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Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions

Every country that celebrates Christmas has their own unique Christmas traditions influenced by the country’s geography, climate, history and culture. Here are some Christmas Traditions from around the world.

Advent Wreath

GERMANY
The Germans have a number of Christmas traditions:-

Four Sundays before Christmas, German families make an Advent Wreath of fir with four red candles. They light a candle on the wreath each Sunday, sing Christmas songs and eat Christmas cookies. Johann Hinrich Wichern a Protestant Pastor created the German Advent Wreath, to help the children at his mission understand just how much longer they would have to wait for Christmas. 

The Christmas Advent Calendar is another German tradition for children to keep track of how many more days until Christmas. The Advent Calendar is usually a picture of a Christmas scene with 24 little doors. The first door is opened on the 1st December and the last door is opened on the 24th of December. When each door is opened it reveals a Christmas picture, a poem or a piece of chocolate. This is now a tradition all over the world.

In Germany, St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6. On the eve before the children place freshly shined or cleaned shoes at the front door in the hope that St. Nicholas will visit their house and leave a little gift in their boots, such as chocolate, nuts or fruits. St. Nicholas only brings presents to those children who are generally well-behaved throughout the year. Those who were not may find a piece of coal in their boots, from his assistant Knecht Ruprecht .

German Nikolaus is based on an actual person. Nikolaus was a popular bishop of Myra in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) during the fourth century and became a legend due to his humble and generous nature.

Presents are now usually opened on Christmas Eve, December 24th, after a traditional family meal and the singing of Christmas carols.

Christmas time in Germany is also all about Christmas Markets, baking cookies together (in the Weihnachtsbäckerei), decorating the house and the tree and listening to carols.

The traditional Christmas meal features duck, goose, rabbit or a roast. This main dish is accompanied by German delicacies such as apple and sausage stuffing, red cabbage and potato dumplings. Dessert typically includes Christmas Stollen.


Merry Christmas in German is Fröhliche Weihnachten!

GREECE
According to Greek legend, malicious goblins called “Kallikantzari” would come up from their underground homes on December 25th, and would play tricks on humans until the 6th of January. You could get rid of them by burning logs or old shoes, or hanging sausages or sweetmeats in the chimney.

Christmas in Greece is a very religious holiday and celebrated on the 25th December. It is a time when families come together to celebrate. Greece has its own version of Santa Claus, he is called Saint Vasilis. He visits the houses on Christmas Eve to deliver a few small gifts to the children.

The Greek twelve days of Christmas begins on Christmas Day and continues until January 6th, which is known as the Feast of Epiphany. During these twelve days of Christmas, people keep their fires in their houses burning throughout this period.

The main Christmas meal is usually roasted pork or lamb served with spinach and cheese pie and various salads and vegetables. Other Christmas and new year foods include 'Baklava' (a sweet pastry made of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey), Kataifi (a pastry made from a special form of shredded filo dough with nuts and cinnamon), Theeples (a kind of fried pastry). A traditional table decoration is loaves of 'Christopsomo' (Christ's Bread or Christmas bread).

Merry Christmas in Greek is Kala Christougena.

ENGLAND

In England much more is made of Christmas Day and Boxing Day than Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve is a very exciting time for young children. The children hang up their stockings, leave out mince pies or cookies and sherry (or milk) for Santa and then go to sleep. Father Christmas piles all of the toys he and the elves have made during the year onto his sleigh and he rides across the sky with his 9 reindeer (Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen and Rudolf). Rudolf is the most famous reindeer he leads the way with his shiny, red nose.
When the children wake up on Christmas Day Father Christmas has filled their stockings with presents.

In USA, Father Christmas is referred to as Santa Claus (an evolution of the Dutch settlers’ term “Sinter Klaas,” (Saint Nikolas). Mr and Mrs Claus live in the North Pole. Father Christmas lives in Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland. 

Christmas Day lunch is celebrated with family. The table is decorated and each person has a Christmas cracker to pull with someone else at the table. The Christmas crackers normally contain paper party crown, a silly joke and a little prize.  The meal is usually a delicious roast  turkey and stuffing, roast and mashed potatoes,  vegetables like brussels sprouts, carrots, turnips, gravy and Yorkshire puddings followed by  Christmas pudding (heavily spiced boiled fruit cake doused in brandy, briefly set on fire) served with custard. Traditionally, coins were hidden inside as an extra gift. Christmas pudding (Plum Pudding) is a classic festive dish that dates back to the Middle Ages.

