With Christmas fast approaching, many Americans are scrambling to finish their last minute Christmas shopping, decorate their homes and prepare for the large feast on Christmas Day. However, not everyone around the world celebrates one of the most beloved American holidays the same. There are many different traditions celebrated all around the world and many cultures believe in different things. From varying traditions that are celebrated around the world to how much is acceptable to spend on gifts, much of this is dictated by the cultural norms.
Christmas takes many shapes around the world. Some children believe in Santa Claus (and his expensive one-night trip) while others celebrate with lights and baked goods. Regardless, almost every country has some form of holiday that is celebrated in the latter part of December. Here is a look at some of the varying Christmas traditions around the world.
Said to be the birthplace of Jesus, visitors and citizens crowd the churches in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve to watch the annual procession. Christians mark their doors with crosses and many display nativity scenes.
There is a large feast known as le Reveillon, which is a very late supper held after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. French children receive gifts from "Pere Noel." He is accompanied by "Pere Fouettard" who reminds Pere Noel just how each child behaved during the year.
Similar and highly influenced by western culture, the Japanese have taken to decorations and gift giving just as many Americans. The God/Priest in Japan named Hotei-osho closely resembles Santa Claus.
Homes are decorated with strings of Mango leaves. Lights are hung as decorations and a sweet treat called Thali is made and shared with friends and family.
How Much is Spent
With Christmas being celebrated in many different countries, it's no doubt that there are differing opinions on what one should spend on gifts. Generally speaking, the greater the GDP per person the higher the amount of money is spent at Christmas time per person. The United States was projected to have a GDP of just below 50,000 per person. It was estimated that each person in the United States spends around $700 on Christmas gifts. Conversely, Ukraine has a GDP of just below $10,000 per person and only spends about $250 on gifts at Christmas. However, the norm doesn't always hold true. Two countries are outliers to the trend: Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Luxembourg has a GDP of $85,000 per person, and despite their high earnings, people in Luxemborg only spend about $775 per person on Christmas gifts.
The other anomaly is the Dutch. The Dutch GDP per person is just above $40,000. However, they spend significantly less than their economic equivalents the Swiss. On average, the Swiss, who have a similar GDP, spend $650 per person. The Dutch remain frugal, spending less than $200 per person on Christmas gifts. The Dutch don't seem to place a high importance on the value of "things."
The Bottom Line
Christmas traditions around the world have been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and continue to change as time passes. Whether it's Christmas in India, or a visit from Pere Noel in France, different customs are celebrated around the world, all emphasizing time with loved ones as a priority. How much each person spends on Christmas gifts can differ based on the culture they were brought up in and the traditions they need to uphold. Billions of people gather worldwide to celebrate the festive occasion.
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