December, the most festive month of the year, has arrived. This year is completely different from every other year and not only for us but for the whole world. That’s why we need a miracle more than ever. Let’s throw the magic silver dust around us, and let it travel us to all corners of the world, to see Christmas from a different perspective…
To learn the Christmas customs and traditions of other people… In the book by Jules Verne “Around the world in 80 days” Phileas Fogg traveled around the world in 80 days. Let’s make our bet and start our magical journey around the world in one article… Are you ready? Let’s goooooo………
Austria Belgium Czech Republic Denmark England Finland France Germany
Greece Hungary Iceland Ireland Italy Latvia Luxembourg Netherlands Norway
Poland Romania Russia Spain Sweden Switzerland Ukraine Wales
In Austria, his twin brother is just as famous as him. His name is Krampus and he is the exact opposite of the sweet and beloved Saint of young and old since he is a demon who watches children. So while children who behave well all year long are waiting for Santa Claus gifts, in Austria children who were naughty are afraid of the demon Krampus, who punishes what was bad last year by taking them with him into the dark and deep bowels of the earth. The demon is the half devil and half goat and his figure refers to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.
Later, Krampus became part of the Christian tradition along with the celebration of Santa Claus. It also appears on Christmas cards throughout Austria, as well as in other German-speaking areas near the Alps. To honor Krampus, every day in December you will see people walking around with scary masks and every year there is a big Krampus parade with the spectacle being a bit … scary.
In Belgium, Christmas is celebrated with several performances related to the Nativity. They make processions and open-air markets, thus celebrating the Holy Days. They get into the Christmas spirit early on, with Sinterklaas Day and his useful helper Zwarte Piet handing out gifts from house to house. The children hang the gift socks in the fireplace and leave hay and sugar for Sinterklaas’s horse.
In the Czech Republic, December 4, St. Barbara’s Day, is dedicated to witnessing the period of the first persecutions of Christians. Cherry branches are cut from one end of the country and kept in the water. If they are in bloom by Christmas they bring good luck and possibly favorable prospects for marriage within the next year. The cherry branches along with small Alexandrian plants and other festive ornaments are placed in wicker baskets, composing creations of traditional and modern style that adorn the festive table.
The strange custom has to do with women who want to learn their love for the coming year. The troubled brides-to-be stand with their backs to a door and throw one of their shoes into the air to reach a height just above the shoulder. If he lands with his nose looking at the door, then the woman is going to get married within the next year. Otherwise (if the heel looks at the door), the ring will take another year to “appear”.
In Denmark, in the period before Christmas, many handmade ornaments are made to decorate the houses. Most families make their traditional Alexandrian wreath with four candles that symbolize the four Sundays until Christmas. The Christmas season in Denmark is accompanied by the necessary and very naughty goblins “Julenisser”.
Apart from the wreath for the composition of which small red or beige Alexandrian are used, branches and shiny ornaments, there is also the “custom of the candle” which is especially loved by children and serves as a diary. Each child has a candle which is divided by horizontal lines or numbers on the days corresponding to Christmas. Every day the candle is lit until the next line approaches. Thus arrives the day when he will receive his gift.
Christmas Eve is celebrated with the traditional table among relatives. A large almond is hidden inside the Danish sweet. The lucky one who finds it is rewarded with the so-called “almond gift”. In Copenhagen, the locals get on chairs and all jump together at exactly midnight, expelling the evil spirits of the old timeold-time and entering the new one vigorously. Old dishes, cups, and other such items can also be broken, for good luck.
In England, tradition wants the English to leave, brandy for Santa Claus and carrots for Rudolph, while the children hang Christmas stockings to fill them with Christmas sweets. Τhe English festive Christmas table always includes turkey, meat pie, and Christmas pudding for good luck.
The children write a letter to “Father Christmas”, where they give him wishes and ask for their gift. They throw the letter into the fireplace so that the smoke can take it with it and lead it to the North Pole from the chimney. On Christmas Eve they hang their socks on the fireplace or at the foot of the bed to find them full of small presents when they wake up in the morning. The English classic decoration includes bright red Alexandrians around the fireplace, as well as “mistletoe” branches hanging from the ceiling, and, according to tradition, whoever stands under it must exchange kisses with loved ones.
So, we arrived in Finland… Who has not heard of Rovaniemi? Santa Claus’s first home was in Korvatunturi and 1985, Rovaniemi was declared Santa’s official home. Finland’s main attractions are the Arctic Circle, Santa’s House of Snowmobiles, Santa Claus’s office, and the Northern Lights. A white line indicating the Arctic Circle (in its place in 1865) is painted in the park. Visitors formally enter the Arctic when crossing the line. The bar is a very popular photo spot for visitors. Santa’s House of Snowmobiles is a museum of the history and evolution of snowmobiles in the Arctic.
Santa’s office is located inside the main building of the village so that visitors can take photos and talk to Santa Claus at certain times. The Northern Lights are also known as Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights are observed around 150 nights in a year from mid-August to early April.
According to science, it is caused by electrically charged particles from the sun that collide with air molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere and are deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field. This process results in the emission of colorful light, visible at night. Green is the most common color in this process, while red, pink, purple, yellow, and even blue can also be observed. All this ranks Finland as perhaps the most enchanting Christmas destination!
In Finland, December 24 is the most important day of the Christmas season. The festivities begin at noon when according to medieval tradition the Christmas peace is invited to emerge with all formality in the city of “Turku” in Finland. Traditionally this day is dedicated to the memory of the dead and a visit to the cemetery on Christmas Eve is a traditional custom. During that night the snow-covered cemeteries are transformed into impressive bright seas of candles. Candles and seasonal plants such as “Alexandrian” create the right atmosphere to celebrate Christmas in a family environment.
Christmas in Finland, apart from its religious dimension, is a family holiday. The preparations are made long ago. The Christmas holiday season begins in December or even late November when stores begin to advertise various gifts. Beautiful decorations and songs are appearing more and more as Christmas approaches and the children count down the days for the big celebration with special calendars.
The day before Christmas Eve (aatonaatto) is a public holiday for schools and other public places and on Christmas Eve (jouluaatto) shops close early. Christmas Day and the day after (Tapaninpaina, St. Stephen’s Ray) are mandatory public holidays in Finland. Schools continue the holidays until the new year.