Another Christmas tradition is the British monarch's broadcast on Christmas Day. The tradition began in 1932 when King George V read a special speech written by Rudyard Kipling. Queen Elizabeth II continues the tradition to this day. Every year she broadcasts her message on Christmas Day, and it is heard by millions of people all over the world.

In England they usually say “Happy Christmas” rather than Merry Christmas

RUSSIA

Russian Orthodox Church observes Christmas according to the Julian Calendar, on January 7, while Western churches celebrate it on December 25, in accordance with the Gregorian Calendar. 

In the Orthodox tradition the holy supper of Christmas Eve ends the 40 days of fasting, which excludes the eating of meat and dairy products. The Christmas Eve meal in Russia is traditionally the last of the Lenten fast. The last meatless meal is known as the holy supper.

The first dish eaten at the Christmas Eve holy supper is sochivo or kutya. This is a traditional Christmas porridge made from barley, rye, buckwheat, peas and lentils, mixed together with honey and sometimes poppy seeds, dried fruits and nuts. This first course is followed by eleven other meatless courses, which are meant to represents the 12 apostles.

Christmas Day is spent with family and friends, eating, drinking, singing and socialising. Christmas dinner is not defined like the holy supper of Christmas Eve, so the dishes served vary among families and households. The centrepiece of the Russian Christmas feast is most often a roast goose cooked in sour cream sauce, stuffed with prunes and red cabbage or sometimes apple, raisins and honey.

Merry Christmas in Russian is S rozhdyestvom Hristovym!,
which means “Congratulations on the birth of Christ!”.

ICELAND

In the 13 days leading up to Christmas, Thirteen jólasveinarnir, or “Christmas Lads,” deliver presents to children in Iceland. For each night of Yuletide, children place their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts for good children and rotten potatoes for the naughty ones. Dressed in a traditional Icelandic costume, these lads are very mischievous.
Stekkjastaur (Sheep-Cote Clod),
Giljagaur (Gully Gawk),
Stúfur (Stubby),
Þvörusleikir (Spoon-Licker),
Pottaskefill (Pot-Scraper),
Askasleikir (Bowl-Licker),
Hurðaskellir (Door-Slammer),
Skyrgámur (Skyr-Gobbler),
Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-Swiper),
Gluggagægir (Window-Peeper),
Gáttaþefur (Doorway-Sniffer),
Ketkrókur (Meat-Hook) and
Kertasníkir (Candle-Stealer).

 

Merry Christmas is Gleðileg Jól in Icelandic

SOUTH AFRICA

In South Africa Christmas is in summer, as it is in the Southern Hemisphere. Christmas is a joyous celebration filled with lots of family time and plenty of delicious food. South Africa has several British Christmas traditions, because of its history with the UK.

Christmas dinner is usually roasted meats and vegetables, yellow rice with raisins, sambals and potato bake, followed by plum pudding and custard. Many families also choose to have a braai (barbecue) instead of a formal, sit-down lunch.

Merry Christmas is Geseënde Kersfees in Afrikaans;
in Zulu it's ‘UKhisimusi omuhle’,
in Sesotho it's 'Le be le keresemese e monate' and
in Xhosa it's 'Krismesi emnandi'.

Pesebre

PERU

The main day for celebrations in Peru is December 24th which is known as La Noche Buena (“the Good Night”). After mass, families go home to feast and open gifts. At midnight, adults will toast with champagne, while children toast with hot chocolate, and families go outside to watch fireworks displays.
A traditional Peruvian Christmas meal will include turkey, tamales, salads, applesauce, and a sweet bread called Panettone.
The most important decorations are pesebre– Nativity scenes intricately carved from wood or stone. Gifts are spread around the manger rather than a tree, and it’s considered lucky to be the one chosen to put the figurine of baby Jesus into the manger on Christmas Eve.


Feliz Navidad is Merry Christmas in Spanish.

JAPAN

Christmas isn't a traditional holiday in Japan, which is a predominantly Buddhist and Shinto nation. The holiday is typically seen as a day of happiness and romance, not religion. Many couples even celebrate the day like Valentine's Day.

A new quirky Christmas tradition has evolved in Japan. Families are now eating KFC for their Christmas dinner. This is a big surprise as most people think of Japanese cuisine as being relatively healthy.

