In 2016, Riviera KIDS has sought to create a global worldview for their students. We have done so by introducing students to a variety of cultures and countries, and families who work in those countries. What a better way to showcase the Christmas season to than to look at the way a few of those countries celebrate the holiday!
Given that 90% of the population of Thailand are Buddhist, the Christian holiday of Christmas is not an official holiday. However, with the high rate of tourism and the commercialization of the holiday, Thailand does get into the Christmas spirit each year, especially with the parties and shopping that have become associated with the secular celebrations tied to the holiday.
As is with Thailand, there are very few Christians in Japan, so Christmas is not a religious or official holiday. As a matter of fact, most schools and businesses stay open on December 25th. In Japan, Christmas is known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. In many ways it resembles Valentine's Day celebrations in the United Kingdom and America. Young couples like to go for walks to look at the Christmas lights and have a romantic meal in a restaurant. Booking a table on Christmas Eve can be very difficult as it's so popular! Parties are often held for children, with games and dancing. Japanese Christmas Cake is a sponge cake decorated with trees, flowers and a figure of Santa Claus.
As there are very few Christians in China, Christmas isn't that widely celebrated in the rural areas of China, but it's becoming more well known. It is celebrated in the larger cities. Only a few people have a true Christmas Tree. If people do have a tree, it’s normally a plastic one and might be decorated with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns (they might also call it a tree of light). The Christmas Trees that most people see are in shopping malls. Those in China who are Christians are celebrating with special Christmas services more and more.
Of Uganda's population of 34 million people, many are Christians - greetings of “Praise God!” and “Hallelujah!” are regularly exchanged between friends on the streets. In fact, it is more usual to talk about one's faith than the weather. Christmas in Uganda is a joyful season, a quiet and reflective holiday. There is no snow on the ground. There are few decorations and lights spread over the city. It’s quite a stark contrast to the overwhelming celebrations and emotionally packed holiday traditions common in America. Christmas is not just about presents but sharing love, food, and family get-togethers. Everyone tries to have a chicken for the Christmas meal, which is usually smoked, seasoned, and steamed in banana leaves.
These are just a few of the countries that we have talked about during our Missions Moments. In studying their beliefs and cultures, we are able to get a better view of the greater Church.
Alas, even though Christmas is a Christian holiday, the commercialized version of it has been the aspect that has crossed cultures. These days, even in America, there are more references to the secular myth of Santa Claus, the glorification of shopping and overspending, and overeating than there are to the Baby born in a manger.
The church is in a very special place to be able to communicate the meaning of the season. There are several ways that churches do this - from the decorations they place on their property, to live nativity scenes that can be visited and interacted with, to special holiday performances and worship services. It is important to make sure that we are purposeful in sharing the reason for the Season; it very well may be the one place that people get to truly hear about why Jesus came to this earth a baby.
In my family, there were two traditions I remember from my youth that were my favorite: taking the long ride home after the Christmas Eve service to see all of the beautiful lights, and reading the Christmas story from the Bible the next morning. Each year, before a single gift is opened, a reader is selected to read it aloud. As our family continues to grow, it has been wonderful hearing the story read by different readers, as well as read or re-told in different languages.
How do you and your family celebrate Christmas? Feel free to share in the comment section or on our Facebook page. And don’t forget to make Jesus the center of your celebrations.
Children's Ministries Director
Riviera Baptist Church