Since the Middle Ages, the Declaration of Peace of Christmas has been celebrated, a tradition that is celebrated every year, except in 1939, which was not celebrated due to the Finland-Russia war. This is a custom in many towns and cities.
The most famous of these proclamations takes place in the great old square called Old Great Square in the city of Turku, the former capital of Finland. From there it is broadcast live on Finnish radio (since 1935) and television. The proclamation ceremony begins with the hymn “Jumala ompi linnamme” (in English: Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God) and continues with the Declaration of Christmas Peace, which is read from parchment.
The ceremony ends with trumpets playing the Finnish national anthem “Maamme and Potilaister marssi” with the crowds singing as the band plays. Nowadays, the Christmas Peace for the animals of the forest is also proclaimed, and thus the hunting stops during Christmas in many cities and municipalities.
Finns do general cleaning before Christmas and prepare special dishes for the holiday season. A bunch of nuts, cereals, and seeds are tied to a pole in the garden to feed the birds. People cut down firs or buy them to decorate them before Christmas Eve. The “Christmas tree” is traditionally decorated with shining candles, apples and other fruits, candies, flags, cotton, and sequins.
Various decorations are also added, such as stars and balls. Candles are no longer used and have been replaced with light bulbs. A star symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem is placed at the top of the tree. Shortly before the start of the Christmas festivities, people are accustomed to taking a steam bath (sauna).
This tradition is based on a perception that existed before the 20th century when the spirits of the dead returned and took a steam bath. They are then dressed in clean clothes for the Christmas dinner which is usually served between 5-7 pm or more traditionally with the appearance of the first star in the sky.
The most traditional food of the Finnish Christmas dinner is the pork or the roasted pork and alternatively the turkey. Many types of cookware are also popular. Other traditional Christmas dishes include boiled cod and served with herring, pickles, and vegetables. The most popular desserts are plum jams, fruit soups, rice porridge with cinnamon, sugar, and cold milk.
Christmas in France is the festive culmination of the year. Unlike other European countries, the pre-Christmas season is quite important and very family-friendly. Christmas Eve here is a working day. On Christmas Eve, the children leave their shoes by the fireplace, to be filled with sweets and nuts by the Christmas Father (Pere Noel), who will come down from the chimney while they sleep. Pere Noel is accompanied by another grandfather, Pere Fouettard, who lightly beats children who have been naughty over time. Père Noël gives his gifts on December 24.
In the evening the family gathers for a complete Christmas dinner. Gastronomic pleasures are of great importance in Christmas celebrations. The traditional festive table, the “Reveillon” (revegion) consists mainly of seafood and mainly oysters. On the 25th they eat the turkey. This custom has now passed into the programs of all hotel units in Europe for the New Year. The French have the well-known red flowers of Alexandria. They call them Le poinsettia ou étoile de Noël (Christmas Stars). They use them for interior decoration, as well as as a gift throughout the holidays.
Almost all of us around the world now decorate Christmas trees, a tradition that is said to have originated in Germany in the 16th century. They usually hide a pickled cucumber on the branches of the tree and any child who finds it does not make a pickle sauce, but wins gifts given to him by those who hid the cucumber. There is also the myth that this custom comes from Spain when two young boys were trapped in a barrel with pickles and Santa Claus saved them, bringing them back to life.
In Germany, the Christmas season is especially important. Instead of their socks, they take off their shoes. They are waiting for Santa Claus to fill them with sweets. From the beginning of December, the children leave their shoes outside and if they were not good children last year, instead of sweets they will find branches inside. In all schools from kindergarten to high school, they celebrate Christmas with a theatrical performance, while the children exchange gifts.
This custom is called Wichteln and is also loved on the Christmas holidays of the elders. Each one brings one or more presents wrapped in paper and puts them together with the others under the Christmas tree. When the time comes, one by one they all go under the tree and get a present until they are finished. The companies organize a Christmas table for all employees. The same goes for the clubs, and the groups, which meet for the traditional Christmas celebration.
They also pay special attention to the decoration of the house… They put electric candles or lanterns around the windows and place colorful Christmas figures on the windows. They usually decorate the outside of the house with natural fir. The Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve. In most houses under the tree, there is also the traditional mange. The tree is decorated with figures (angels, etc.), or with balls and is illuminated with lighted candles or lamps. The gifts are placed secretly under the tree and next to the manger, so that the children can find them returning from the church.
The custom of the so-called Adventskranz is also common in Germany. It is a candlestick made of spruce branches that are braided to form a wreath. On the wreath above are four places with candles, symbolizing the last four weeks before Christmas. Every Sunday at the end of the week, they light one more candle, counting down the time left for the coming of Christmas. That is, four weeks before Christmas one candle is lit, the next week two, the following three, and finally on the last Sunday before Christmas four candles are lit.
Another pre-Christmas custom is the Adventskalender Christmas calendar. This is a calendar with 24 places numbered from 1 to 24 and symbolizes the days of December before Christmas. The seats are closed with doors. Every day they open the respective door and find a surprise that can be a bar of chocolate, candy, toy, etc… The gifts are brought on Christmas Eve by Weihnachtsmann or “Christkind”. This custom was started by the Reformation of Luther to give a more festive form to the day of Christ’s birth.
On Christmas day the family celebrates around the rich table, while on the second day of Christmas the relatives all gather and celebrate together in the afternoon. Traditional Christmas food is roast goose (Weihnachtsganz) with red cabbage (Rotkohl) and potato balls (Klösse). Other traditional foods are trout and carp. For families, Christmas cookies and Christmas cakes are the traditional customs of the season.
There are Christmas markets in the center of each city that appear the first weekend of December and leave on Christmas Eve. The Christmas market stalls have sweets, decorations, and mulled red sweet wine with spices. On December 6 is celebrated St. Nicholas which is similar to St. Basil in the custom of gifts. In his folklore version he brings gifts to good children, but also a bundle of rods to hit the children who were not good.
After Christmas, there is the custom of the three magicians. From December 27 to January 6, children dressed as three magicians, go from house to house singing. They represent the three wizards returning from Bethlehem. Whoever opens their door donates sweets and nuts, while giving money for the fundraiser they make. In return, the three magicians write their initials in chalk (ie Caspar, Melchior an Balthazar) this year. This graffiti is considered to bring good luck and that is why it is not erased, so that in some houses we find the signatures of magicians for decades.
