Christmas around the world

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If a person from another planet asked you to explain the meaning of Christmas, you would probably say that it is a festival during which Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. This, of course, is true, but not only Christians celebrate. People of other religions, and people who have no religion at all, enjoy the days towards the end of December as a time when families get together and give each other presents, eat and drink well, and put on a lot of weight.

Nobody knows when Jesus was born, but it was almost certainly not on 25 December in the year 1. So why December? There are lots of theories. One is that long, long before the birth of Christ, people celebrated the fact that the days started to get longer in the second half of December. Another theory is that the Church made the Roman Saturnalia – a week of eating, drinking and misbehaving – into a Christian festival, cutting out the misbehaving.

Christmas is not Christmas without a tree, and this tradition goes back thousands of years, when pagans worshipped trees and brought them into their homes, where they decorated them. And presents? People gave presents during the Saturnalia in ancient Rome, and the tradition became part of Christmas. What about Santa Claus, whose real name is Saint Nicholas? He was an important bishop seventeen hundred years ago, and lived in Turkey. He did not have reindeer and never went to the North Pole, but don’t tell your young sisters and brothers that!


True or false?

  1. Only Christians celebrate Christmas.
  2. People eat a lot at Christmas.
  3. Jesus was born on 25 December.                                         
  4. Romans behaved badly during the Saturnalia.
  5. The tradition of the Christmas tree is a modern one.
  6. The tradition of giving presents began with St. Nicholas. 
Now correct the false statements.

Activities for the links below

Christmas is an international celebration, so we are going to go to a lot of countries in this section, not just those in which English is the main language. Go to the first link, where you will find an Advent calendar. You will have to cheat a little and open two doors every day if you are going to complete the tasks before your Christmas break. Work with another student for a few minutes every day, and see who can answer most of the questions correctly. Then, when you have opened all the doors, go to the second link and find out who remembers most.


Cappelen Damm

Sist oppdatert: 07.09.2009

© Cappelen Damm AS