Are you celebrating Christmas Tuesday? Or are you celebrating tomorrow? Around the world, Christmas is celebrated in many different ways and at different times. I live in London, UK, and here, Christmas celebration takes place at 25th December, Christmas Day. I guess we all know the story why we have celebrated Christmas the last 1700 years or so, in one form or another, but it takes place in very different forms on different dates around the world. And in fact, Christmas as we know it is an amalgamation of many different celebrations which people in Europe have celebrated for thousands of years, long before the Bible was written.
My Christmas card for 2012 -
In Norwegian, Christmas Eve is called Julaften, which means directly translated Yule Evening, so nothing in the name referring to Jesus or Christ at all. Yule was originally an indigenous midwinter (winter solstice) festival celebrated by the pagan Scandinavian and other Germanic people until the Catholic Church decided to pick this time of year as a suitable time to celebrate the birth of Christ. Customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule. The fact that Yule is not etymologically tied to Christianity means Yule in the Nordic countries is also celebrated by many non-Christians and non-religious. The non-religious usually treat Yule as an entirely secular tradition.
To me, Christmas or Julaften is a day for the family to meet, as many family members as possible; to have a nice dinner in the evening and to exchange presents. We put our best clothes on and have a formal dinner, the best china comes out of the cupboards, the house is decorated and there are candles and lights everywhere. No silly hats or daft jokes around the table, and no-one gets drunk. Julaften is a formal occasion, even if you are together just as a family – it is supposed to be formal, this one evening a year.
Living here in London, with most of my family in other countries around Europe it is difficult to meet like we used to for Christmas, so it has become a rather low-key celebration for me. My son is working tomorrow and the shop where he works doesn’t close until 9 pm, so no celebrating together in the evening, but he is coming over for dinner on the 25th. My best china is once again washed and ready to be used; it hasn’t been out since last Christmas :-) Whatever you are doing this Christmas, a religious celebration or a non-religious one, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or maybe you are celebrating nonstop from 24th until the 6th January as they do in many European countries – whatever you do I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year. My cat says Happy Christmas too!