(Photo by Lindsay O’Neil)
Celebrating Christmas with Cultures of the World
By Michelle Ochen
Snowflakes are commonly associated with Christmas, right? The classic Christmas scene, a house with candles in the window, the fireplace a blaze, a family within sipping on hot chocolate, an evergreen tree holding many gifts beneath, and snowflakes falling outside. Just as every snowflake is unique and different, so is every culture in their celebration of this sacred holiday.
If you travel around the globe, you will find so many different variations of Christmas celebrations. For example, in Sweden, you might find a child waking her family and breakfast being served by candlelight. In Norway, the famous Yule log will mark the day. If you visit Finland, you will be taken to a cemetery to visit deceased loved ones. Germany began the Christmas tree, and England cherished the romance of mistletoe kisses. Our country hung stockings to await the visit of St. Nicolas down the chimney. Australia would invite you for a barbecue meal, while in Ukraine a twelve course meal would be prepared. Ugandan children would rejoice with a meal that includes meat, and little girls might receive a new dress. Central America began the nativity scene to explain the birth of Jesus, and France reminded us of the purpose to rejoice, as they call the day “Noel,” meaning “Good News.”
Over the years, the season has often committed treason against the reason to celebrate, via traditions and activity, distracting from the true celebration of Christmas – the birth of our Savior into the world.
On a cold night, a couple, weary from traveling, found the only available shelter to give birth to a child who would change every culture, color, and tongue by bringing God’s forgiveness to mankind, taking the scarlet sins of men and making them white as snow through His sacrificed life.
Oh what a reason to celebrate! A child is born to bring good news to a world that dwelt in darkness and death to bring eternal life to those who would believe!
The Swedish caught a glimpse of the truth when they chose to celebrate by lighting candles, for the Light of the world had been born to us. Those in Finland now have a reason to hope as they visit the graves of the deceased, for the Savior and giver of life had been born to us. The Ukrainians look out for the Christmas star, the very reminder of that glorious night that Emmanuel had been born to us. The French encompass it in that beautiful word, “Noel”… the Good News had been born to us.
Regardless of the cultural seat you sit upon at the Christmas table this year, let us keep our eyes fixed upon the host of our hope, the God of all nations giving to us His highest treasure through the giving of His Son, as a babe, to a lost and dying world. He is our life, our reason, and our joy. Let His life be your reason for rejoicing this holiday season.