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Christmas traditions around the world are special for millions of people. Through our work around the world, All We Can has come to know a number of these different traditions and they all have a common theme of sharing and good will.
Christmas in Burundi is a much simpler celebration than in many other places. It is a family time for Christians, centered around food, music and dance, togetherness and church services. Palm fronds and banana leaves might be used to lend a festive air, but trees are never cut and decorated. Special holiday foods might include chicken with rice and freshly baked bread, or perhaps a stew flavoured with Middle Eastern spices, prepared with fresh vegetables and pomegranates. Some people dress in the country’s flag colours of red, green and white, and the holiday is observed beginning December 24 and continuing through Christmas Day.
While only a small percentage of the population are Christian, Christmas is observed as a religious holiday in Nepal, but is also celebrated as a national festival by non-Christians. For Christians it closes the austerity of Advent and ushers in the “12 days of Christmastide.” City bazaars are highly decorated with trees and twinkling lights; people begin shopping early in December. Gift exchanges and lavish feasts characterise the season, along with midnight church services on Christmas Eve. It is a special time with family and friends, concerts and public gatherings.
Sierra Leonean celebrations include a mix of both modern partying and ancient pre-Christmas tradition! It’s a unique and lively mix that commemorates the birth of Christ. Masquerade parties, costumes and masking ceremonies add to the celebratory mood in Freetown, where secret societies, children and police bands join together to make the observance special. Christmas Day becomes a family time that typically features an exchange of presents and a shared meal. Even the Muslim population of Sierra Leone acknowledges the season as a time of peace and good will, although they usually don’t participate.
Residents of Zimbabwe dress in their finest clothes and Christians typically begin Christmas Day in church. Following the religious services, there is a “travelling party,” and people make their way from house to house to share food, drink and gifts with family and friends. Returning home from church services can take all day! Chicken, which is costly in Zimbabwe, is often frequently served with rice as a special Christmas treat. The day is a special — and often loud — celebration, because Christmas carols are played along with pop tunes and traditional African music. Santa Claus visits Zimbabwean children early in the day, and many homes decorate a Christmas tree as well.
Christmas arrives in Ethiopia a little later than in most of the world. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, along with most of the country, celebrates on the date set by the Julian Calendar, January 7. Known an Ganna or Genna, the holiday celebration begins with church attendance at about 6 p.m. Christmas Eve and can last until 3 a.m. Christmas Day. During the 45-day Advent season leading up to Christmas, many observant Christians eat only one vegan meal a day, so a traditional feast with a stew of meat and vegetables is a welcome treat as part of Christmas Day festivities. Outside of the larger cities, traditional dress is white, with a garment known as a Netela worn as a shawl or toga. A special part of the celebration is a procession during which everyone carries a candle and walks three times around the circular-shaped village church.