The Bible provides no guidelines that explain how Christmas should be observed, nor does it even suggest that it should be considered a religious holiday. Because of the lack of biblical instructions, Christmas rituals have been shaped by the religious and popular traditions of each culture that celebrates the holiday.
On Christmas Eve, churches around the world hold evening services. At midnight, most Catholic and many Protestant churches hold special candlelight services. The Catholic midnight Mass was first introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in the 5th century.
In Greece The Greek Christmas, or Christougenna, pays respect to the Nativity of Christ while also incorporating popular superstitions. On Christmas Eve, Greek children go from house to house knocking on doors and singing Greek songs that tell of the arrival of the Christ child. The family celebration focuses on a Christmas Eve dinner, which, in the Greek Orthodox tradition, follows several weeks of fasting. According to legend, mischievous, often hideous looking elves called Kallikantzaroi wreak havoc in houses for the next 12 days. Burning incense or leaving a peace offering is supposed offer some protection against the elves. Most families decorate a small wooden cross with basil and dip it into a shallow bowl of water. This is believed to give the water holy powers. The water is then sprinkled throughout the house to keep the mischievous spirits away.
In Russia After the Russian Revolution of 1917, authorities of the newly formed USSR prohibited the practice of all religions. After the USSR broke up in 1991, the Russian Orthodox Church revived Christmas rituals. Like the Greeks, some Russians fast during a period before Christmas. Then, at the sight of the first star in the sky on Christmas Eve, a 12-course supper begins, with one course for each of Jesus' 12 disciples. The meal includes , or beet soup; stuffed cabbage; and kutiya, a dish... [continues]
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