Many people are quite unaware of the origins of Christmas questioning whether it is biblical or has its origins in paganism.
Historically it seems to be agreed that the 25th of December celebrations originated in Roman times, the summer Soulstice being significant with the sun returning to the northern hemisphere and a reason to indulge in the offerings of the harvest feasts.
No one needs reminding that this time of year can be stressful but the annual pleasures afforded by Christmas are unique compared with other celebrations.
And so it is fascinating to observe how different nations and cultures following the Christian faith get their celebrations under way.
As the northern hemisphere experiences Winter, one finds that snowmen, mistletoe, wreaths, reindeer and such like dominate the Christmas season.
These traditions, however, hardly suit the heat of summers elsewhere but continue to maintain the ambiance of Christmas south of the Equator.
But where ever one resides, the focus remains on giving, good food, togetherness, charitable acts and attending Church services.
Scandinavia - myths and legends abound in these countries; folklore consisting of creatures good and evil like trolls, dwarves and fairies to mention a few which reside in lakes, forests and eerie castles!
In Sweden decorations include red tulips and after the Christmas Eve dinner someone dresses up like a gnome, these little men believed to live under the floor boards.
Makes one wonder how children ever get to sleep!!
In Iceland many old traditions exist. In this country Icelandic "Christmas fathers" all thirteen of them, do the rounds visiting window sills where children traditionally place an empty shoe, starting on December the 12th. If a child has been good a gift will be placed in the shoe, but if naughty a potato.
What a punishment to deal when expectations are at an all-time high!
Norway - there is no lack of genuine Christmas trees in the forests, cut down and decorated in homes.
Norwegian children make colourful shiny baskets to be filled with sweets and nuts. Before gifts are opened it is customary to form a circle, dance around the tree singing hymns. Santa delivers presents on the day and does not come down the chimney at night like his USA relative.
Africa - the sub-Saharan countries of the continent are predominantly Christian, but customs do vary.
Democratic Republic of Congo – here Christmas is more religious than commercial and few people receive gifts. However much merriment exists with 5-6 choirs in churches and plays performed lasting for hours depicting the wicked Herod and Mother Mary arriving well advanced in labour!
In Egypt and Ethiopia the Coptic Christians celebrations lack much commercialism. However a new set of clothes is important and simple items that many of us take for granted include soap, candles and books.
In Ethiopia roasted goats ensure that no one goes hungry on Christmas day.
South Africa – as we are well aware, with the heat, many will enjoy a day out at the beach, having a braai or picnicking inland. This by no means excludes older traditions like the roast turkey, the plum pudding and mince pies, these being a vestige of British colonial rule.
It is indeed a privilege that many South Africans can still exchange gifts, large or small.
MATSIMELA has an exciting range of Xmas gifts to suit all tastes and pockets – these can be viewed via 'Shop online' under Gifts.
Place your order early to avoid disappointment.
Do not miss the next article, giving fulfilled activities for children and moms in preparation for Christmas!