In ancient Greece the year began between Winter and Spring, while in Attica after the summer solstice (June 21) in mid-July and the first month was Ekatombaion. However, the children sang religious songs at other festivals throughout the year, as happened during the month of Pyanepsion, which started from mid-October to mid-November. During this month there was a celebration, the Pyanepsia or Pyanopsia or Panopsia.
This feast, according to ancient writers, dates back to the time of Theseus, who, when he went to Crete to kill the Minotaur, passed through Delos and swore to Apollo that if he achieved his goal, he would return and would offer him an olive branch adorned, which he did. Thus, the decoration of the olive tree was established, which was placed in front of the door of the house. The decoration included wool threads, various fruits, and nuts, figs, dates, white and red ribbons, biscuits with honey, etc. The olive branch was called Ieresioni and was kept until next year. The children went around the houses and sang.
When pagan festivals were banned during the Sixth Ecumenical Council, in order not to lose the custom, the Christians invested it with Christian lyrics and the custom has reached our days in the form of carols, which are greeting and praise songs. They are sung mainly on the eve of Christmas, New Year, Epiphany, and Lazarus. The decoration of the tree, because in theocratic Byzantium it was considered associated with pagan customs, was banned.
However, the Greeks who moved to European countries transmitted the custom to the northern peoples, who because they did not have olive trees used the firs, which they had in abundance. Centuries later, in the time of Otto, they returned to Greece, as their own Christmas custom. In various places, such as in Litochoro, Pieria, and the Ionian Islands, they decorated trees in the middle of the Churches with fruit or nuts. In Cappadocia, branches of conifers or other trees with nuts and improvised ornaments were decorated inside the houses during the Twelfth Day.
Today, at Christmas, New Year, and Epiphany, the children take their triangles and go from house to house to sing the carols. Now people give them money, but in the past, they were offered treats. In the following link, we can see carols of the whole country https://www.thinglink.com/scene/1390944852123844609.
Traditionally in many places, mainly island areas, a boat was decorated instead of a fir tree. It was a tribute to the sailors, but also a way to welcome them. The boat was in many Greek houses and the children kept it, going to sing the carols. It is a custom that has not been forgotten but is still in the hearts of the Greeks. Outside the door hang a wreath of fir with various ornaments, but in many areas, there are also braids of garlic, in which there are nailed carnations for bad tongues that hinder the happiness of the family.
The kneading of Christmas bread was one of the most common customs. For the Christmas table, Christmas bread is a blessed breadblessed bread, as it will support the life of the householder and his family. They use good flour and expensive ingredients, such as rose water, honey, sesame, cinnamon, and cloves and in the center, they put a white nut, which symbolizes fertility. The women of the house gather and until the leaven is made they sing “Christ is born, the light rises, the leaven to be born”.
The householder takes the Christmas bread, cuts it, and distributes it to all those present at the table, as a symbol of Holy Communion, which Christ gave the bread of life to all his human family.
The vasilopita is a pie being one of the most widespread customs in Greece. It is a pie made mainly from eggs, flour, sugar, and milk. Inside the pie is hidden a coin, the coin. After the change of time, the landlord cuts the king pie into triangular pieces. He cuts first pieces for Christ, the poor, and for the house, then age for the family members, and finally for the guests. Do not forget any patients, or who are missing for special reasons. Whoever finds the coin in his piece is considered lucky and will be favored in the new year. This custom is associated with the Great Kingdom. Once in Caesarea of Cappadocia in Asia Minor, where the bishop was Basil the Great, the Governor of Cappadocia came to occupy it to plunder it.
Then the Great King asked the rich people of his city to collect whatever gold they could to deliver it as a “ransom” to the coming conqueror. He managed to collect a lot of valuables. Miraculously Saint Mercury with a multitude of Angels removed his army, the Perfect saved the city from impending doom. Basil the Great wanted to return the valuables to the beneficiaries but did not know the owner of each of them. So, he ordered small loaves to be made and put in one. He distributed them to the inhabitants the next day of the church service. In this way, he avoided any dissatisfaction and discord within the city.
On New Year’s Day, the custom of breaking the pomegranate prevails. The householder has a pomegranate with him and on the way back from the church he is not allowed to open the door with his key, but he has to ring the bell to be opened. Upon entering the house, he throws down the pomegranate with force to break it. The better the nipples, the more blessed the new year will be.
Christmas wood is a custom found in the villages of northern Greece. The householder finds a solid, thick wood, which will be inserted into the fireplace on Christmas Eve and burned until the Epiphany, which symbolizes the fire that Christ needed to warm himself in the cold cave of Bethlehem. The fireplace has been completely cleaned of all the old ashes, even the chimney so that the goblins can not enter.
The goblins come out of the bowels of the Earth on Christmas Eve. On the surface of the Earth, they live in mills, bridges, rivers, and large paths, where they wait only at night and leave with the third roar of the rooster. Except for the Twelve Days, the rest of the year they live in the bowels of the earth and see the tree that holds the earth (a variant of the mythical Atlas). They come to the surface near the end of their work, for fear that their dilapidated land will eventually flatten them. The Christmas tree symbolizes this very integrity and Divine power and protection in the presence of Christ.
Goblins are a bit scary, mischievous, and afraid of fire. They are usually considered to be dwarfs, dark-skinned, with short and disheveled hair, red eyes, monkey teeth, monkey hands and nails, donkey legs or one donkey and the other human, but also as “little devils”, sometimes naked and sometimes ragged with hat, with shoes made of iron and sometimes with tsarouchia. They usually feed on worms, frogs, snakes, mice, etc., while they love Christmas sweets.
They are very agile, they climb trees, jump from roof to roof, break tiles and make a lot of noise, and they trample whatever they find spread. If they get a chance, they go down the chimneys to the houses and turn everything upside down. In some places, the kalikantzaros are accompanied by their mother “Kalikatzarou” who “urges” them what to do. In some islands, the goblins come with their wives or only their wives the “goblins”! And for the housewives to avoid them, they throw pieces of pork or sausages on the tiles!
