It’s Christmas Eve and there’s an unexpected knock at the door. If you’re in the United States, it may be a gaggle of carolers who have come to serenade you. If you’re in Argentina, it might be neighbors arriving to exchange gifts and light fireworks. If you’re in Newfoundland in Canada, it could be friends disguised in costumes who perform comedy sketches until you can guess who they are.
Christmas, an annual holiday that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, is celebrated in unique ways in different countries, even those with few Christians. Celebrations of Christmas are commonplace around the world: India is less than three percent Christian, but Christmas is a national holiday. Only one percent of Japan's population is Christian, but Santa impersonators and holiday music still fill department stores.
Christmas in the United States brings together many customs from other countries and cultures. Around the world, family members help to decorate the tree and home with bright lights, wreaths, candles, holly, mistletoe, and ornaments.
In every country, food takes center stage. In Ukraine, ambitious feasters enjoy a 12-course meal. In Japan, it’s common for families to visit the American fast-food chain KFC for dinner. In Poland, carp featured during dinner are often kept in the family bathtub for days before it's eaten. Afterwards, it’s common for the fish scales to be kept for good luck.