I have chosen four countries in europe to write about right now and will write about more countries from other continents later.
On christmas eve, children leave their shoes by the fireplace to be filled with gifts by Pere Noel. If a family has a christmas tree; sweets, fruits, nuts, and small toys are hung on it.
Most homes have nativity scenes set up and they serve as the focus of the christmas celebration.
A late supper called Le Reveillion is served after midnight mass on christmas eve. Regional food is eaten at this feast, as well as a yule log shaped cake called Buche de Nol or Christmas cake. After the feast, food and drink is left on the tables and the log is left burning in the fireplace in case the virgin Mary calls is.
The Christmas season goes for 3 weeks, starting 8 days before Novena (Christmas). The week before Christmas children go from house to house dressed up as sheperds, playing pipes, singing, and receiting christmas poems. The children are then given money to buy christmas presents.
A feast happens 24 hours before Christmas eve and is followed by a celebration meal in which Panneton and chocolate are featured. On christmas day the pope gives blessings to the crowd gathered in vatican square. Children wait until the Epiphany on January 6th to receive presents. Their gifts are delivered by an ugly witch who was said to be to busy to visit baby Jesus on the day he was born.
During Christmas time, young children, particularly those in the country, remember a little gnome who guards their farm animals. This gnome will play tricks on the children if the forget to leave him a bowl of porridge.
They also have a gift bearing gnome, called Julebukk (meaning Christmas buck), he is called this because he appears as a goat like creature.
The Christmas season begins with the Saint Lucia ceremony on the 13th of December. The oldest daughter in the family puts on a white robe, a sash, and crown of evergreens with tall lighted candles in it. The younger daughters carry one lit candle each. The boys in the family dress as star boys with long white shirts and pointed hats. The children wake their parents at dawn and bring them coffee, and Lussekatter (saffron buns). The ceremony is meant to represents thanksgiving for the return of the sun.
Christmas trees are usually decorated with apples, red harts, cornets, straw ornaments, balls of glass, and tinsel.
On Christmas day, families usually have a big brunch at noon or a dinner in the afternoon.
Advent is an important season in the Polish year. There are special church services held every morning (called roraty), at six. The four Sundays of advent are said to represent the 4,000 years of waiting for christ.
During this time, Christmas decorations are made, as in piernik, a honey cake. Christmas trees are placed in homes and public areas as well as outside churches. They are decorated with shiny apples, gift walnuts, beautifully wrapped chocolate shapes, and homemade decorations and candles. On top of the trees, there is usually a star.
Christmas eve (wigilia) is important in Poland. The polish traditionally celebrate with at least 12 different vegetarian dishes.