On the beautiful island of Cephalonia, on New Year’s Eve, children put a Santa Claus at the entrance of the house, to guard the house. At noon, the women of Kefalonia cook pancakes. That same night, the inhabitants of Argostoli go to the church holding colonies with which they sprinkle each other. On the way back, they break a pomegranate on the doorstep and count its seeds. Each seed also symbolizes a wish that will come true in the new year.
In some villages of Drama, there is the custom of Momogero. Their name comes from the mime and the old man and is associated with their mimetic movements. They wear tomas of wolves or goats or are dressed in costumes of people armed with swords and have the form of old men, who, expecting luck for the new year, return in groups throughout the twelve days and sing carols or other greeting verses. When the groups meet, they wage war on each other, until one team wins and the other submits to submission. The same custom with variations is made in Kozani and Kastoria with the name “Ragoutsaria”.
On the island of Chios on New Year’s Eve, there is a custom, the royal boats. According to this, the parishes build ships, in reduction. They compete with each other in terms of build quality and resemblance to real ships, while the teams, the crew, of each ship sing carols.
Another custom in many parts of Greece is gourounohara. The families bought the pig from May and preserved it with zucchini and bran. The pig was necessary for a farmhouse, as from the pig they took the fat, the meat, the sausages, and made the piglets from its skin. It was considered a shame for a house not to have a pig, as it was considered coastal, poor, and homeless. The preparation for the slaughter of the pig was done with great care, while a feast followed until dawn.
In some areas the girls, at the dawn of Christmas (elsewhere on New Year’s Eve) smear the fountains in the squares of the villages with butter and honey, wishing that the water runs and the house is fresh in the new year and sweet and the life of the housewives.
To have a good harvest, when they get there they feed the fountain with various delicacies, such as butter, bread, cheese, legumes or leave an olive branch. Whichever goes to the tap first, she will be the luckiest all year. Then they throw a raspberry leaf and three pebbles in the pitcher, steal water and return home speechless, until everyone drinks from the water. They sprinkle the same water on all four corners of the house while scattering all three pebbles in the house.
Another country where Christmas is the biggest holiday. For this reason, one will find the most numerous and interesting customs. First of all, Santa Claus, their Santa Claus, comes not on the night of December 31, but the 6th of the month! He leaves the gifts in the children’s shoes, which must be clean and placed outside the house. Finally, at the festive table, they prefer fish.
The Icelandic tradition wants the country to have in some way Santa Clauses, who are quite different from what we know… In order to scare children and have good behavior around the 17th century the following characters were created, the stories of which vary from place to place and with the age at which they are addressed. However, it is worth mentioning that in recent years they have been shaped enough to appear much friendlier. These forms include naughty pranksters and monsters that eat naughty children. These forms live together in the mountains as a family in a cave and consist of:
- Gryla, a giant woman who likes to taste naughty children, which she takes to the cave with her huge sack and cooks in a large pot.
- Leppaludi, who is generally lazy and often stays at home in the cave.
- Yule Lads are the 13 naughty sons of Gryla and Leppaludi, in the form of trolls or elves. They go down the mountains one by one every day, starting on December 12, to celebrate Christmas with the people and to play pranks. The children leave a shoe on their windowsill, so that while they sleep, they leave a small treat or toy inside, if they were prudent, or a rotten potato, if they were naughty. In modern times, they have been portrayed to play a more benevolent role, comparable to Santa Claus, while especially at children’s events they sometimes seem to wear the costume that Santa Claus traditionally wore. After the Eve they begin to retreat one by one to the caves where they live, with the last one leaving the Epiphany, on January 6, which marks the end of the festive season.
- Yule Cat, a huge cat, is the pet of the above forms, which hides in the snowy countryside during Christmas (“Yule”) and eats people who have not bought any new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve. Traditionally, farmers used the Christmas cat as an incentive for their workers. Those who worked hard will receive new clothes as a gift, but those who were lazy all year risk being swallowed up by the huge cat as punishment. From there has come the tradition in Iceland to exchange clothes for gifts at Christmas for fear of being snatched by the huge cat.
On Christmas day in Iceland they perform two special Christmas customs. According to the first, “Jolabokaflod”, the Icelanders give their loved ones a new book to read, a tradition that dates back to World War II. From mid-November, the Icelandic Publishers’ Association distributes free of charge to every Icelandic house a catalog (“Bokatidinti”) with all the books published, so that those interested can choose from it. The second custom requires Icelanders to wear a new piece of cloth (eg socks), otherwise the “Christmas Cat” will “devour” them. December 23, apart from the day that Icelanders celebrate their patron saint, Thorlakur, is also considered the last day of Christmas preparations. Traditional holiday menus include a skate accompanied by mashed potatoes and a local alcoholic drink and on Christmas Eve smoked lamb, grilled pork marinated in a sweet sauce and accompanied by caramelized potatoes and Danish rice pudding.
On Christmas Eve, all the windows of the houses facing the street are lit by a lighted candle, which is placed on the windowsill. The lighted candle in the windows is a welcome symbol of Mary and Joseph, who that night are desperately looking for an inn.
The Christmas season in Italy is the longest of all the other Christian countries and begins on December 8 and ends on January 6, the day of the Epiphany. A cannon fires at the castle of Sant ‘Angelo in Rome, marking the start of the festivities. Apart from the Christmas tree, an important symbol of the Italians in the celebration of Christmas is also a manger. All characters, except the Divine Infant, are placed in the manger from December 8, while the newborn is placed immediately after midnight on December 24.
Children in rural areas dressed as shepherds go from house to house singing carols or Christmas poems while people treat them with sweets and nuts or give them money. People gather in the squares where a competition is held for the best manger. In the evening they burn the “appo” (the Christmas log) and the Lamp of Fate brings gifts to everyone. In various cities of Italy, the “presepi vivente”, Christmas events take place, during which people in costumes represent scenes of events of the birth of the Holy Infant.
Although there is Santa Claus, Babbo Natale, the gifts are brought by Strega Befana, a good and poor witch, on the eve of the Epiphany, which arrives at night, between January 5-6. Befana, according to the legend, goes from house to house on her broomstick, looking for the Divine Infant, eats nuts and cookies left by the children and before she throws them away, leaves them in the gift socks, coals for naughty kids and sweets and toys for the wise.
