The days are short, the trees have already lost their leaves, and it’s so cold outside… There’s no escaping it any longer, winter has come!
But luckily, winter is also a time of celebration, so snug and warm at home in front of an open fire and join us on a world tour to look at just some of the Christmas traditions from around the globe.
Most people in Scandinavian countries honour St. Lucia each year on December 13. The celebration of St. Lucia Day began in Sweden, but had later spread to Denmark and Finland. In these countries, the holiday is considered the beginning of the Christmas season and is often referred to as “little Yule.”
Traditionally, the oldest daughter in each family rises early and wakes each of her family members with coffee and buns. She dresses in a long, white gown, a red sash, and wears a crown made of twigs with nine lighted candles, and for the day, she is called “Lussi”.
The family then eats breakfast in a room lighted with candles. Light is a main theme of St. Lucia Day and her feast day is celebrated near the shortest day of the year, when the sun’s light again begins to strengthen.
According to legend, on Christmas Eve rivers in Germany turn to wine, animals speak , trees bear fruit, mountains open up to reveal precious gems, and church bells can be heard ringing from the bottom of the sea. Of course, only the pure of heart can witness such. All others must content themselves with more traditional German celebrating, of which there is luckily plenty.
Christmas trees originate from Germany. While children are occupied in another room, the mother brings out the Christmas tree, which was hidden before, and decorates it with all manner of beautiful things and then places presents under the tree. Somewhere close to this bright display, decorated plates are laid out for each member of the family. These are loaded with fruits, nuts, marzipan, chocolate and biscuits.
When everything is ready, a bell is rung as a signal for the children to run into this Christmas fantasy room. Carols are sung, sometimes sparklers are lit, a Christmas story is read and gifts are opened.
In central Europe, including Austria, Bavaria and the Czech Republic, the companion of good old St Nicholas is the sinister Krampus, a terrifying creature with fangs, horns and fur, who punishes naughty children by whipping them with sticks. These whippings are intended to make bad children good, and those who cannot be whipped into niceness are put into Krampus’ sack and taken back to his den in Hell.
That shares a resemblance with the Dutch tradition, according to which, Santa’s Servants keep lists of naughty children who receive pieces of coal, while very naughty children are put into a sack and taken to Spain, which I guess is the Dutch equivalent for Hell.
In Mexico, pinatas are filled with candy and coins and hung from the ceiling. Children then take turns hitting them until they break, sending showers of treats to the floor. Children race to gather as much of of the loot as they can.
The main Christmas celebration in Mexico refers to reenacting of Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. This happens nine days before Christmas as it is said that the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem took nine days. Friends and family members divide themselves into two groups: pilgrims and innkeepers.
The pilgrims travel from house to house asking for a shelter and are admitted with great rejoicing by the innkeepers, a traditional prayer is spoken, and the party begins.
Celtic had long considered mistletoe to have magical powers. It was said to have the ability to heal wounds, increase fertility and bring luck. Celts hung mistletoe in their homes in order to bring themselves good fortune and in order to ward off evil spirits.
During holidays in the Victorian era, the English would hang sprigs of mistletoe from ceilings and in doorways. If someone was found standing under the mistletoe, they would be kissed by someone else in the room, behaviour that was not often demonstrated in Victorian society. While This tradition is not as common as before, it can still be seen in many places.
The day before Christmas is very busy for families in England, as they wrap presents, bake cookies, and hang stockings over the fireplace. Then everyone gathers around the tree as someone tells a classic holiday story, “A Christmas Carol.”
Nearly every French home displays a Nativity scene or creche during the holiday time. These serve as the focus for the Christmas celebration. The creche is often peopled with little clay figures. An extensive tradition has evolved around these little figures which are made by craftsmen in the south of France throughout the year.
Unlike in Germany, the Christmas tree has never been particularly popular in France, and though the use of the Yule log has long faded in most of France, the French make a traditional Yule log-shaped cake, which is served among other food at the holiday dinner. The menu for the meal varies according to region: In Alsace, goose is the main course, in Burgundy it is turkey with chestnuts, and the Parisians feast upon oysters.
But let’s return to more important matters, and when I say important matters, I obviously mean food. What do people eat for Christmas dinner around the world?
Learn all about that in this short video!
The Stuccu Team