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Christmas and Its Different Celebrations

Updated: Mar 11

For many, the Christmas season is the most beautiful of the year. It starts in the month of December and is a magical and very special season. Streets, shopping malls, and homes themselves are decorated in red, green, and white, with bows, Santa Claus, reindeer, and Christmas trees. People radiate happiness and during this month, sales in stores increase since on December 25 it is customary to give gifts to loved ones.

It is a festivity of Christian origin where the Birth of the Jesus is celebrated, on December 25. The most religious people attend mass during this time to praise him and other people celebrate it as an excuse to enjoy the beautiful company of their loved ones.

As there are many cultures and countries in the world, there are also many different ways to celebrate this holiday. The most famous model of this holiday is the one that originated in the United States, where the season begins the day after Thanksgiving in late November.  Throughout the month of December, it is customary to drink hot chocolate or the famous "eggnog" which can be with or without alcohol.

The houses are decorated with lights and bright ornaments. Usually, the Christmas tree is made with a real pine tree and Santa Claus dresses in a red suit, black boots, and a large black belt and during Christmas Eve and the early morning of December 25, he enters homes through the chimney, which are decorated with Christmas stockings.  The children leave him cookies and a glass of milk to drink, and he leaves gifts for each member of the family, especially the children under the Christmas tree. These gifts are made by the elves, who live at the North Pole and who work tirelessly throughout the year to bring happiness to all children and adults during that night. On the morning of December 25, when the family wakes up, they open Christmas presents and celebrate throughout the day with Christmas lunch or dinner.

In Colombia, Camila Rodriguez, who lives in Popayán and comes from a Catholic family, explained that the celebration in her country is very religious. They begin to prepare for Christmas in the Advent season, where the last four weeks they light one candle per week giving thanks and nine days before the Birth of the Jesus they perform "the Novenas". During the Novenas, one candle is lit per day and "certain prayers are prayed within the family, there is a sharing and sometimes they even become dancing Novenas, depending on each family, but it is a very family-oriented time." She also explained that the letters made by the children are not addressed to Santa Claus but directly to baby Jesus. In them, they ask for the gifts they want and place the list on the Christmas tree, which they set up next to the manger. So, children know very well that the one who brings the gifts to the homes is not Santa Claus but baby Jesus. Also, on the seventh of December, on the eve of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, they celebrate "the Day of the Candles" where candles are lit in gratitude, whether religious or not, it is a time to enjoy and celebrate with family.

In Peru, Jóse Luis Postigo, who lives in Lima, the country's capital, also comes from a Catholic family and explains that at Christmas they focus more on the birth of the baby Jesus and not on Santa Claus. They gather as a family on Christmas Eve at approximately nine o'clock in the evening and at midnight, just as Christmas begins, they open the presents. The children, when writing their letters with the requests for gifts, can write to Santa or directly to baby Jesus and once they are done, they place the list on the Christmas tree.

By contrast, although in Argentina there are also families who focus their celebration solely on religion, these are the minority since the celebration revolves around Santa Claus. He dresses the same way he does in the United States, but the way they celebrate this incredible holiday is very different. Every eighth of December the Christmas Tree is put up and decorated and on the sixth of January it is taken down.

The celebration begins on Christmas Eve, where the family gathers for a traditional Christmas dinner and drink champagne or cider. Generally, if there are children in the families, at twelve o'clock, they begin to look for “Father Noel” (what they call Santa Claus) together with the adults. They call out for him very euphorically, inside the house, in the garden or even on the street until he "magically" appears wearing his typical costume and carrying a bag full of gifts for everyone. The kids go crazy, greet him, and take pictures with him. Once they are distracted with their gifts, "Santa Claus" retires to continue distributing gifts to the rest of the homes and the relative whose absence no one noticed reappears at the party wearing their own clothes and to open their presents as if nothing had happened. After finishing with the gifts, the families stay to watch the firework shows that begin at midnight. The next day, December 25, families gather again to continue celebrating. They have lunch together and enjoy themselves all Christmas Day.

Also, on the sixth of January, the Night of the Three Wise Men is celebrated. If there are children in the homes, they are asked to leave a shoe, water and food for the camels that are exhausted from traveling from home to home. The next morning, when they wake up, the children run excitedly to open the little gift that the Three Wise Men have left on their little shoe.

It is possible that in some countries the celebrations are similar, but the citizens give it the cultural imprint of each region. Keeping the Christmas flame burning throughout the year and spreading it around is the most important mission of this season. Leave a trail of it wherever you go. Surely, with a simple positive attitude towards a family member, a friend or even a stranger you can make a change for the better. And as the famous Christmas Carol says, "Christmas has come, and love has come. And in the hearts reigns is emotion." It never hurts to remember beautiful moments of childhood and above all, this beautiful song.

By Marina Chauffaille