World communities celebrate in different ways

Celebrating Christmas in Lalibela, Ethiopia. © Haga.
Celebrating Christmas in Lalibela, Ethiopia. © Haga.

Christmas is an annual holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus.

Christmas is an annual holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus.

Christmas festivities often combine the commemoration of Jesus' birth with various secular customs, many of which have been influenced by earlier winter festivals. The birth date is traditional and is not considered to be his actual date of birth.

In most places throughout the world, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25. Christmas Eve is the preceding day, December 24. In the UK and many countries of the Commonwealth, Boxing Day is on December 26.

In Catholic countries, Saint Stephen's Day or the Feast of St Stephen is December 26. The Armenian Apostolic Church observes Christmas on January 6.

Eastern Orthodox Churches that still use the Julian Calendar celebrate Christmas on the Julian version of December 25, which is January 7 on the more widely used Gregorian calendar, because the two calendars are now 13 days apart.

The word "Christmas" is a contraction of two words - Christ's mass - and is derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes mæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038.

In the Congo, a group is designated to prepare the annual Christmas pageant. On Christmas morning, people and groups of carolers walk through the village and sing Christmas carols. They then go home to dress in festive clothes and take love offerings for Jesus to the special service that is held at the house of worship.

The birthday of Jesus is celebrated and people keep their gifts upon the raised platform near the communion table. After the service, people invite friends to Christmas dinners arranged in front of their homes.

Carols by candlelight are common events too. People use pine branches for home decor and Christmas fir is put in a corner with presents for children around its base. At bedtime, children often hang stockings in which Father Christmas can keep their presents.

December 26 is known as Boxing Day and is a proclaimed public holiday. It is a day of relaxation. In Ghana, on the west coast of Africa, churches and homes are decorated in the first week of Advent, four weeks before Christmas.

Christmas is also the time for the cocoa harvest and people have money to spare. Everybody returns to their homes on Christmas Eve, including farmers and miners.

An oil palm decorated with bells is used as the Christmas tree in Liberia. On Christmas morning, they wake up with carols and share gifts such as soap and pencils.

Christmas dinner in Liberia is arranged outdoors and traditional dishes consist of rice, beef and biscuits. Traditional Christmas games serve as an afternoon pastime while the advent of Christ is celebrated at night with fireworks.

The Ethiopian Christmas is known as Ganna. It is celebrated on January 7. Christmas celebrations take place both in ancient churches carved from solid volcanic rock and modern churches designed in three concentric circles.

Men and boys sit separately from girls and women and the choir sings from the outside circle. Candles are given to people as they enter the church.

They light the candles, then walk around the church three times and stand throughout the mass, which might take as long as three hours.

The traditional Christmas dish includes Injera, a sourdough pancake like bread, which serves as both plate and fork along with Doro Wat, a spicy chicken stew served in ornamented baskets.

Giving gifts is not a big deal in Ethiopia and children usually receive clothes as presents. On Christmas Eve, people remain outdoors and pray and chant all night.

In the morning, a colorful procession marches to the nearby hill top headed by three young men with whips to keep everybody in line, where a service is held.

After the prayers, priests bless the bread and wine, and distribute it to everybody.

People dance, play games and feast for the rest of the day. - Wikipedia