At World Vision we’re blessed to work in nearly 100 countries around the world. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but there are many, many families who do. We get an inside look at all the different ways people celebrate, and we wanted to share just a few of our favourite stories.
The Philippines has the longest Christmas celebration in the world. As early as September 1, you can hear Christmas songs over the radio. People start to put decorations in their houses, commercial and business establishments. Everyone looks forward to the holiday, but children are the most excited.
Even in communities who have experienced devastating typhoons, people have remained resolute that amidst the rubble, Christmas hasn’t lost its real essence. On the contrary, it becomes more meaningful.
Aung Soe (far right), 12 years-old, says that he loves having a holiday from school, eating and play with friends, and sharing Christmas presents.
Meet Emu from Bangladesh (on the right). The highlight of her Christmas was a party with her friends. They danced, sang carols, recited poems, and had what she calls “wonderful, creamy” cake. They decorated their home, exchanged gifts and had a big meal together with family – much like many of us in Canada do.
She also enjoyed attending Christmas mass along with many others in her community.
Here, sponsored children from Bogota, Colombia gather to draw pictures and sing carols at Christmas. They open presents (clothing, toys and candy, of course).
Traditional celebrations of Christmas in Colombia include many of the same traditions we have in Canada, like family reunions and special food. There are many delicious dishes like corn buñuelos and natilla, a sweet jelly.
"What I love about Christmas is seeing my cousins and playing with them. I love to open presents on Christmas Eve and eat candy," says Natalia, age eight (pictured here in a Santa hat).
In Ethiopia, Christmas is celebrated on January 7, following the Julian calendar and is called Lidetu Le Egzane or Ganna.
“When Christmas approaches, I feel happy when I think about the preparation we make for the holiday,” explains Helen Dessie, 13.
On Christmas morning people get dressed in white. Most people wear a traditional garment called ‘Shemma’. It's a thin white cotton piece of cloth with brightly coloured stripes and is worn like a toga. Afterwards, people go to their homes to feast.
Food served at Christmas includes ‘Doro Wat’ and ‘Injera’, a spicy chicken stew eaten with the pancake-like bread. Often cultural drinks called ‘Tela’ and ‘Tej’, a local wine-like drink made of honey, accompany the feast.
Gift giving is a very small part of Christmas festivities in Ethiopia. Only small gifts are exchanged amongst family and friends at home. But one gift all children eagerly await is a new outfit that they wear with pride on Christmas Day: “I wake up early in the morning to dress in my new clothes that my father bought for me,” Helen says with smile.
Ersjona, nine, is a sweet girl from Albania who loves Christmas very much. Christmas makes all children happy, “because Christmas is magic,” she says.
“Together with my little brother Lion, who is seven, we sing around the Christmas tree and even in our room while we do our homework,” she says. “I enjoy helping my mom prepare the food for the Christmas; baklava and [other] dishes, like salads with vegetables and dishes with meat,” she adds.
“But, most of all, I love Christmas because it brings my parents together. My father lives in Greece. I enjoy so much when we get together on that day, to eat delicious food, laugh and wake up the coming morning together, as one family,” Ersjona says.
No matter how you celebrate the holidays, we hope that this season is one of peace for you. Merry Christmas from World Vision!
By Megan Radford, Sarah Bartley and Alicia Dubay.