in the last 30 years. From the 1960s to the early 1990s there was a lot of persecution against the Church and all Christmas traditions were lost. In the mid-90s, the government decided to make 25 December a public holiday and since then the tradition of celebrating Christmas has been coming back. You will see lots of Christmas trees in houses and public places – mainly because people in other parts of the world do it and because it was not possible for so long. Santa delivering presents to children is becoming big too. Families often travel and visit each other. Churches will have a service on Christmas day and people will dress up to attend. We usually have a meal of rice, beans, roast pork, cassava and fried plantain on Christmas eve, while we wait for Christmas day.
In Sweden, Christmas Eve is our ‘big day’. We’ll enjoy our family ‘Julbord’ Christmas buffet before the traditional Christmas television broadcast at 3pm of … Donald Duck! The ‘Julbord’ will be spread with roast ham, pickled herring and anchovy pie. Presents will be exchanged and, for younger children, they might be personally delivered by ‘Jultomten’ (Santa Claus)!
‘In Uganda, people do not usually give and receive presents. Instead they will buy nice clothes for themselves and their family that they can wear on Christmas Day. In church there is a special Christmas collection that helps to pay the pastor’s salary for the year ahead. After the service people will have a good meal – usually the best meal they have all year. Some will have meat and those with a bit more money will have chicken. This might be the only time in the year they will eat chicken.
The main highlight for people in Nigeria is 'Christmas clothes'. Every year, if they can afford it, people get new clothes made from beautiful Nigerian cloth. People make chin chin – a nice biscuity thing that is kind of a mix between a biscuit and a crouton. Christmas meat is beef that has been boiled with spices and then fried. It tastes amazing!
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