Holiday Traditions Differ Depending on Culture and Family History

The Campbell house in Karns shows off its holiday spirit.

Aurora Barks

The Campbell house in Karns shows off its holiday spirit.

Aurora Barks

Every December 25 a big fat man called Santa Claus slides down the chimney with a big sack filled with toys for good boys and girls then leaves for the next house with his reindeer until the whole world has seen him. At least, that is the more entertainment/ commercial take on Christmas. Another take is that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Many other countries around the world have a similar tone of Christmas. Hanukkah is not Christmas, but it is still celebrated in the end November to early December and is a huge religious holiday. In short, there are many ways people celebrate the end of the year.


Mexico doesn’t have just one day to celebrate, they have the whole month. The holiday starts on December 12 and ends January 6. There is a feast, lots of pinatas, candle-lit processions, elaborate nativity scenes, Spanish Christmas carols, dancing and fireworks. Santa Claus and Christmas trees are present. Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe kicks off the holiday.  This national holiday, which honors Lady of Guadalupe, a Catholic Saint, is a very important day for faithful citizens. Each year, thousands of religious pilgrims from all over travel to the Basilica of Guadalupe, a large church located in Mexico City, to lay their eyes on La Virgen Morena. Most people will spend at least a few hours in church, they will also set off firecrackers, march in parades and attend live musical performances. By the time morning Mass has ended, the parties are already beginning, some of which even include bullfights. Food is a very important part. This merrymaking is considered to be a sign of respect and thanks to the Virgin of Guadalupe. December 16th through 24th processions of re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter happen. Pastorelas are theatrical productions about the shepherds’ journey to see the newborn baby Jesus, villancicos, Mexico version carols, and of course the Poinsettia.


A huge way Italy celebrates Christmas is by doing Nativity plays and cribs.  Nativity Plays recreates the scene of Jesus’ Birth and tells of how Mary and Joseph were visited by the Shepherds and Wise Men while nativity cribs are making a scene of the birth of Jesus. Having Nativity scenes in people’s own homes became popular in the 16th century and it’s still popular today,before that only churches and monasteries had scenes. Nativity scenes are traditionally put out on the 8th December, but the figure of the baby Jesus isn’t put into the crib until the evening/night of December 24th. Another part of the holiday spirit is that children go out caroling and playing songs on shepherds pipes, wearing shepherds sandals and hats. When people return from Mass they might have a slice of Italian Christmas Cake called ‘Panettone’ which is like a dry fruity sponge cake and a cup of hot chocolate.


Japan does not see Christmas as a religious holiday. In Japan, Christmas is known as more of a time to spread happiness. Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend time together and exchange presents. Japanese love their fried chicken, especially from KFC. Many place orders in advance. There was an advertising campaign by KFC in 1974 called ‘Kentucky for Christmas.’ (Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!) which was very successful and made KFC popular for Christmas. A Japanese Christmas Cake is more similar to shortcake than rich deep fruity cake with it’s spongy texture topped with strawberry and whipped cream. Although Christmas is not a national holiday, schools are closed on Christmas Day because it’s near the start of the New Year school break, but most businesses will treat the 25th as a ‘normal’ working day. A visit to Tokyo Disneyland is another popular way to celebrate.


Although many look at Christmas traditions by countries there are different ways each family personally celebrates.


“We visit my Aunt and cousins for Christmas eve and day. My parents play Christmas musicals all day on the 25th.” Abilene Pooser, a junior at Karns said. Many families do a similar tradition such as feeding reindeer,  mixture of dried oatmeal and glitter, or decorating the outside of their house.


Athena Trent said that she and her family wrap presents together as well as decorate the Christmas tree,  “even though they decided to decorate when I was at work, but I’m not bitter. Not at all.”

If someone’s parents are divorced, Christmas may be split into two parts. When asked how Harper Potter did Christmas at two different houses she said, “At my dad’s we don’t really do any tradition. At my mom’s we just met up with family.”


Christmas traditions are a way to show some holiday spirit or follow a religion and each one is as joyous as the next.