The festive season has arrived, with the ringing of sleigh bells and the timely glistening of snow on our streets.

Amid all the pie chopping, caroling, and gift shopping, it can be hard to pause and remember why the date is on our calendar. Sky News examines the origins of the traditional holiday and how it is celebrated across the world.

What is Christmas?

Christmas takes place on December 25 every year and is a Christian holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.

While many celebrate the holiday to honor the birth of Jesus, it has also become a global cultural holiday and is often celebrated by non-Christians.

The English term “Christmas” – a fusion of Christ and the Mass – is of relatively recent origin, dating back to when it was celebrated with a Mass in the Catholic Church. The older term “Yule” dates back to when the period was a celebration of the winter solstice, according to Britannica.

In other countries, the day of celebration may be called “Navidad” in Spanish, “Natale” in Italian and “Noal” in French, deriving from the term “nativity”.

Does everyone celebrate Christmas on December 25?

While Protestants and Catholics celebrate the 25th, many countries and religious sectors may choose to embrace the holiday season on a different day, in accordance with the Julian calendar.

Orthodox and Coptic Christians will celebrate Christmas on January 7.

This is how Christmas is celebrated around the world:

Poland – The breaking of bread

Image:
Christmas in Poland. Photo: Reuters

On Christmas Eve, families gather to share Oplatiki. This tradition started with a simple white wafer, baked from flour and water and is designed with a display of Christmas images.

Traditionally, each person around the table breaks off a piece wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

Iceland – Book donation

The tradition of book distribution in Iceland.  Photo: Reuters
Image:
The tradition of book distribution in Iceland. Photo: Reuters

Also known as “Jolabokaflod”, which translates to “the Christmas Book”, is an Icelandic tradition of giving away new books on Christmas Eve and reading them with family and friends.

After you’ve been given a book to dive into, be sure to get cozy in your bed or by the fireplace, with a hot chocolate for the night.

Mexico – Night of the Radish

Mexico, Noche de los Rabanos.  Photo: AP
Image:
Mexico, Noche de los Rabanos. Photo: AP

An annual event held on December 23 and known as Noche de los Rabanos in Oaxaca City.

Radishes have always been an integral part of Oaxacan Christmas cuisine, as an essential ingredient and decorative garnish.

The annual radish carving competition dates back to 1897 and became part of that year’s Christmas market. The tradition continues to this day.

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Japan – Kentucky Fried Chicken

Statue of Colonel Sanders dressed as Santa Claus at a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant in Tokyo.  Photo: Reuters
Image:
Statue of Colonel Sanders dressed as Santa Claus at a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant in Tokyo. Photo: Reuters

In Japan, families gather around the dinner table to eat a bucket of fried chicken to commemorate the holiday season.

Some say KFC Japan’s first enterprising manager, Takeshi Okawara, told a white lie in 1970 and marketed fried chicken as a traditional American Christmas food to encourage sales at the time.

The Okawara company set the tone for Christmas in Japan.

Austria – Krampus

Traditional Krampus race in the village of Biberwier.  Photo: Reuters
Image:
Traditional Krampus race in the village of Biberwier. Photo: Reuters

Every year, Austrian children prepare for St. Nicholas to visit them and, according to tradition, if the children have behaved well, he will reward them. If the children have been bad, they will have to face Krampus.

The half-man, half-goat is known for chasing naughty children and dragging them to hell, according to ancient Austrian folk tales.

United Kingdom – Christmas Pudding

Flambéed Christmas pudding.  Photo: AP
Image:
Flambéed Christmas pudding. Photo: AP

First introduced to the UK in the 14th century, many Britons carry on the tradition of placing a silver coin in the pudding for good luck.

The pudding is traditionally made with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices and is an all time favorite in the UK.

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