Americans, to put it mildly, are serious about Christmas. From a religious perspective, a consumer or retailer’s perspective, or simply as a means of maintaining a warm and fuzzy tradition that makes us feel happy inside, Christmas stands alone as America’s most sacred and highly anticipated of holidays.

Supporting evidence that Christmas is king of the American holidays glitters all around us. Millions of Americans flock to local churches to participate in candlelight services on Christmas Eve. As a predominantly Christian nation, there is no more holy time of year than that of Jesus’ birthday.

Granted, candlelight attendees might not be present at church on a consistent basis throughout the remainder of the year. But give them credit: they were at least a part of the congregation on Christmas Eve.

Starting the day after Thanksgiving, or increasingly it seems, Halloween, sparkling lights and Yuletide décor gracefully drape the main streets of our communities. Department stores and malls become more inviting than ever in the weeks leading up to Christmas, exquisitely decked out in their holiday best.

Entire neighborhoods and subdivisions are magically transformed into sprawling wonderlands of lights, so splendidly done that they attract curious visitors from near and far.

And finally, last but not least, nothing beats a visit from Santa Claus for bringing out the kid in kids. The anticipation, the walk from bed to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning – the spirit of giving, receiving, and believing – it’s all part of what makes Christmas so popular.

And don’t forget eggnog, “Miracle on 34th Street,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and more, but the point here is hopefully made. Christmas is a big deal in these parts, for a variety of reasons.

Personally, Christmas in the Rocky Mountains under a blanket, or probably more, of freshly fallen snow on Christmas Eve brings out the holiday spirit in most people, every darn time.

Christmas, with a twist

A long list of other nations around the world enthusiastically celebrate Christmas. That list, according to Google, includes more than 160 nations. Those celebrations are, in some cases, just as festive and all-encompassing as those in the United States. Schools and businesses close, gifts are given and received, and the real world pretty much shuts down in recognition of Christmas.

Some other countries that annually celebrate Christmas include South Africa, Spain, Norway, Japan, Ukraine, Australia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Philippines and Canada. There are some interesting twists, however, regarding exactly how the holiday is celebrated in those countries.

In Australia, for example, Santa replaces his reindeer with kangaroos. Christmas also falls during the summertime there, so fittingly, Christmas barbecues are reportedly a custom in the land down under.

Rudolph the red-nosed kangaroo? Really, mate? The Fourth of July doesn’t mean much down under, so they have to have some occasion for barbeque. Why not Christmas?

In Ireland, Santa is presented with Christmas pudding made with Guinness or Irish whiskey, rather than milk and cookies. Santa must love that, unless he leaves Ireland with a tummy and snoot full of whiskey and then has to be violently dragged all over Australia behind six kangaroos. Hopefully, Ireland falls after Australia on his list of Christmas Eve destinations.

Santa doesn’t visit kids in the Philippines. But have no fear; the Three Kings have him covered. They leave gifts in kids’ shoes, which are neatly polished and left in windowsills on Christmas Eve.

In Norway, brooms and similar cleaning items are all hidden away, and men customarily fire their guns into the night on Christmas Eve. According to ancient tales, this is a likely time for witches and evil spirits to emerge.

We could inquire as to how the Christmas story got so twisted in Norway, but how they choose to celebrate is their business. One hopes Santa is careful while operating in Norwegian air space. Yikes.

Down-right Grinch-like

Predictably, Christmas is a very different holiday in countries where Christianity is not popular. In some such countries, Christmas is not a holiday at all. Even more eye-opening is that in some distant locations around the globe, it is absolutely illegal to celebrate Christmas in any form or fashion.

Just as Americans are deadly serious about Christmas, the following countries are equally serious about not allowing any Christmas celebration whatsoever.

That’s right, don’t tell the children, or Santa’s hard-working elves, but the act of celebrating Christmas in some countries is a serious criminal offense. A Christmas tree full of lights, even meticulously dispersed green and blue lights, will earn you an unceremonious trip to the slammer.

A solemn silent night behind bars, anyone?

A Newsweek article dated Dec. 12, 2017 reported that the North Korean regime has such a strong anti-Christmas bent that it threatened to shoot artillery at a Christmas tree near its border after a South Korean Christian group erected it.

North Korean media called the Christmas tree a tool of psychological warfare, and “a symbol of madcap confrontation racket for escalating tensions.”

A site designated for the development of nuclear warheads, could be understandable. But a Christmas tree as a “tool for psychological warfare” seems a bit far-fetched.

That same article stated that the majority Muslim African country of Somalia recently put a ban on Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, and the government issues an official announcement each year reminding people that celebrating Christmas is illegal.

The country’s government says Christmas is not relevant to the principles of Islam, and argues that Christmas parties give terrorists an excuse to attack.

Santa should be very explicit when coaching Rudolph to avoid such areas. By all accounts, Rudolph is from a very nice reindeer family. Santa’s character, of course, is beyond reproach. A strong hunch is that their terroristic tendencies, even working together, are minimal at worst.

Finally, there is Brunei, a country where Grinch-like policies mandate that people could go to jail for up to five years if they celebrate Christmas.

Should we deduce from that information that running through the streets of Brunei at high noon on Christmas Eve shouting “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night” would be a poor idea?

Regardless of your location, your religion, or your opinions regarding the meaning of our nation’s most popular holiday, Merry Christmas from your friends at The Flume.

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