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Christmas Around the World

world christmasChristmas is all about turkey consumption, cracker pulling and stocking stuffing isn’t it? Of course, we all know there is a much deeper meaning to Christmas, but what I’m referring to here are the deep-seated traditions with which we choose to mark the occasion.

It’s always interesting to hear about the Christmas traditions that different families practice. For example, some choose to leave out stockings, while others don’t. In my family we were in the no stocking camp – instead, Father Christmas used to leave one, small, special gift at the foot of the bed. This served to quell the excitement of my brothers and I who would wake at the crack of dawn, wanting to rip open presents in the hope of receiving ‘Hungry Hippos’ or the like. This practice became a well-established family tradition…and I still get an end-of-the-bed present to this day

As we know, Christmas and festive traditions vary from country to country too, so we thought it would be fun to investigate how our European and further flung neighbours celebrate Christmas in their own unique way. Our choice of country is completely arbitrary, but we hope you’ll find the traditions interesting and intriguing, if not bizarre in some cases!

Germany

Germans celebrate Christmas on 25th December and St Nicholas’s Day on 6th January on which good children receive sweets in their shoes if they have been good and twigs if they’ve been bad. The tradition of Christmas trees arose in Germany and these are put up and decorated on December 23rd

Ethiopia

The Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on 7th January as they use the Julian calendar, rather than the Gregorian calendar as we do in the West. Christmas, or ‘Ganna’, is marked with a meal of sourdough pancake bread accompanied by rich stews and meat. Not a turkey in sight.

Russia

The Russians don’t have Father Christmas, but rather ‘Ded Moroz’ – Grandfather Frost and his helper, ‘Snegurochka’ – the Snow Maiden. Like the Ethiopians, the Russian Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar, so Christmas happens on 7th January. During the Soviet period, Christmas was not a holiday, but is nowadays, and Russians celebrate with gift giving and a meal of goose, fish and pork served with various bean and cabbage stews.

Catalonia

Most Catalan homes have a Nativity Scene on display as part of their festive decorations. In addition to the Holy Family and animals, Catalans include a ‘Caganer’ (‘defecator’) in the scene – a small model of a man doing a poo! Traditionally the figure was of a Catalan peasant, but these days you can buy any number of celebrity ‘caganer’ figurines with which to adorn the scene. It is believed that as a result of the fertile deposit from the caganer, the soil in the crib would become rich and fertile, bringing prosperity, luck and good health for the coming year.

Finland

Finnish people give their homes a thorough clean before the Christmas period and leave out a sheaf of grain nuts and seeds, which is tied to a pole in the garden for birds to feed on. Just before the Christmas festivities begin, and in true Finnish style, people like to take a Christmas sauna before sunset.

Brazil

Christmas Eve is the most important day for the Brazilians during the festive period. At midnight on December 24th, churches celebrate with the ‘Missa do Galo’ – the Rooster’s Mass. Despite the warm, tropical weather, Brazilians like to decorate with themes of winter and snow, typical to European and North American tradition.

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