Christmas Around the World
What does Christmas mean to people in other countries? Back to God Ministries International serves a widely diverse cultural audience. Our indigenous ministry leaders shared some of the traditions and challenges of celebrating Christ’s birth in the places they serve.
In China, Christmas is about the magical power of love and peace. Friends like to throw parties. You see Christmas decorations everywhere, at home and in the malls. People like to send each other Christmas presents. For the most part that love and peace has nothing to do with Jesus. The BTGMI Chinese team has prepared a Gospel booklet to help friends share the Christmas message of Christmas with others.
Russian ministry leader Sergei Sosedkin notes: “In spite of Russia’s more recent communism and atheism, the nation has a rich tradition steeped in Christian culture. Still, for this generation Christmas is a relatively new holiday in the Russian-speaking world so there are no widely-accepted Christmas customs. Back in the Soviet times most people didn’t even know the exact date of Christmas, as all festivities were centered around the New Year.”
He adds, “Today, Christmas is a national holiday in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. But sadly, it carries little spiritual meaning for most people there. For many it’s just a day off from work. To help people see that Jesus is bigger and better than any tradition, we produce Gospel-focused, Christmas video messages to be shown on local satellite TV stations. We also make our speakers available for appearances on secular TV and radio stations, including live radio specials, to explain the biblical history and meaning of Christmas.”
Because more than 98% of the people in Japan are not Christians, Christmas has only been widely celebrated in Japan for the last few decades. It's still not seen as a religious holiday or celebration as there aren't many Christians in Japan. Christmas is known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. For Christians who feel isolated, BTGMI Japanese staff is planning another annual Christmas Open House where believers can invite their friends to hear about Jesus in a nonthreatening atmosphere. The celebration includes singing Christmas songs and receiving small gifts from the staff.
Many Brazilian Christmas customs are similar to ones in North America, even though it's summer and very hot at Christmas time in Brazil. Many people like to go to the beach. The most popular Christmas song in Brazil is 'Noite Feliz' (Silent Night). People also like to exchange of Christmas cards. Over the past several years, the BTGMI ministry team in Brazil has offered special Christmas devotional booklets for people to give as Christmas cards. This year we anticipate distributing 400,000 copies of Cada Dia Natal.
So how about you? What Christmas traditions are you practicing to celebrate your heritage and share the good news of Christ’s birth?