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Christmas Traditions

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ALTHOUGH Christmas is celebrated in across the world festive traditions vary widely from region to region. Traditions we know well in Ireland, such as placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve, or leaving a mince pie out for Santa and a carrot for his reindeer, are unknown on the continent, while some tradition that originated here, such as the use of holly as a decoration, have spread throughout the world. Even the date on which the celebration falls can be months apart from one country to another.

When we are taking our decorations down here in Ireland on Little Christmas, January 6, some are only beginning their celebrations. Here are some examples of the varying Christmas traditions of the world: In some countries, such as Russia and Ukraine, Christmas is celebrated on January 7.

This is because the Orthodox church uses the old Julian calendar for religious celebration days. In the traditional Russian Christmas special prayers are said and people fast, sometimes for up to 39 days, until the first evening star appears in the sky on Christmas Eve, which falls on January 6.

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People then enjoy a 12 course supper in honour of the apostles. In Germany December 6 is Nikolaustag, St Claus Day. Children leave out a shoe or boot outside their door and the next morning candies and small toy appear in them for those who have been good.

Children in the Netherlands also get sweets on December 6, when Sinterklass and his sidekick Black Pete come on a steamer and leave sweets and nuts for children, who have filled their shoes with hay for his horses.

In parts of Italy, Spain and Portugal it is tradition to set up a model village of Bethlehem. Often included along with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus is a figure called a Caganer, or “Shitter.”

The Caganer is a figurine, usually a man, with his trousers around his knees, defecating. The origins and explanations for this tradition vary.

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