Despite what some people say, Christmas is still one of the most awaited holidays of the year. It is an end of the year celebration and for the Christian world, it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Even non-Christians around the world celebrate this holiday in their own way. However, aside from the usual tinsels, fairy lights, Christmas trees, yule logs, Christmas puddings, gifts under the Christmas tree and Christmas carols, other people and places have their unique Christmas traditions in celebrating the holiday.
If you are not Swedish, you might not have heard of the Yule Goat. This is a huge goat made of straw that the townsfolk of Gävle construct every year. For them, this is called the Julbok or the Christmas goat, an annual tradition that started in 1966. It is fenced in a well lit place and yet people have tried to kidnap the goat, torch it and subject it to other forms of torture, all in the spirit of fun. Greet your Swedish friends Merry Christmas by saying God Jul.
Exchange a joyful Hyvää Joulua with your Finnish friends. The Finns take Christmas to heart. In South Finland, the Declaration of Christmas Peace is read at noon on Christmas Day, with the statement reminding anyone that messing with the Christmas celebration is punishable by law. On Christmas Eve, Finnish families usually visit the cemeteries and light candles for their relatives and ancestors. Even people without their relative's graves in the nearby cemeteries join in the tradition, to honor and remember their departed relatives. It can be quite a beautiful sight, with the golden glow of the numerous candles reflected on the snow.
Joyeux Noel is how you say Merry Christmas in France. On December 6, St. Nicholas walks along the streets of Alsace in northern France to give sweets to nice children. Christmas markets are a familiar sight in Alsace, just like mulled wine and holiday sweets. Meanwhile, in Provence in southern France, it is typical for people to serve 13 desserts or les treize desserts that represent the 12 apostles and Jesus Christ. In the whole country, the Reveillon, which happens the day after Christmas is the time to party, where the typical dinner consists of fish, poultry and meat courses as well as fresh oysters, followed by a wide variety of cheeses and desserts.
Greet the people of the Philippines with Maligayang Pasko. Christmas in the archipelago is more meaningful this year after the devastation brought by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. The Philippines observes the world's longest Christmas celebration, which usually starts as early as September. Each region has its own way of celebrating the joyous occasion, but common is the observance of the "simbang gabi" or the nine-day midnight mass, which for church goers also means eating native delicacies such as "bibingka," "suman," and "puto bumbong" followed by a cup of piping hot cup of tea, coffee or chocolate after the mass.
And so, wherever you are, whatever type of celebration or observance you do for Christmas, give thanks for the wonderful year, despite the many ups and downs, have a happy holiday, and greet each one a Merry Christmas!