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szdaily -> Lifestyle
How kids around the world celebrate Christmas
    2017-December-22  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

TINY tots, with their eyes all aglow, are now relishing — or eagerly awaiting — holiday celebrations around the world.

In places like the United States, where 90 percent of people celebrate Christmas, children will look for presents from Santa Claus under the tree and treats in their stockings.

Yet in other regions of the world, who brings gifts and what those gifts are can vary, depending on where families live and which holiday they are celebrating.

Here is a sampling of the whimsical ways some parents and children celebrate the season across cultures.

In Italy, children receive gifts from Babbo Natale, or Santa Claus, but there’s also a witchlike woman who delivers gifts to the nice and coal to the naughty during the holidays.

“Befana is the female Italian equivalent of Santa Claus,” said Anne Rashford, director of special exhibitions and events at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, who curated the museum’s Christmas Around the World exhibit.

Rashford described La Befana as an elderly woman who flies on a broomstick across Italy, giving gifts to children on Epiphany Day, a Christian holiday celebrating the first manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

The holiday, on Jan. 6, is also known as Three Kings Day or the Feast of the Epiphany.

Various versions of the legend of La Befana describe her as a little old woman, a kindly witch or a fairy queen. In some tales, legend has it that La Befana declined an invitation to join the wise men on their journey to Bethlehem to see baby Jesus, and so to this day, she takes flight every Epiphany Eve to search for the holy child on her own, Rashford said.

Yet while children follow the tale of La Befana in Italy, in some parts of Africa, they wait for Old Man Bayka.

In Liberia, Old Man Bayka, or the county’s “devil,” wanders the streets begging for presents on Christmas Day, according to the ONE campaign, a global advocacy organization.

In other parts of the African continent, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, children often participate in church musicals or Nativity plays for Christmas, according to ONE. In Sierra Leone and much of Gambia, towns and villages celebrate with masquerade parties.

In Japan, where about 1 percent of the population identifies as Christian, many children and adults alike who celebrate Christmas do so with a big bucket of finger-lickin’ good Kentucky Fried Chicken.

KFC was established in Japan in 1970 and launched a nationwide Christmas campaign Dec. 1, 1974, according to the company’s website. Ever since, KFC has implemented Christmas campaigns in all stores every year.

The Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan website notes, “Eventually in Japan the custom of ‘Christmas is a fried chicken’ has taken root, and it has become established as a strange kind of poetry from the West.”

Food has become a jolly part of how children around the world celebrate the holidays, especially across Europe.

In Estonia, “apples, nuts, cookies and other treats are often given to children during the holidays. Apples became a tradition because they were free and keep for a very long time,” Rashford said.

In the small European country Luxembourg, “on the Eve of St. Nicholas Day, children put plates on the table for St. Nicholas to fill with sweets and treats when he comes with gifts,” she said. “The children also leave drawings, poems or other tokens of appreciation for St. Nicholas to find.”

During Christmas in France, children traditionally put their shoes in front of the fireplace or by the Christmas tree for Father Christmas to fill with presents, sweets, fruits and nuts.

In the Netherlands, on the evening of Dec. 5, children tend to leave wooden shoes for Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, filled with sweets for him and carrots or hay for his horses. In turn, St. Nick, who is said to travel from Spain, fills the shoes with treats.

Though shoes aren’t involved, children celebrating the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah also tend to indulge in sweet treats.

In the United States around the 1920s, gifts given to children in celebration of Hanukkah started to include foil-wrapped chocolate coins called gelt, which is Yiddish for money, and perhaps were based on the chocolate money that some Dutch children received from Sinterklaas, according to the National Endowment for the Humanities. Now, gelt at Hanukkah can take the form of candy or actual money in a card.

In Spain, some parents gift their children friendly-looking hollow logs as part of a unique Christmas tradition. Every night leading up to Christmas, the family “feeds” or stuffs the log with treats such as nuts, dates and candies. On Christmas, they sing “log songs” and beat the log with sticks, like a pinata, so it will spill the treats. The logs are called caga tio, or pooping logs.

On Christmas Eve in Greece, some children go caroling, singing and playing music, and their neighbors reward them with tasty snacks and coins.

In Norway and some other Scandinavian countries, a red-hat-wearing, elf-like creature named Julenisse brings small gifts and fruit to children. In turn, children leave porridge for Julenisse on Christmas Eve. Watching “The Disney Christmas Show” with family on Christmas Eve has also become a holiday tradition among children in Scandinavian countries.(SD-Agencies)

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