On the day of the Epiphany in the Vatican City, Italians dressed in medieval costumes parade to the church of St. Peter, where the Pope holds a morning service dedicated to the Three Magi who visited the little Jesus with their gifts.
The most important festive meal is Christmas Eve, which they call “The Feast of the Seven Fishes”, due to the universal tradition that wants the last day before Christmas to be a day of fasting. Some people usually fast on December 23 and 24 and then celebrate with a traditional meal right after the Liturgy. Traditionally, the dishes include, mainly, seafood accompanied by vegetables and panettone or various pastries with nuts for dessert. After the traditional lunch, the children recite poems to their family and relatives and are rewarded with small cash gifts. The next day, at the festive table (“Cenone”) the meat and pasta have their honor.
In Latvia the gifts do not come on the 25th or the 31st of the month, but every day of the holidays! The festivities last 12 days and everyone makes gifts to everyone each of them.
On the eve of Agios Nikolaos in the evening, the children place an empty plate on the table. They hope the next morning, to find it full of sweets, tangerines, walnuts, and a local sweet in the shape of a man representing St. Nicholas. Saint Nicholas in Luxembourg is called Kleeschen and begins to appear in late November in various locations in cities, such as shops, squares and streets. According to country tradition, the Saint descends from heaven to reward good children with gifts. On the eve of his feast, the children wait for him to bring them presents and leave a plate in the kitchen for the Saint to fill it with sweets. In the markets of the whole country, hot wine with spices is offered in special cups. On Christmas Eve the gifts are not brought by Santa Claus, but as in other countries, by the Holy Infant.
Traditional dishes are Stollen, a cake with fruit and rum, but also Buche de Noel, a dessert between cake and ice cream covered with dark chocolate to make it look like a trunk. On Christmas day, locals often eat the traditional “black pudding”, hare, deer, or turkey.
The Christmas season in the Netherlands begins with a tradition that initially had nothing to do with Christmas. The feast day of St. Nicholas is the culmination of the festive season. According to legend, Agios Nikolaos, called “SinterKlaas” arrives in the Netherlands in November. That is, three weeks before his birthday. His ship is loaded with gifts, he is welcomed at the port by Queen Beatrice accompanied by a large crowd. This custom dates back to the time when the Netherlands was colonial. This is how Christmas products came from its colonies. In the days that follow, SinterKlaas travels around the country with his assistant Zwarten Piet (Black Pete). He does not distribute gifts alone.
He supervises and does all the work for Zwarte Piet, a troll, his assistant who spends his time digging in the coal mines (hence his black color), comfortably going up and down the chimneys of the houses, since the smoke and coals are no longer bother him. According to tradition, his hobby is to watch the children, then report to Santa Claus about who was good and who was not, but also to accompany him in handing out gifts. The bad guys, instead of gifts, find a sock full of coals from Black Pete. The children are told that if they are not careful, Black Pete will come and take them in his bag and take them to Spain, where the Dutch Santa Claus traditionally lives.
Every year on Christmas day children in the Netherlands leave their shoes by the fire in the hope that Sinterklaas will fill them with gifts and sweets at night. The children leave carrots in their shoes to be found by the white horse Amerigo that accompanies Santa Claus. In the past, naughty children were given potatoes instead of gifts in their shoes as punishment.
Children in the Netherlands receive their gifts on December 5th. Christmas trees are being decorated everywhere since SinterKlaas left the country. Alexandrina is also part of the festive decoration.
In our folklore, at Christmas we receive visits from goblins, but in Norway they have an even darker myth. According to him, every Christmas Eve witches and various other demonic spirits look for brooms in the backyards of the houses, which they steal and use to fly. That is why it is a tradition for Norwegians to hide their brooms that night so that evil spirits do not come near their house and prevent evil. The Scandinavian “Jul” (Christmas) has its roots in ancient agricultural customs of Winter and the harvest season. Julenissen as the Norwegian Santa Claus is called, together with his assistants brings gifts and good luck to the house and the stable.
On Christmas night the children put a bowl of flour batter as an offering to Julenissen, who visits the children of Norway, completing his long journey from Lapland on a reindeer sleigh. Christmas day is called Julbrod during which in the old days up to 60 different dishes were prepared for the table of friends, relatives and of course family.
In Poland, the period before Christmas is especially important, as young and old alike consciously abstain from temptations (especially sweets) in their quest for inner peace and harmony. Their houses and rooms look great with rich Christmas decorations. Here, too, red or blue Alexandrian is used in traditional Polish decoration in conjunction with pine branches. Christmas Eve is considered the most important day of the holidays. After a day of fasting, the family from the oldest to the children gather at the festive table, which is specially decorated for the occasion, while the white tablecloth is now considered essential. There is always an empty plate on the table in case a guest shows up unexpectedly. Gifts are placed under the Christmas tree and are offered by the youngest.
Once the first star appears in the sky, the celebration can begin. The celebration begins with the sharing of the Christmas cookie, as a sign of love and reconciliation accompanied by the exchange of warm wishes. Contrary to the Anglo-Saxon tradition, gifts are not addressed to specific persons so they are chosen to be of general interest or use.
On the night of December 5, the children in Romania take off their shoes and the next day Saint Nicholas comes with his elves and fills the shoes of the good children with sweets and gifts, while the bad children fill them with coals and sticks (to they are beaten).
In Russia, one of the Christmas customs is to dress a young girl in white to represent the Virgin Mary. On Christmas Eve, January 6, many parts of Russia with Orthodox Christians, based on the Julian calendar, celebrate Christmas Eve, also known as “Sotselnik”. On Christmas Eve, the faithful observe a strict fast and the Orthodox Christians decorate their houses with fir branches. They also observe their visits to the churches, in order to attend the services and to be “sanctified”.
On Christmas Eve, January 6, there are many great services, including Royal Hours and Vespers in conjunction with the Divine Liturgy. The family will then return home for the traditional Christmas Eve “Holy Supper”, which consists of 12 dishes, one to honor each of the Twelve Apostles. The pious families will return to church for “All Night Vigil”. Again, on Christmas morning, they return to attend the Divine Liturgy of the Nativity. Since 1992, Christmas has become a national holiday in Russia, as part of the ten-day holiday at the beginning of the new year.
