Christmas traditions around the globe

From Christmas trees, decorations, presents and Santa Claus to diving into freezing water, KFC meals and… the summer holiday, Christmas is definitely one of the most awaited and loved holidays of the year. Are you trying to find the perfect destination for Christmas or simply curious about its traditions around the world? Read this and find out how amazing and unique only Christmas can be.

While Christmas is officially celebrated on the 25th of December, there are other holidays related to it that start much earlier. For instance, in the Netherlands the holiday season starts on the 5th of December when Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) travels a long way from Madrid, Spain in order to bring presents for the children who behaved well during the year. There are special marzipan or pastry biscuits made in the shape of the first letter of people’s name that cannot be missed in the Dutch supermarkets. The same tradition of waiting for St. Nicholas is also held in countries like Belgium and Germany on the 6th of December, yet this is separate occasion than Christmas, the latter one being a more religious celebration usually spent with the closest relatives. In Belgium it is also common to have a Nativity scene.

The Nativity scene mentioned before is a truly big Christmas symbol for Italians as well as for some Spanish and Portuguese people. This scene is a model village of Bethlehem with different figurines portraying Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, donkeys but aside these also ‘every day’ people and objects. Naples is the home of the largest nativity crib in the world. In Spain, after the midnight service people go for a walk on the streets carrying torches, playing guitars and beating on tambourines and drums.



For Norwegians, Christmas Eve coincides not only with joy but also with the arrival of evil spirits and witches and this is why everyone hides all the brooms before going to sleep. In Sweden on the other hand, it is common to see for Christmas a vandalized goat made of straw, which since 1966 has survived untouched until Christmas Day only 10 times(!).

On the Polish tables you will be lucky to find 12 different meals, (usually meat free) in order to have luck for the next 12 months. The Christmas Eve is usually a ‘fasting day’ meaning that people don’t eat anything, or if not possible at least meat and dairy free products before the first star is seen on the sky. The same tradition goes for the Russians as well; after the first star has shined they eat a kind of porridge from one common bowl, symbolizing unity. What is usual for Russians and unusual for other nations though is that they celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January and not on the 25th of December. Adding to the unusual things, in Czech Republic single women perform a ritual on Christmas to see whether they are going or not to remain single for the next year.

In Venezuela people are privileged on Christmas Eve because all roads are closed for the cars and they can actually go to the Church service by… roller skating.

When most of the European countries associate Christmas with snow, the USA and UK connect the Christmas spirit with lights and decorations. Americans pay much attention to decorating with lights their houses, gardens and streets and British even have a ritual of ‘switch on’ around the beginning of November. In the USA you can even find a Christmas Shop that sells decorations all year around. Speaking about snow, as in UK there is not much of it, a ‘White Christmas’ is considered when a single snow flake has been seen falling in the 24 hours of Christmas Day. It’s interesting to find out what Eastern Europeans would think about it when they usually have half a meter snow for Christmas. But if British don’t have snow, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have cold and the colder it is the stranger it looks to see people diving into a freezing body of water- an annual custom in Britain.

Everybody loves Christmas and Japanese as well, but what is a surprise for us is to find out that a traditional Christmas meal in Japan is nothing else than a KFC dinner and is so popular that people need to make an appointment to eat at KFC for Christmas. Moreover, for Japanese Christmas is more of a romantic holiday than a religious one when couples spend time together and switch presents, something like an early Valentine’s day. By the way, is it written on your plastic Christmas tree ‘Made in China’? The strange thing about it is that even though most of the Christmas decorations are made in China, some Chinese people don’t know what they are for, because this holiday was not that widely spread until now.

Finally, we make an apparent impossible combination of Christmas and summer and go to Australia. Christmas comes in Australia at the beginning of the summer holidays, where Carols are adapted by Australians and words as snow and cold winter are obviously changed. It looks like everything is about changes for Australians, as Santa switches from reindeers to kangaroos and to less hot clothes.

No matter in which country you find yourself for Christmas, remember that is a special holiday for everyone around the globe so don’t forget to spread love and happiness!

                  Merry Christmas from the Usva editorial team!!!!

By Mihaela Breabin

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