Christmas has become quite a cultural phenomenon. From mince pieces to KFC, multiple Santa Claus's to Christmas on the beach. This holiday season has gone from a celebration rooted in Christian belief to a time of togetherness and gratitude that is celebrated in different ways across the world.
It’s important for us to understand the multifaceted ways in which Christmas has grown and how different cultures celebrate Christmas differently from our own.
So, how do different cultures celebrate Christmas?
KFC For Christmas Dinner
One major change to the mainstream western culture of turkey, pigs in blankets, parsnips, and the works is KFC for Christmas dinner.
In Japan, the typical dish of choice on Christmas day is KFC, which came about partly because Christmas is a relatively new celebration in the east and partly through a marketing campaign by Takeshi Okawara.
The manager of the first KFC restaurant in Japan, in 1970 he saw an opportunity to replace the American Christmas dinner with his fried chicken “party barrels” and the change has since taken to become a regular custom.
So much so that families in Japan make reservations at KFC restaurants months well in advance for their Christmas meal. For a holiday that is not recognised as a national celebration, could you swap out your turkey for a bucket of KFC at Christmas?
The Yule Lads
Another major difference to our Christmas culture is The Yule Lads of Iceland. Instead of one man in red, the people of Icelandic culture have 13 different Santa Claus's each with their own personality and meaning. This includes the spoon licker, the sausage swiper, the skyr gobbler, and many more.
Traditionally, the children of Iceland receive 13 gifts from each of the lads which can include sweets or presents and even rotten potatoes depending on if the children have behaved that year.
It's also interesting to note that they celebrate Christmas 13 days before the 25th and also includes cooking boiled fish and baking cookies as well as lighting a candle each Sunday in December, culminating in 4 candles by the 24th at which church bells ring to celebrate the occasion.
Christmas On The Beach
One of the most drastic changes to our cold Christmas period is the celebration of Christmas on the beaches of Australia. This is because of the extreme climate down under which makes snow and other cold weather a rarity.
Although there are areas of Australia which do see snow, including Tasmania and New South Wales, Tasmania is separated from the mainland and the snow in New South Wales falls away from the coastline, where most people in Australia live.
Therefore, it is a regional custom to celebrate Christmas on the beach where people can roast food on the barbie and play backyard cricket, described wholeheartedly by The Kinks in their song “Australia” with the lyric ‘on a sunny Christmas day.’
Festival of Lights
Lastly, perhaps the biggest difference to our Christmas is the celebration of the Jewish faith, Hanukkah. With Christmas being a largely Christian festival, Hanukkah remembers a slightly different story than that of Jesus Christ.
Instead of celebrating the birth of Christ, Jewish people commemorate the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid empire.
This was an event that took place in 2 BCE in which Syrians forced the Jewish people to worship different gods and the holiday celebrates the time in which the Jews were free to worship their faith once again.
It falls on the 25th of Kislev which is late November and/or early December in the Christian calendar and the major focal point of the festivities is the lighting of the Menorah.
How are you celebrating the holiday season this year? Do you have any cultural traditions you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments down below or on our social media!