Individual residences' interiors and exteriors are adorned with strands of electric lights throughout the Christmas season. Many people decorate their homes with Christmas trees. Most houses have a detailed "Nacimiento" (Nativity Scene) that depicts a whole area with mountains, hills, plains, and valleys. It usually includes figures of the Virgin Mary, Joseph, Jesus, shepherds, angels, and sometimes other animals.
The traditional Nacimiento consists of an array of ceramic figurines displayed on a table or in a cabinet. Today, plastic figures are also used instead. The composition may include as many as 20 figures. Sometimes, two or three families contribute to this display, which is placed in a shared room during the Christmas season.
Venezuelans enjoy celebrating Christmas. Stores sell items such as trees, decorations, and food that represent various aspects of Christmastime. In addition, churches celebrate Christmas by singing carols and receiving gifts from children who have been given money at Christmas time.
Venezuela has five official holidays: January 1st, March 19th, May 1st, July 25th, and August 30th. Other days can also be national holidays if they are not Christmas days. For example, April 17th is known as "Good Friday," because it's when Jesus Christ was crucified.
Many homeowners want to beautify the outside of their homes. Displays range from simple to extravagant, with hundreds of lights and decorations reflecting seasonal themes like Christmas trees, Santa Claus, reindeer, or nativity scenes. This outdoor decoration effort is called "Christmas Pudding."
In Australia, Christmas is a commercial holiday that receives much media attention each year. It is now observed nationally by giving away free gifts during December. The gift-giving tradition began when the Australian government introduced a postal system in 1879. Families would write letters to one another during Christmas time with cards containing donations enclosed. If you visit an Australian home during Christmas time, you will likely see plants in the house that celebrate Christmas such as holly or jacaranda trees.
Christmas traditions vary depending on where you live in Australia. In some regions it is customary to place candles in a bowl of water during Christmas time in memory of the baby Jesus. Others might put out a festive tree instead. But whatever you do, make sure not to burn it down!
Finally, don't forget about St. Stephen's Day on 26th December. This is when people eat pudding (a type of fruit cake) in his honor.
While Christmas trees (typically artificial) are making their way into Venezuela, the predominant Christmas decoration is the nativity scene. These are displayed in homes, churches, and museums throughout the country.
Spain has long been associated with Christmas and Easter because of its location between Europe and Africa. During the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, Spain was one of the most cultured countries in the world, with major writers such as Miguel de Cervantes, Isaac Newton, and George Lucas all living there at some point in their lives.
During this time, Spain introduced many new traditions to other parts of the world, including that of celebrating Christmas with a tree. In 1768, King Carlos III ordered that a Christmas tree be placed in every court of Madrid, which later became a national practice. Today, millions of trees are put up across Spain during the holiday season.
Besides being beautiful decorations, Christmas trees have religious significance for many Catholics. The tree stands in for the baby Jesus, who was born on December 25th but who died on the cross hours earlier. By putting up a Christmas tree, you're showing your support for Jesus and praying for people who may not believe or have stopped believing in God.
Latin American streets are festooned with Christmas lights, poinsettias, and Christmas trees. Decorated Christmas trees are ubiquitous in houses, although they are not the focal point. Normally, this is designated for the nativity scene.
In Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela, a wooden structure called "las golondrinas" (the swan boats) is placed in front of churches to mark the beginning of Christmastide. These are large structures made up of several rows of small deciduous trees, usually beech or sycamore, sometimes fruit trees such as pear or apple, all decorated with multicolored lights and topped with a model of the Holy Family or other religious figures.
In Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay, a Christmas tree is placed in front of each house during Christmas time. The tradition dates back to the early days of Christianity when branches from the holy tree were used to build shelters for pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. Today, these trees are used either as decoration or as source of heat during cold months.
In Cuba and Puerto Rico, an imitative palm tree is used instead. It is decorated with colored lights and flowers and has a small wooden figure standing under it who sings "Feliz Navidad" (Happy Christmas) when you touch him.