By Rosie Moore

The United States is not the only country that celebrates Christmas as we well know. It is celebrated in almost every country in the world. I can’t list them all in this column, but let’s take a look at a couple of them.

One of the most important ways to celebrate Christmas in Italy is the Nativity crib scene. Using a crib to help tell the Christmas story was made very popular by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. The previous year he had visited Bethlehem and saw there the stable, where it was thought that Jesus was born. A lot of Italian families have Nativity cribs in their homes.

The city of Naples is world famous for its cribs and crib making. Having cribs in your own home became popular in the 16th century. (Before that only churches and monasteries had them). They are traditionally put out on December 8th but the figure of Jesus isn’t put in until the evening of December 24th.

In Australia Christmas comes towards the beginning of the summer holidays. Children have their summer holiday from mid-December to early February. Australians hang wreaths on their front doors and go Christmas caroling on Christmas Eve. Neighbors have little competitions to see who has the best light display. They also decorate their houses with “Christmas bush,” a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream-colored flowers.

Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan so schools and businesses are open on December 25th. It’s still not seen as a religious holiday as there aren’t many Christians in Japan. Parties are often held for children with games and dancing. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic time which couples spend together and exchange presents. In many ways it resembles Valentine’s Day in the U.S. Young couples like to go for walks to look at Christmas lights and have a romantic meal in restaurants.

In Egypt about 15% of the people are Christians. They are the only part of the population who really celebrate Christmas as a religious festival. Most Egyptian Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox church and they have some very unique traditions for Christmas.

Christmas Day isn’t celebrated on the 25th of December but on the 7th of January. The Coptic month leading up to Christmas is called Kiahk. People sing special praise songs on Saturday nights before the Sunday service.

For the forty-three days before Christmas Coptic Orthodox Christians have a special fast where they basically eat a vegan diet. They don’t eat anything containing products that come from animals (including chicken, beef, milk, and eggs). This is called “The Holy Nativity Fast” but if people are too weak or ill to fast properly they can be excused.

On Coptic Christmas Eve, Coptic Christians go to church for a special liturgy or service. When the Christmas service ends people go home to eat the big Christmas meal. All the foods contain meat, eggs, and butter–all the yummy things they didn’t eat during the Advent fast.

Even though not many in Egypt are Christians, a lot of people in the country like to celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. Christmas is becoming very commercial and most major supermarkets sell Christmas trees, Christmas food and decorations. In Egypt, Santa is called Baba Noel (meaning Father Christmas). Children hope that he will climb through a window and leave some presents!

I think it’s remarkable that many countries of the world celebrate Christmas, whether it be for secular or theological reasons. It’s a joyful time, a time  to forgive and forget, rejoice and be glad, be kind and remember those who are ill, alone, or grieving. Every day should be Christmas!

Thought for the day: Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, man cannot live without a spiritual life……    The Buddha

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