Welcome to part two of Christmas Around The World series. If you missed part one, check it out here. It’s been another fun week learning about the different traditions and customs from around the world associated with this time of year.
England – Julianna from The Discoveries Of
Christmas in England is a big deal. Every year, the lights go on all around the country (including the spectacular ones in Oxford Street), we crack out the mulled wine, and start feeling festive. Generally, Christmas Day is all about the two Fs: family and food. All of a sudden, it’s OK to eat Celebrations chocolates all day and squabble with your siblings with over what to watch after the big meal.
The traditional Christmas dinner is a turkey with all the trimmings – brussels sprouts (mandatory, whether you love them or hate them), roast potatoes, pigs in blankets (cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon) and lots of gravy of course. Turkey became a popular Christmas dinner in the Victorian times as it was pretty much the only bird big enough to feed their large families and we’ve kept with it ever since. It’s also traditional to have Christmas Pudding with brandy butter for dessert, and mince pies (these are made with mincemeat, which is sweet and not meat at all).
The great thing about Christmas in England though, is it really is about your personal traditions – the ones that your family have been doing for years. In my family we never have a turkey for the big dinner and always have loads of cheese as well as dessert. After exhausting ourselves eating and drinking on Christmas Day, you can kick back, watch bad films and maybe head for a long walk on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas).
Mexico – Jaime from Mexatia
Christmas in Mexico is, like any other celebration, all about the family. Since it is a huge country, the traditions vary from state to state. My family comes from Oaxaca, the state in the south of Mexico, where we start to put the Christmas decorations on December 1, as well as the Christmas tree. In the period from 16 to 24 of December we prepare traditional parties called “Las Posadas” where the families get together and perform the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, singing Christmas songs around the block and asking for a shelter (in Spanish posada means inn) from the host family. The celebration continues with breaking a piñata and serving traditional dishes like tostadas, atole, buñuelos.
In Oaxaca de Juarez, every December 23 there is a special event, a content in carving the radishes, called Noche de Rábanos. The craftsmen make amazing figures and historic scenes from the radish, while locals and tourists come to admire their work.
Christmas Eve is full of the preparations for the festive Christmas dinner. The whole family gets together, performs one last posada and sings a lullaby to baby Jesus. We serve dishes like turkey, lamb, cod, salads and other. My family does not do Santa Claus so we give the presents to each other after the dinner.
New Year is celebrated in the circle of the family as well. At midnight, or better said 12 seconds before the midnight, we eat one grape each second and make a promise or a wish for each. Each grape represents one month of the coming year. Just like in other parts of the world, we often wish to lose weight or get a better job.
Holiday season ends with January 6, Dia de los Reyes Magos, when kids receive presents from three kings. In the evening we eat Rosca de Reyes, traditional sweet bread with a figure of Jesus hidden inside. If you are lucky to get a toy in your piece, you must make tamales and atole for your family on February 2, el Dia de la Candelaria.
Finland – Evan from Pretty Wild World
Ah, Christmas! A worldwide holiday which almost everyone celebrates. However, do you know that the iconic man who we call Father Christmas or Santa Claus was actually from Finland? That’s a fact, not a lot know! In Finland, Santa Claus is known as Joulupukki, and he is a man with a sack filled with gifts, and he knocks on your door and hands presents to you on Christmas. Of course, nowadays that’d be creepy if a stranger knocks on your door and hands you something, but it is an ongoing tradition in Finland that one man of the family (normally the father) puts on a Santa Claus suit and disguise himself as Joulupukki. This is normally something every Finnish child waits every Christmas! To this day, that tradition lives on.
Japan – Cory from You Could Travel
I was fortunate enough to spend last Christmas in Tokyo. It’s one of the best places I’ve ever seen and the Japanese have a few rather bizarre ways of celebrating the winter holidays. You won’t be seeing many evergreens full of decorations, but you will have a festive feeling as most streets are dotted with fairy lights. The weird part? On Christmas day, the Japanese queue in front of a KFC to grab their celebratory meal (chicken wings on Dec the 25th anyone?!). Apparently, this came about because many foreigners bought some chicken or turkey-related items in KFC to recreate a meal Christmas meal from back home. The Japanese seemed to have picked this up and drop the ramen for a less healthy option.
Austria – Helene from Masala Herb
I am from a village in the alps in the mountains. We experienced Christmas when we were small in Austria with a lot of snow. During advent, the 4 Sundays in November/December, we would come back from school and play the whole afternoon in the snow outside. Nowadays snow is rare and you don’t see kids playing outside anymore. Snow is essential for Christmas or so it would be. 🙂
We would have a Advent calendar with 24 small doors and behind each door would be a little surprise like chocolates and sweets. At school we would have a hanging one with little bags and each day one child would get one to open. In school we would prepare for Christmas by resitting Holy night and other popular songs. The song Holy night originated in the region of Salzburg, so it’s the song in Austria during Christmas time. We would have a shadow theater or create a living crip and on the 24th afternoon we would be the stars in church. Austrians are catholic so this reflects as well during Christmas time. On the 5th of December we have something called, Krampus day. It’s basically a day which shows that the pre-Christian beliefs still hold strong on these regions as well. Krampus are demons from the mountains, who come to take the naughty children. So boys from the village have their clubs and each boy above 14 years of age, wears animal furs covering the whole body and wears a wooden ugly looking mask and they would take a run through town on the 5th. Locals and tourists come for this and the naughty kids would get beaten up. ^.^
On the 6th of December is St. Nicolaus day. The day when Nicolaus (Santa Claus) comes and brings oranges and chocolates to the good kids. We do a lot of Christmas baking during Advent time. We bake popular cookies such as Lebkuchen, Vanillekipferl, cinnamon stars, Linzer cookies, macarons, meringue and so on. The cookies are then gifted to family and friends. On weekends we go to Christmas markets. The most popular Christmas markets are in the cities such as Salzburg, Innsbruck and Vienna. However, each smaller city or town has a market these days as well and those are kind of trendy these days. Locals like to meet family and friends on Friday evening in the Christmas market and you will have mulled wine, cakes and goodies sold at the market while children are playing music. Christmas is celebrated in Austria on the 24th and in the past 40 years children have been getting gifts too but not from Santa Claus (because Nikolaus comes on the 6th), but from the Christkind which is the Christ child.
Thank you so much to all of the writers who contributed to part two of my Christmas Around The World series. I hope you enjoyed reading the different traditions and customs from around the world. Do you celebrate Christmas or an equivalent? What is it called? How do you celebrate?