Merry Christmas is 'Meri Kurisumasu' in Japanese.
It is written like this in Hiragana: めりーくりすます and Katakana: メリークリスマス.

INDIA

In India, Christians decorate mango and banana trees. And like most Indian traditions, Christmas celebrations are lively and colourful. Indian Christmas traditions also call for tons of sweets. Trading Christmas gifts isn't common, though. Instead, everyone fuels up on delicious food and brings treats to their friends and neighbours.

Indian people cook a variety of foods, including Biryani with chicken or lamb, chicken and mutton curry, followed by cake or sweets like Kheer. Long established Christian communities such as Goan Catholics have pork and beef dishes as part of the main course of their Christmas dinner.

In Hindi Merry Christmas is Śubh Krisamas' and in Urdu it's 'Krismas Mubarak'.

AMERICA
On Christmas Eve, excited children hang stockings along the fireplace waiting for Santa and his reindeer to arrive. A traditional drink for an American Christmas is Eggnog. This is a drink a made from eggs, cream and bourbon.
Christmas Day is a time for families and lots of food. Turkey, a dish usually associated with Christmas, is not often served in the US as it’s reserved for Thanksgiving. Instead, roast ham or roast beef tend to be the main meat served with potatoes and vegetables. A typical Christmas desert in the US is pumpkin, pecan or apple pie.

After dinner, it’s time for games, carols, and Christmas movies.

Merry Christmas

Christmas Markets

Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmärkte)

During Advent season the historic city centres of every major German city light up with Christmas markets, known as Weihnachtsmärkte. Holiday lights and decorations captivate locals and tourists alike, and entice them to stroll among the vendors of local arts and crafts and also plenty of food!
The Christmas market tradition dates back to the 15th century. Today there are over 2,500 Christmas markets across Germany. Markets commonly feature a nativity scene, and vendors offer a wide variety of gifts, including many that are handcrafted. You can also find foods like grilled sausages, fried fish on a fresh bread roll (Backfisch), and sautéed mushrooms. For dessert there are a variety of specialty sweets, confections and baked goods.


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Gluhwein

Gluhwein - Spiced Mulled Wine

Gluhwein is a spicy red wine served warm. At Christmas many German town centres have street markets with stalls selling cookies, arts and crafts, wooden toys and other festive items. Almost every street corner seems to have Bratwurst and Glühwein stalls.

Here is a basic Gluhwein recipe.

INGREDIENTS

1 bottle full-bodied red wine

1 small lemon

16 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

4-6 tablespoons sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

Pour the wine into a large saucepan. Cut the lemon in quarters. Stick the cloves into the
rind of one quarter. Slice the rest thinly.

Add the quarter and slices to the pan with the cinnamon and sugar.

Heat slowly until hot, but do not allow to boil. Serve in heatproof glasses or small cups.
If you are worried about the glass breaking, stand a metal teaspoon in the glass before
adding the hot liquid.
 If you want a less alcoholic drink, then mix in apple juice or water.

  

Rum Pop

Rum Popo is a delicious traditional rum crème made in Belize that is somewhat similar to Eggnog. This festive blend is served during the Christmas season as a celebratory drink shared with family and friends to celebrate the Christmas season and to welcome them into our homes. A glass of festive Rum Popo is a very important part of the traditional Belizean Christmas and is sure to warm up the heart. It is very common in Belize for homemade bottles of Rum Popo to be given as Christmas gifts to friends, neighbours, and co-workers. 

RUM POPO RECIPE
(Makes approx. four 750 ml. bottles)

INGREDIENTS
9 eggs
5 cans evaporated milk
3 cans sweetened condensed milk
500ml strong rum or to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
1 tablespoon ground fresh nutmeg or 4 nutmegs (grated)
1 cinnamon stick for soaking
Extra cinnamon sticks for serving


INSTRUCTIONS

Soak cinnamon stick in rum for 2 days.
Beat eggs well for about 15 – 20 minutes. (Removing beater and rinsing in clean water several times to remove strings (eye of egg).
Add evaporated milk and beat again.
Add condensed milk and check for sweetness.
Add grated nutmeg, cinnamon and the strained rum
Mix again and then store in clean, dry bottles.
Store in refrigerator.
Shake before serving.
Serve with ice and garnish with cinnamon powder or a cinnamon stick.


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