Christmas Festivities around the World

20693447.thbWhen one thinks of Christmas, what does one usually think about? Candy canes, snow, egg nog? Bushy 6-ft pines covered with decorations? Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas”? If you live in North America, chances are, this is what you fantasize about when you think of the word “Christmas.” But in fact, this special holiday is celebrated throughout the world, and not everyone sees or celebrates it in the same way! Let’s take a look at how other cultures spend this delightful holiday.

Summer is at its peak in December in South American countries, so you can bet that in Argentina and neighboring countries, people celebrate Christmas a little differently. To start, you won’t see many houses decorated with twinkling lights or blow-up Santa Clauses. Inside, people set up vases with fragrant jasmine flowers. People here usually buy small trees (under 3 feet) and decorate them accordingly. Others don’t buy trees at all! Because it’s so hot, many people will eat Christmas Eve dinner outside, dressed in fresh summer clothes. Dinner includes such cold delights as vitel tone, which is a dish of slices of veal in a lovely tuna and cream sauce. It may be topped with pieces of hard-boiled eggs, olives, or capers. Argentines also eat matambre, which is rolled flank steak stuffed with carrot, hard-boiled eggs, and an assortment of spices. For dessert, pan dulce, which is a sweet bread loaf containing dried fruits and nuts.

In France, on the other hand, people purchase and decorate real pine trees. The delicious pine smell permeates the whole house. Wreaths, holly plants, and twinkling lights decorate the inside of many French homes. At Christmas Eve dinner, people consume oysters, prawns, smoked salmon and foie gras (duck or goose liver) as appetizers. Main dishes include chestnut-stuffed turkey and oven-roasted chicken or turkey. And probably the best part about Christmas in France are the desserts! The bûche de Noël, or yule log, is a moist sponge cake slathered in chocolate buttercream and then rolled. It is then given a chocolate covering, adorned with berries and powdered sugar and decorated to look like an actual log! Chocolate truffles, cookies, and champagne are also enjoyed during dessert time.

What special traditions does your country celebrate? Are they quite different than the ones mentioned here?