Christmas is a very religious holiday in Spain. The patron saint of the country is the Virgin Mary and the Christmas period officially begins on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Every year it is celebrated in front of the great Gothic cathedral of Seville and the ceremony is called “The Dance of the Six”. In almost every house in Spain there is a miniature of the manger in which Jesus was born. This small manger is called “naciemento”.
Christmas Eve or “Noche Buena” is the night when the whole family gathers. The rooms are decorated with pine, beige and red Alexandrian branches. They also light candles giving a touch and a color to the atmosphere. After the Christmas table at which local specialties are offered, the Christmas Liturgy follows. The famous rooster Misa del Gallo reminds the painter who, according to tradition, was the first to announce the joyful message of the Nativity of Jesus. On January 5, during a large parade called “Cabalgata de Reyes”, people dressed as the Three Wizards and other forms of Religion throw sweets at children. The festive season ends on January 6, the day of the Epiphany, during which the Three Wizards bring presents to the children.
In Catalonia, Christmas customs are more symbolic. Specifically for the traditional decoration during the Christmas period, they place in their homes a figure in the defecation position, the so-called “El Caganer” and symbolizes the good luck and fertility of the earth, so that the following year will bring a good harvest. Another theory holds that it represents the evil that is found in all of us or it represents humility and humanity.
Children in Catalonia also follow a custom. Tio de Nadal (the Christmas Tio) is the Christmas spirit, usually made of hollow wood with twigs for the legs, a smile and a red hat. The children take care of it from December 8 until the change of time and they must have it covered with a blanket and feed it every afternoon with “Turron”, ie the nougat, in order to keep it warm and well-fed so that it can “defecate”. Many sweets on New Year’s Eve. The children begin and beat Tio with sticks and sing traditional songs that have as their central theme the thick bodily evacuations and ask him to get rid of his “garbage” and like another pinata he throws sweets and gifts from inside, before he ends up in the fire as he is most useless.
Caganer is a figure of a man in a white shirt and down pants that makes his need. It is not clear what exactly it symbolizes, although one theory claims that it represents good luck and wish for a good year. The figure probably first appeared in the early 18th century, in birth scenes.
Sweden is one of the countries with a long Christmas tradition. The Christmas festivities begin on December 13, St. Lucia Day, and coincide with the pagan celebration of the winter solstice (according to the Julian calendar) or the largest night of the year. Young girls, usually the older girls of each house, dressed in white dresses, red belts and a wreath with candles on their heads, parade “illuminating” the street through the deep darkness of winter going from house to house, offering hot coffee and cookies, while singing old carols for the purpose of the Neapolitan folk song “Santa Lucia”. In some parts of Sweden, villagers often throw wheat outside their homes and fields on Christmas day to celebrate with the birds.
Christmas Eve is the most important day of Christmas for Swedes. The festive meal includes cold fish, various types of meat, cold cuts, cabbage and traditional rice pudding. According to the custom of doppa i grytan (dipping in the pot), all members of the family dip black bread in a pot of pork, sausage and beef juice. In this way, those who are in need and hungry, in such abundance, are reminded.
After dinner, everyone gathers around the Christmas tree to open their presents. The gifts are brought by “Jultomten”, a Christmas goblin, similar in appearance to a dwarf or Santa Claus, who, according to legend, lives in the woods or on farms, embodying the spirits of the family ancestors, knocking on the door. The role is called to be played secretly every year by one of the other members of the family. Jultomten protects her family and her life.
A special Christmas symbol for the Swedes is the “julbocken”, in free translation a “Christmas goat”, made of straw. It may have originated from the worship of the Scandinavian deities, while it is believed that the origin of the custom may be German and even pagan. Still others associate it with the worship of the Norwegian god Thor, who traveled to heaven in a chariot led by two goats. The “Christmas goat” is now used as an ornament, it is considered to protect the house and is usually placed either on the tree or under it. In fact, in the city of Gavle, every year since 1966, such a symbol is made, about 13 meters high, which is intended to burn in a public ceremony on New Year’s Eve. The city did not stop setting up the goat every year and the vandals tried to burn it, until it became customary. By May 2011 the goat had been burned 25 times. The burning of the “Goat Goat” is a game that has become a bet on whether it will survive since 1988.
Traditionally, Swedes stay in the church until the early hours of Christmas, while in the past it was customary to race to or from the church and the winner was considered the lucky winner of the year…
Holidays in Sweden officially end on January 13 and the Swedes decorate the Christmas tree. The reason is that when Knutos was king of the country, about 1000 years ago, he decided that the celebration of Christmas should last 20 days instead of 12 !!!
A special custom that the Swedes have is that every year at 3 p.m. On Christmas Eve, about half of Sweden watches Walt Disney’s 1958 episode “From All of Us to All of You”, known in Swedish as “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul”, the title translates to “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas. ” Since 1959, the episode has been televised every year on the 24th of the month, at the same time, without commercial breaks.
In Switzerland, the four weeks before Christmas are celebrated with rich traditional customs, such as the festive wreath and the Christmas calendar. “Samichlaus” as he is called on the German side of Switzerland, Saint Nicholas distributes sweets and gifts to children on December 6. Christmas Eve with all the other customs of the Tree, the carols, the festive table and the Christmas service characterize this day. On the last Thursday, before Christmas, the children parade singing carols. Also on Christmas Eve the unmarried men of the village wear black costumes and high black hats and parade in the streets.
In Ukraine, Christmas Eve is on January 6, according to the Julian calendar. The family gathers at home for the 12-course meal. It is the last fasting dish before Christmas. The 12 dishes represent the 12 Apostles and include mainly fish, mushrooms and various cereals and nuts. The main dish is “Kutya” and consists of wheat, honey, poppy seeds and raisins. The table is decorated with bundles of wheat that symbolize the ancient and rich crops of Ukraine, while an additional plate is placed in memory of the deceased family members.
Another Ukrainian custom is to decorate the Christmas tree with fake cobwebs, for good luck. This tradition stems from the story of an impoverished family, who could not afford to decorate their tree. According to legend, when the family woke up on Christmas morning, they were surprised to see the spiders weaving their glowing web around it. The sun’s rays touched the web, turning it into silver and gold! Since then, spider webs are considered particularly fortunate in Ukraine.
