The Netherlands. The most important day for children in the Netherlands is Dec. 5, when Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) leaves presents in the children's shoes. Sinterklaas travels with a servant called Zwarte Pieten (Black Peter). "Merry Christmas" in Dutch is Prettige Kerstfeet.
Australia. Christmas occurs in the middle of summer for Australians. A Carols by Candlelight service is held in each state capital. Christmas light display contests are hugely popular and raise tons of money for charity each year. The day after Christmas, Boxing Day, is celebrated with friends and coworkers. It's also the day of the famous yacht race from Sydney to Hobart.
Germany. The Christmas tree tradition originated in Germany (O Tannenbaum). Children write letters to Christkindl (the Christ Child) to ask for presents, and families exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. Carp and goose are the main Christmas foods and are often served with stollen, a fruited yeast bread. After Christmas, the Sternsinger (Star singers) go from house to house to sing and collect money for charity. "Merry Christmas" in German is Frohe Weihnachten.
France. "Merry Christmas" in French is Joyeux Noël (in Corsican, it's Bon Natale). Père Noël is Father Christmas (Santa Claus). Yule logs made of Cherry wood are a favorite choice for the holiday hearth. The French inspired Americans to name babies born on or around Christmas Noelle or Noel.
Mexico. From Dec. 16 through Christmas Eve, children perform Posadas, the procession of Joseph and Mary into Bethlehem. El Dia de los Reyes (Epiphany) is celebrated by eating rosca de reyes (king's cake), a cake that contains a hidden figure of the El Ninito Dios (Baby Jesus). Mexicans also remember when Baby Jesus was taken to the temple: Dia de la Candelaria. "Merry Christmas" in Spanish is Feliz Navidad. Baby names to consider include Roscoe, Nina, Nino and Felix.
Ireland. "Merry Christmas" in Irish is Nollaig Shona Dhuit. On the day after Christmas, St. Stephen's Day, the Wren Boys Procession is celebrated. Young people dressed in homemade costumes carry a long pole with a holly bush tied to it and sing a rhyme about a wren.
Sweden. On Dec. 13, Swedes celebrate the feast of St. Lucia (St. Lucy's Day) and the Winter Solstice (based on the old Julian calendar). St Lucia's Day is also celebrated in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Italy, Bosnia and Croatia. The Swedish "Merry Christmas" is God Jul.
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