Traditional Christmas Greeting: Merry Christmas (imported from the west). Also, Christmas Omedet and Merii Kurisumasu
The majority of Japan's population is Buddhist, and Christmas is not a commonly celebrated holiday. However, younger generations do exchange gifts at Christmas. Shogatsu, New Year's Day, is Japan's primary winter holiday. On New Year's Eve, many Japanese visit their shrine or temple to pray for a healthy and prosperous new year. Joya-no-Kane is the midnight Buddhist chiming of the bells - 108 chimes signifying the 108 Earthly sins.
Traditional Christmas Greeting: Sikukuu njema ya Krismasi (Swahili)
Bus stations are very crowded in Kenya during the holiday season. Those who live and work in the city travel to the towns and countryside to spend time with family. Throughout the country, shops, homes and mango trees are decorated with colorful ornaments, bells and candles.
Traditional Christmas Greeting: Jeulguwoon sungtan bonaesaeyo; Meli kliseumaseu saehae pog manhi pateuseyo; Sol tan ul chuka hamnidah; Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Approximately half of Korea's citizens are Christian. Christmas is not a major celebration as it is in the West, but it is a time for sharing and making donations to those less fortunate. Children believe in Santa Haraboji (Father Santa) and many youngsters participate in a Christmas Eve pageant at their church and go caroling after Christmas services.
Traditional Christmas Greeting: Priecigus Ziemassvetkus
The Latvian holiday season is filled with food and folklore! Dishes include lentils with bacon, pork roast, piragi (rolls with bacon-onion filling), fresh butter and honey, homemade cheeses and gingerbread. On New Year's Eve, Latvian families may drag a large log thoughout the house, then set it ablaze. The effort recalls the hard labor of farming, and burning the log symbolizes removal of hardship and a return to warmth and light. The ashes, said to have healing properties, are sprinkled inside and outside the home.
Traditional Christmas Greeting: Joyeux Noel (French), Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah (Arabic)
Lebanon is the only Middle East country that celebrates Christmas as an official holiday. On Christmas Eve, the families attend Midnight Mass where children sing special musical Christmas programs for the Church. After returning home from mass, children all over the country are thrilled to find Papa Noel (Santa Claus) has left presents near the manger or under the Christmas Tree. During this happy time, children also receive candy and new clothes.
Traditional Christmas Greeting: Linksmu Kaledu
Before Christmas Eve, Lithuanian homes are cleaned from top to bottom, including fresh bed linens and baths for everyone. Kucios (or the Christmas Eve feast) includes a generous nine to 12 meatless courses. Straw is placed beneath the tablecloth to symbolize the manger where Christ was born.
Traditional Christmas Greeting: Schéi Chrëschtdeeg
Children leave out plates on the evening of December 5. St. Nicholas (known as Kleeschen in Luxembourg), accompanied by his servant Black Peter (Houseker) leaves fruits, nuts and sweets for good children.
Traditional Christmas Greeting: Feliz Navidad
During Las Posadas, a nine-day candelight procession that culminates on Christmas Eve, a girl dresses as the Virgin Mary and a boy dresses as Joseph. They are followed throughout their town by children dressed as angels and saints. Each night, a different home welcomes them. On Christmas Eve, their arrival is marked with the breaking of piñatas and merry celebration. Dia de los Reyes (King's Day) also is celebrated throughout Mexico on January 6. Children receive gifts left by the Magi.
Traditional Christmas Greeting: (no single customary greeting)
Many Native American tribes became Christianized when Europeans arrived in America, so some traditions are similar to European-American customs. Several tribes create handmade nativity scenes with ornately crafted cribs to hold the baby Jesus. Instead of Middle Eastern camels and donkeys, these nativity scenes feature American wolves, foxes and bears.
Traditional Christmas Greeting: Vrolijk Kerstfeest
On the evening of December 5, Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) sets sail from Spain. Dutch children set out wooden shoes filled with sugar and hay for Sinterklaas' horse. If they are good, they receive shoes full of sweets! Kerstkrans, the traditional Holland ring cake, is enjoyed during the holiday season.
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Trees and Traditions Podcast
Hear about the international holiday traditions on display in Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light.
Get the "Christmas Around the World" and "Holidays of Light" exhibit guide, including the events, hours, a map and activities. (PDF file)