Christmas celebrations for many nations include the installing and lighting of Christmas tree, the hanging of Advent wreaths, Christmas stokings, candy canes, setting out cookies and milk, and the creation of Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ.
Christmas traditions vary from country to country.
Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic is celebrated with a grand feast. The featured dish is fried carp, which was purchased earlier and may be kept alive in the bathtub until ready for cooking. The Christmas tree gets decorated on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, the tree gets decorated with apples and sweets, as well as traditional ornaments, but modern households sometimes use commercially purchased Christmas ornaments. Instead, Baby Jesus (Ježíšek) brings children presents on Christmas Eve. Usually, the children leave the room where the Christmas tree has placed until they hear the tinkle of a bell (rung by parents) indicating that Baby Jesus has delivered the gifts.
On Christmas Eve, as in the old Catholic tradition, often no food is eaten during the day as this is a fast day. The festive celebrations start after midnight mass. Nowadays, ‘Babbo Natale’, the Father Christmas, brings presents to children on Christmas eve. But as in true Italian style, gifts are exchanged only on January 6 that is the day of Epiphany. Then ‚la befana‘ an old lady, comes in search to the houses for search of the Christ Child. Children hang up their stockings, so that the befana
can bring presents to the good children. The naughty ones get lumps of black sugar sweets. The arrival of ‘La befana’ is celebrated with traditional Christmas cake, the panettone, a sweet yeast cake, you can see below.
Traditional Christmas meal in Portugal, called ‚Consoada‘, is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve and consists of codfish with green vegetables and boiled potatoes. This is normally followed by shellfish, wild meats or other expensive foods.
After the meal, people go to church for the ‚Missa do Galo‘ or ‚Mass of the Rooster‘ service. During the service an image of baby Jesus is brought out, and everyone queues up to kiss it. It is then put in the nativity scene (the presépio) that every church will have. After the service people return home and open their presents.
Before leaving for the service, parents secretly put the baby Jesus in the nativity scene in their houses and put the gifts under the Christmas Tree.