Finally, on Christmas Day, January 7, groups of songwriters, dressed in colorful traditional costumes, walk from house to house singing carols and collecting donations. One of them holds the star of Bethlehem, which symbolizes the birth of Christ, while in various places the company is accompanied by organ players, with violin, cymbal, and the traditional “trembita” (wooden flute used in the Carpathian region).
“Gray Mare” is the name given to the ghost horse that locals walk from door to door between Christmas and New Year in Wales. Typically made of a horse skull, a sheet and ribbons the horse is transported from city to city and challenges the neighbors in a “poetic battle”.
On Christmas night, young people take to the streets and shoot with their guns! On New Year’s Eve in Argentina, women wear bright pink lingerie to win love next year – at worst, at least they will wear beautiful lingerie. Also, at exactly 12 they take a step with their right foot to start the year with their right foot.
It is customary for children in Argentina to place a shoe under the Christmas tree or next to their bed waiting for The Magi. The Magi arrive on the night of January 5, the eve of the Epiphany, which is the official holiday in Argentina. The children leave milk and cookies for the Wizards to eat from their long journey, hay and water outside the door of their house to feed their horses.
They do not beat pots, but they usually wear white when the time comes, in order to chase away the “evil”. Also, tradition says that 7 waves must jump – one for each day of the week – for good luck. Finally, Brazilians have a popular goddess in their myths, Iemanja, who controls the sea and loves gifts. That’s why on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Eve they throw flowers into the sea, hoping not to send them back.
In Canada, cloning disorders in children. The Canadian distinctive timeless colors available (H0H0H0), so that the children can spend their time with Santa Claus and the employees in addition to their paperwork. Within 27 years, 15 questions available.
Another original custom is the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, which every year since 1998 wears their festive clothes and impresses the world! Every year they are lit with colorful LEDs and make the routes at Christmas even more festive… The idea started in 1998 when two trains were decorated with lights and every year, from then until today, the custom continues, which is combined with various events at the stations…
To have a year full of work and money, Chileans eat a spoonful of lentils. Despite the lentils, however, the country has one of the largest wealth inequalities in the world. To ward off bad energy, they also sweep the house, driving the rubbish out.
Dia de las Velitas marks the beginning of the Christmas season throughout Colombia. In honor of the Virgin Mary and the Annunciation, people place candles and lighted paper lanterns on their windows, balconies and courtyards. The tradition of candles has increased and now entire cities and towns across the country are illuminated like an elaborate display. Neighborhoods compete to see who can create the most impressive composition.
A strange tradition is perpetuated in Ecuador on New Year’s Eve: they make dolls that look like scarecrows and burn them to show that they are parting with the old and the bad moments and welcoming the new. There is, however, a stranger point of tradition: men dress up as widows of a burning doll and take to the streets to beg for money to save their burning husband.
Although women around the world traditionally prepare Christmas dinner, in Greenland the opposite is true – men set the table for women. The main dish is the “mattak”, ie a dish with whale fat and the “kiviak”, meat from the seabird wrapped in seal skin which is served as soon as it begins to decompose. The dessert is a little more familiar: porridge garnished with butter, cinnamon and sugar.
Every year on December 7, at 6 o’clock in the afternoon, the residents light fires to “burn the devil” and thus begin the Christmas season. Tradition is especially important in the city of Guatemala, according to National Geographic. The tradition evolved from a simple fire to the burning of a devilish figure for the feast of the Virgin Mary.
Christmas customs in Mexico are influenced by traditions of indigenous peoples, Spanish customs and other exogenous influences. Officially, the celebrations begin, on December 16, with the custom of “Las Posadas”. It is a representation of the story of Mary and Joseph, who sought refuge in Bethlehem. The custom unfolds mainly in rural areas, by children and takes the form of a parade. The participating children roam the neighborhoods holding candles and a wooden board, on which are placed “figures” from the events of the Nativity of Christ. In some cases, Joseph and Mary are embodied by the children themselves.
A total of nine such parades take place, the last of which takes place on Christmas Eve. Then follows the custom of breaking the “Piñata”, where the children who participated in the “posadas” break a paper container in the shape of a star, full of sweets, using a stick. The vessel represents the devil and the pole the Christian faith, which overcomes evil.
On Christmas Eve, after the breaking of the “piñata” is completed, follows the big festive meal, which serves various traditional dishes, such as “pozole” (a thick soup of corn, chicken or pork and chili), romeritos “(Green vegetables cooked with olive sauce, potatoes and shrimp) and” bunuelos “(fried dough drizzled with sugar and cinnamon), while” ponche “(a hot Christmas fruit punch) and” rompone “(something like egg nog with rum) flows abundantly. Afterwards, everyone heads to the church for the last midnight service before Christmas (“Misa de Gallo”).
Another special Mexican Christmas custom is “Pastorelas”. These are Christmas plays, of a comedic nature, played, in which the journey of the three magicians to find the Divine Infant is represented, the temptations that the devil throws at them and the predominance of the good with the assistance of the Archangel Michael. The gifts in Mexico are brought either by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, or by the Three Wizards on the feast of the Epiphany on January 6, when, according to custom, the children leave a shoe at the door where the magicians will enter the night before. The Christmas festive season ends on February 2 with the feast of “La Candelaria”, dedicated to the presentation of the little Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a large Christmas tree placed each year at Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan, New York, United States. The tree was erected in mid-November and lit up in a public ceremony on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving. The tree lighting ceremony is shown at the end of each show, after live entertainment and the tree is lit by the current Mayor of New York and special guests. It is estimated that 125 million people visit the site each year. The tree, usually Norwegian spruce 69 to 100 feet (21 to 30 meters) tall, has been a national tradition every year since 1933.
A Christmas tradition in the city for many years has been decorating the whole city with Christmas lights. The event is called Christmas Town USA. Christmas Town USA contains 375 lit trees and over 200 wreaths attached to city light poles. The lights attract visitors from all over the country and are one of the largest light shows in the US. Started in 1956 with the help of Pharr Yarns, the largest employer and landowner in the city, many trees and buildings in the city are covered with Christmas lights and some form of decoration. More than 600,000 vehicles are visited every year.
