Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
In our last post, we have looked at how Christmas is celebrated in some European countries. Because of cultural similarities and the geographical proximity, Christmas traditions in Europe are not so different from the UK. If you look outside Europe, however, this will not always be the case.
If you are planning to spend your Christmas overseas, it is always useful to know what to expect and to familiarise yourself with the local traditions.
Christmas is a widely-celebrated holiday in the USA, with many traditions similar to Christmas celebrations in the UK. The Christmas period begins after Thanksgiving, streets and shopping centres are decorated with Christmas lights, and many public Christmas trees are set up. If you like shopping for gifts for your loved ones, the USA is certainly one of the best places for Christmas. Christmas is also a great time to spend quality time with your family. Homes are decorated with a Christmas tree, children hang out their stockings for Santa Claus to fill, and often leave a glass of milk and cookies for Santa, who is said to bring the presents the night after Christmas Eve. Family members and friends exchange gifts that are usually placed under the tree, and extended families gather to celebrate together. The traditional Christmas dinner features roast turkey with stuffing, roast beef or Yorkshire pudding. Roast vegetables and cranberry sauce are also served. If you live in South California for example, you might spend Christmas day relaxing on a sunny beach instead of sledging in the snow or looking out at a rainy landscape from your living room.
If you are spending your Christmas in Australia this year, and are used to Christmas celebrations in the UK, you’re in for a unique experience. As Australia is situated on the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas occurs at the height of summer. This means that you are more likely to spend part of the Christmas holidays playing beachball than in a warm living room sipping mulled wine. Strangely, the wintry iconography of Christmas with Santa riding a sledge and snow-coated village scenes still appear in Australia. Christmas is quite widely celebrated, with Christmas Day and Boxing Day being public holidays. Families usually decorate their homes with Christmas trees and often decorate the exterior of their houses as well. Christmas presents are placed under the tree or in stockings and are opened on Christmas day. Families gather on the 25th of December for the traditional Christmas lunch or dinner which often features hams, roast turkey, salads and roast vegetables. Typical Christmas desserts include mince pies, pavlova, trifle and plum pudding.
Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, with only a small minority of the population being Christian, and no long-standing Christmas traditions. While some celebrate Christmas in Japan, the focus of the holiday season is almost always the New Year’s celebrations. Christmas is still celebrated among some Japanese, mainly due to Western influences. Most Japanese people actually work during Christmas, but for example celebrate Christmas Eve by eating a Christmas cake, which is usually a sponge cake covered with cream. Christmas Eve is a time that is often spent together by couples. Christmas presents are also often exchanged between family members, couples and close friends.
As the official state religion of the UAE, where Dubai is located is Islam, Christmas is not celebrated officially and very widely. However, as increasingly more expats are relocating to Dubai, Christmas celebrations are more widespread than you would expect from an Arabic country. Shopping malls and stores are decorated with huge Christmas trees and snowmen; and many Catholic churches hold Christmas services. Although the 25th of December is not a public holiday, many private companies give the day off. There are a variety of ways to spend Christmas, and as the extended family is usually not around if you are an expat in Dubai, you’ll most likely spend the day with close family members or expat friends. You can enjoy the day by going to the beach, or visiting an indoor ski hill or ice rink. Many hotels also offer luxurious Christmas lunches and dinners.