Beyond the rush of shopping, parties and the anticipation of holidays, Christmas still has the power to bring people together in the spirit of goodwill.
The practice of exchanging gifts has become traditional around the world and an essential ingredient of Christmas for millions of people around the world. Gift-giving may have originated with the story of the Three Wise Men who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus, but it was also linked to St Nicholas, who evolved in many European countries into Santa Claus.
In different cultures around the world, the Christmas season is celebrated in a variety of ways.
In Britain, groups of serenaders called "waits" travelled from house to house, singing carols. These 19th century “songs of joy” are still among today's most beloved Christmas music.
Ethiopians still follow the old Julian calendar and celebrate Christmas on the original date of 7th January usually by going to church.
In Japan Christmas is a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. It is actually more like our Valentine’s Day for the young Japanese. As so few Japanese are Christian, Christmas Day is not a national holiday in Japan.
Christmas is known as Yule in Iceland and was first celebrated in ancient times as the winter solstice. The first recorded Christmas or Yule tree in Iceland was in 1862. As there were no evergreen trees growing in Iceland at that time, Icelanders made Yule trees using a central pole with branches attached to it and painted green.
In Venezuela Christmas is an extremely colourful event with fireworks being a popular way to celebrate. It is customary for Venezuelans to exchange presents at midnight on Christmas Eve. Christmas fare includes 'Hallacas' which is a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, capers, raisins, and olives is wrapped in leaves creating a parcel for boiling or steaming.
All of these different traditions have one thing in common... they bring families and friends together in a time of love and acceptance.
Joyeux Noel. Feliz Navidad. Froehliche Weihnachten. Sung Tan Chuk Ha. Een Plesiergiege Kerfees… or in other words, “Merry Christmas”!