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Christmas in Australia, China, Italy, South Korea, North Pole

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(WJLA) - Christmas is celebrated all around the world. But the festivities vary from country to country. Here are five places with traditions you might not be aware of.

Christmas Day at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. AP Photo.
Buddhist children wearing Santa Claus costumes sing Christmas songs in a ceremony to celebrate upcoming Christmas at the Chogye temple in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. AP Photo.
Many Italian families gather the night before Christmas for La Vigilia - the Feast of Seven Fishes. AP Photo.

AUSTRALIA
The holiday scene couldn’t be more different Down Under. Can you imagine Santa Claus arriving on a surf board? Or having a Christmas picnic by the ocean? That’s exactly how some Australians celebrate.

Christmas falls in the middle of summer in Australia, so many families take their festive activities to the outdoors with barbecues and campouts. For dinner, there are two options. Some families have traditional English meals like plum puddings and turkey, but served cold to beat the hot weather. While others take advantage of fresh seafood like prawns and lobster.

Carols by Candlelight is a popular get together for Australians. People gather outside after the sun goes down to sing Christmas carols and light candles in celebration of the holiday.

CHINA
Santa and his sisters…yes, sisters…are well-known characters in China during the holiday season. The women accompany the Jolly Old Elf in place of the usual elves. And in many cases, Santa is portrayed carrying a saxophone. There’s no history or explanation behind this image. Some think it could be linked to President Bill Clinton’s love of the sax.

About five percent of China’s population is Christian, but most celebrate the commercial, non-religious aspects of the holiday. Ornaments, trees and lots of lights are seen in many public displays.

Christmas apples are common gifts among the Chinese because the word “apple” sounds like the phrase “Christmas Eve” in Mandarin.

ITALY
It sounds more like Halloween, but in Italy a Christmas witch brings presents and candy to good boys and girls. La Bafana uses her broomstick to deliver goodies. And just like Santa Claus, Bafana leaves a lump of coal for the kids who’ve been naughty.

When it comes to holiday food, there’s usually no turkey, but plenty of fish. Christmas Eve dinner in Italy is referred to as The Feast of the Seven Fishes. It’s religious in origin as Catholics are not supposed to eat milk or meat during certain holy days, so fish became an obvious option. And even though it’s called “The Feast of Seven Fishes,” some families serve nine, ten or more fish dishes for their holiday dinner.

SOUTH KOREA
Thirty percent of South Koreans are Christian and Christmas is actually a national holiday there. So there are many similarities between how the U.S. and South Koreans celebrate. But the differences are quite unusual and extremely interesting.

Let’s begin with Santa. He’s known as Santa Grandfather or Santa Harabujee. Sometimes he’s dressed in the traditional red, but he also sports a blue outfit too. And there are even times when Santa Grandfather appears wearing a traditional Korean hat.

Here’s possibly the strangest difference – Christmas is thought of as a romantic holiday for many non-Christian South Koreans. On Christmas day, restaurants are usually bustling with couples celebrating “date night” instead of the “holy night.” And on the radio, stations ditch the traditional songs we hear in the U.S. for songs that focus on relationships and finding love during the holiday season.

NORTH POLE, ALASKA
Things might seem more familiar here! It's all about Santa Claus, reindeer and peppermint spirit in North Pole, Alaska. This suburb of Fairbanks has it all! A street named St. Nicholas Drive, candy cane shaped streetlights and a 42-foot-tall statue of the Jolly Old Elf himself.

About 2,000 people live in North Pole, where tourism is big business thanks to the Santa Clause House. It's a family-run business that acts as a hub for tourists looking to get into the holiday spirit. The Christmas-themed trading post/gift shop has been drawing people from all over the world for more than 50 years.

North Pole, Alaska is about 1,700 miles south of the geographic North Pole. However, it still claims to be the official home of the real-life Santa Claus.

 

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