People in the Philippines celebrate Christmas for as long as possible. Christmas carols begin playing in shops in September and formal Christmas celebration begins on December 16. They also have their own Christmas traditions such as the ‘parol’ which is a bamboo pole or frame with a lighted star lantern on it. It’s traditionally made from bamboo strips and colored Japanese paper or cellophane paper and represents the star that guided the Wise Men. It is the most popular Christmas decoration in the Philippines.
Christmas Eve is very important in the Philippines. Many people stay awake all night into Christmas day. During Christmas Eve evening, Christians go to church to hear the last ‘simbang gabi’ or the Christmas Eve mass. This is followed by a midnight feast, called Noche Buena.
In Mexico, Christmas is celebrated from December 12th to January 6th. From December 16th to Christmas Eve, children often perform the ‘Posada’ processions or Posadas. Posada is Spanish for Inn or Lodging. There are nine Posadas. These celebrate the part of the Christmas story where Joseph and Mary looked for somewhere to stay. For the Posadas, the outside of houses are decorated with evergreens, moss and paper lanterns. Nativity scenes, known as the ‘nacimiento’, are very popular in Mexico. They are often very large, with the figures being life size.
People in Mexico also celebrate ‘los santos inocentes’ or ‘Day of the Innocent Saints’ on December 28th. It’s very similar to April Fools Day in the UK and USA. December 28th is the day people remember the babies that were killed on the orders of King Herod when he was trying to kill the baby Jesus.
In France, a Nativity crib is often used to help decorate the house. French cribs have clay figures in them. During December some towns and cities, such as Marseilles, have fairs that sell Nativity figures. As well as having the normal Nativity figures in them, French scenes also have figures such as a Butcher, a Baker, a Policeman and a Priest.
One of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe is held in Strasbourg, in North Eastern France. In the Alsatian language it’s called the “Christkindelsmarik”.
Yule Logs made out of Cherry Wood are often burned in French homes. An old tradition is that the log was carried into the home on Christmas Eve and sprinkled with red wine to make the log smell nice when it was burning. There is a custom that the log and candles are left burning all night with some food and drinks left out in case Mary and the baby Jesus come past during the night.
In Colombia, Christmas celebrations and preparations start on the evening of the 7th December which is known as ‘Día de las Velitas’ or ‘Day of the little Candles’. Houses and streets are decorated with candles, lanterns and lots of lights. There are also big firework displays and music to dance to and foods like ‘buñuelos’ and ’empanadas’. This day is celebrated by Catholics around the world as The Feast of the Immaculate Conception but is especially popular in Colombia.
On the 28th December people celebrate Innocents Day, which is like April Fools Day, with lots of jokes and fun. TV stations often show bloopers and funny mistakes people have made in the previous year.