The lights are maintained entirely by volunteers from the community and no entrance fee is charged. McAdenville was founded in 1881. It was named after Rufus Yancey McAden, president of McAden Mills, the city’s textile industry. McAden had served in the House of Commons of North Carolina from 1862 to 1867, and was Speaker of Parliament in 1866. He came to Charlotte in 1867 to become chairman of the first two-year National Bank.
In Caracas, Venezuela, the religious festivities of Christmas last year from December 16 until the eve. In the mornings of those days, large-scale church services are held in which people are invited to go roller skating! Car traffic is prohibited on many roads until 8 pm so that people can use their skates freely every day. The custom even dictates to small children to take a large thread, tie one end to their big toe and let the other hang outside their windows. The next morning, people skating outside their window pull the thread to wake them up and convey the joyful message. The day ends with the sound of the church bells and the crowd gathering for a large festive table. The custom continues to this day.
We all know that Christmas in countries like Australia is completely different. When we think of December and Christmas our thoughts go to the cold, the snow, Santa Claus coming down from snowy chimneys όμως But not in Australia… There Christmas is part of summer! All the customs have been shaped to suit the weather of the place. Who has not seen in a video the Australian Santa Claus coming out of the sea or on a jet ski? There are many who go for surfing or just swim in the sea and sit on the beach with royal hats! As for the Australian festive table, it is made using barbecue, with the menu consisting of cold dishes. There are also festive Christmas parades, where chariots and Santa Clauses parade, as well as sporting events such as a cricket match between national teams in Melbourne and the annual Sydney-Hobart sailing race.
Do you think that all Christmas trees are the same all over the world? Think again as in New Zealand there is a beautiful tree called pohutukawa with huge roots and bright flowers that wins the hearts of the locals and adorns it in churches and houses in cheerful colors. The tree is now recognized as the symbol of Christmas in New Zealand and is found in cards, decorations even in the carols that the children sing at school!
Ethiopia was one of the first empires to adopt Christianity as the official religion of the state in the 4th century AD. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church follows its own calendar. There is a 43-day fast, called “The Fast of the Prophets” (“Tsome Nebiyat”), followed by Christmas (“Genna”) on January 7. The Ethiopian Christmas meal includes boiled meat, accompanied by vegetables, spicy chili, Ethiopian traditional bread and 12 boiled eggs that symbolize eternity. To the north of the country is the town of Lalibela, a town known for its 11 monolithic churches. have been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. During the Christmas festivities, the city is visited by thousands of pilgrims from all over the country, dressed in traditional white costumes.
The Christmas service begins at midnight and ends the next morning. Priests, dressed in white turbans and colorful cloaks, holding metal clusters (something like musical instruments), all sing together. In the countryside, in addition, Ethiopians have a custom of playing a traditional Christmas game called “Ye Genna Chewata”, which is similar to field hockey. On January 19, 12 days after Christmas, Ethiopians celebrate the Epiphany with festivals (“Timkat”), which last for three days.
When we think of Christmas food, one of the first things that comes to mind is the piglet and the turkey, always all stuffed and high in calories… In South Africa, however, one is the delicacy that drives young and old crazy. Fried caterpillars! A specific kind of imperial caterpillar that lives in the firs and is in the Christmas flavor, offering luck next year to anyone who manages to swallow it.
Instead of a Christmas tree, they decorate the “trees of light” with lights and flowers. In China, December 25 is not a public holiday. However, it is still a public holiday in the special administrative districts of Hong Kong and Macau, which are former colonies of Western powers with a well-known Christian cultural heritage. On the mainland, a small percentage of Chinese citizens who consider themselves Christians celebrate Christmas informally and usually privately. Many other people do Christmas activities even though they do not consider themselves Christians. Many customs, such as sending cards, exchanging gifts and hanging socks, are very similar to Western holidays.
In India, only 2.3% of the population are Christians, but due to the large population, we are talking about 25 million people. Christians in India celebrate with gift exchanges. Because there are no firs and pines, they traditionally decorate banana and mango trees, while cutting their large leaves and branches to decorate their home.
The Japanese, without having Christmas in their religion, but influenced by Western fashion, have a dietary custom, which wants them to eat the famous KFC chickens, which has prevailed thanks to a very successful advertisement of the company in 1974. According to with the Smithsonian, when a group of tourists could not find turkey for Christmas and chose KFC, the company saw it as a great marketing opportunity and advertised its first Christmas meal: chicken and wine for $ 10. Today, the Christmas dinner at KFC includes cake and champagne and costs about $ 40. Many people place orders too early to avoid queues that can wait up to two hours. Junk food has its place of honor even during these festive days, to such an extent that it is not possible to find a free table if you have not made a reservation!
In the Philippines, Christianity is the dominant doctrine, with 80.58% of the population professing Catholicism. Christmas in the country is one of the most important holidays and in contrast to other Christian countries the celebrations start in September, when traditional decorations and Christmas carols begin to flood the public space. The festivities end around January 9, the feast of the Epiphany or as they call it “Day of the Three Kings”. The country’s customs are a mixture of local traditions and Western influences, the result of Spanish and later American colonialism.
Officially, the start of the Christmas celebrations is set for December 16, with the first of the 9 midnight services. On Christmas Eve, December 24, Filipinos go to church to hear the last of them, and then relatives and friends gather at the house for a big midnight celebration, serving traditional delicacies such as roast pork and various rice cakes. . The next day, members of the extended family visit to pay their respects to the elderly relatives or to ask for their blessing, in an honorary gesture, which is called.
The colorful, illuminated star-shaped lanterns, which symbolize the star of Bethlehem, are the most common Christmas decoration in the country and are made mainly of cardboard and bamboo. In the city of San Fernando, every year the “Giant Lantern Festival” is held, which lasts from December 15 to January 2, during which, on December 16, a competition is held for the most impressive giant lantern. This annual festival is very popular, gathering hundreds of tourists and giving the city the nickname “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”.
The commotion is the target of the residents in Manila, where the locals gather and hit pots and pans, in order to. Expel the evil spirits. Also, all the lights of the house are turned on and just before the time comes, all the doors, cupboards and windows are opened, to close them after midnight.
The journey is over and it is time to return to our destination, in preparation for our own Christmas and our New Year! Really, which country was the one that caught your interest the most? Which would you like to discuss more with your children? If you could ever spend the holidays in another country, which one would you choose and why? We are waiting for your opinion and comments!