NexC
  NexC Home NexC SiteMap  
    
NexChange JobMart OTM MIA
World of Menus Homepage
 
 
 
“Merry Christmas”(and “Happy New Year”)
around the world
»
 
  Christmas Traditions around the World

Sweden
Finland
Norway
Germany
Mexico
England
France
Australia
Ukraine
Canada
Greece
Central America
Japan
China
India
Philippines
 
Sweden
 
Most people in Scandinavian countries honor St. Lucia on December 13. Her feast day is celebrated on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and when the sun's light begins to strengthen again. Lucia lived in Syracuse in the fourth century, during the persecution of Christians by Diocletian. Unfortunately, most of her stories have been lost over the years. One story says that she was martyred after she gave her dowry not to her betrothed but to the persecuted Christians. According to one common legend, Lucia lost her eyes while being tortured, while others say she may have plucked her own eyes out to protest the poor treatment of the Christians. Lucia is the patron saint of the blind.

Light is the main theme of St. Lucia Day, as her name was derived from ‘lux,’ the Latin word for light.

The celebration of St. Lucia Day began in Sweden and spread to Denmark and Finland in the mid-nineteenth century. In these countries, the feast day is considered the beginning of the Christmas season and, as such, sometimes referred to as Little Yule. Traditionally, the oldest daughter in each family rises early and wakes the other family members. She dresses in a long, white gown with a red sash, and wears a crown made of twigs with nine lighted candles. For the day, she is called ‘Lussi’ or ‘Lussibruden’ (Lucy bride). The family then eats breakfast in a candle-lit room. In Finland today, a girl is chosen to serve as the national Lucia and she is honored in a parade, surrounded by torchbearers.

Any shooting or fishing during St. Lucia Day is usually done by torchlight, and people would also illuminate their homes brightly. At night, men, women, and children would carry torches in a parade. At night’s end, everyone would throw torches onto a large pile of straw to create a huge bonfire.
 
Finland
 
Christmas in Finland is a time for relaxation, and many Finns celebrate Christmas Eve by visiting a sauna. Saunas are an essential part of Finnish life and going to one on Christmas Eve has a special significance, marking the end of the Christmas rush and the beginning of the holidays.

Families gather and listen to the radio broadcast of the national proclamation of the “Peace of Christmas,” traditionally held in Turku, the former capital of Finland. It is also customary to visit the gravesites of the departed family members.
 
Norway
 
The tradition of the Yule Log originated in Norway. In ancient times, the Norse celebrated the winter solstice, marking the sun’s rebirth, by burning a huge piece of log at the fireplace. The word Yule came from the Norse word ‘hweol,’ meaning wheel, as the Norse believed that the sun is a great wheel of fire rolling towards and then away from the earth. The Yule Log explains why the family fireplace is an important part of the typical Christmas scene. The popularity of log-shaped cheese, cakes, and desserts during the holidays is also rooted in this tradition.
 
Germany
 
Decorating evergreen trees has always been a part of the German winter solstice tradition. The first Christmas tree to be decorated as part of the festivities for the Christian holiday appeared in Strasbourg, Alsace in the early seventeenth century. Christmas trees began to color the holiday season in other parts of Germany after 1750. The tradition crossed over to the New World in the 1820s, when the first German immigrants decorated Christmas trees in Pennsylvania. Germany's Prince Albert brought the Christmas tree to England when he married Queen Victoria.
 
Mexico
 
In 1828, the American minister to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett, brought a red and green plant from Mexico to America. The plant was called poinsettia after the minister, and it began appearing in greenhouses as early as 1830. As its colors seemed perfect for the new holiday, New York stores began selling them in Christmas of 1870. It became a universal symbol of the holiday in 1900. But even before this, Mexicans have been using the brightly-colored flowers for years during nativity processions.

In Mexico, paper mache sculptures called ‘piñatas’ are filled with candies and coins and hung from the ceiling. Children then take turns hitting the piñata until it breaks, sending a shower of treats to the floor. The children race to gather as much of the loot as they can.
 
England
 
An Englishman named John Calcott Horsley helped popularize the tradition of sending Christmas greeting cards. In the late 1830s he began producing small cards with pictures of festive scenes, and pre-written holiday greetings. The post offices in England and the United States, which were becoming increasingly efficient at that time, made the cards nearly an overnight sensation. At the same time, similar cards were made by the first American card maker in Albany, New York, R.H. Pease and a German who immigrated to America in 1850, Louis Prang.
 
France
 
In France, Christmas is called Noel, from the French phrase ‘les bonnes nouvelles,’ which means ‘the good news,’ referring to the gospels.

In southern France, some families burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year's Day. This started from an ancient tradition in which farmers used part of the log to ensure good luck for the next year's harvest.
 
Australia
 
The holiday season in Australia comes in the middle of summer. It is not unusual for some parts of Australia to hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Christmas day. In Sydney, thousands of families usually prepare their Christmas lunch and take it to Bondi Beach, where they would do their barbecue with lots of meat and seafood. They would usually sunbathe and play games while waiting for the food to cook. Australians decorate Christmas bushes and plants with little red flowers that are native to the country.
 
Ukraine
 
In Ukraine the term Christmas is not used as it is of Roman Catholic origin. The Eastern Orthodox Church instead calls the commemoration of Christ’s birth as the Nativity, and celebrates it according to the Civil or Papal (Gregorian) Calendar. It begins after the sunset of January 6, which coincides with the morning of December 25 on the Julian, or ancient Apostolic Church calendar.

During the celebration, Ukranians gather a sheaf of wheat called ‘didukh’ tied with embroidered ribbons, and place it in a corner of the dining area or on the table, symbolizing the dwelling place of the spirits of the family’s ancestors and descendants.

Recalling the manger in which Christ child was born, Ukranians spread hay on the floor of their house. On a small table covered with a special cloth, a bread called ‘kolach’ is placed along with a lit candle as reminder that Jesus Christ is the "Bread of Life" and the "Light of the World.”
 
Canada
 
On Christmas Eve, many families go to church singing carols. In French Canada this is known as ‘La Messe de Minut.’ In some rural areas, people wrapped in thick blankets still ride on snow sleighs pulled by horses to and from the churches. Families usually put children to bed early to prepare them for the upcoming midnight activities, and awaken them just before going to the church.

After the midnight service, the celebration begins with the traditional arrival of Santa Claus and the distribution of gifts. This is followed by a large meal which usually consists of consists of roast turkey, ‘tourtiere’ (a French Canadian specialty), and many extras. The celebration lasts until the early hours of the morning, after which everyone goes to bed and prepares for the next day's traditional family dinner.

The day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day, a time people visit family and friends to extend best wishes for health and prosperity.

Most Canadian Christmas traditions are very similar to those practiced in the United States. In the far north of the country, the Eskimos celebrate a winter festival called ‘sinck tuck,’ with parties, dancing and exchanging of gifts.
 
Greece
 
The holiday season in Greece extends over a twelve-day period, starting with Christmas Eve and ending on January 6 with the Theophania – a celebration incorporating both religious and ancient traditions.

On Christmas Eve, children stroll the streets singing a traditional carol (kalanta) and announcing the impending birth of Christ. The carolers are warmly welcomed by neighbors and shop owners and are given coins or special holiday sweets such as melomakarona , diples or kourabiethes as reward for bringing the "good news.”

The Christmas festivities are believed to attract goblins from the middle earth, called the kallikanjari. The kallikanjari steals holiday goodies and does mischief to unsuspecting humans.

On Christmas Day itself, families and friends gather at the dinner table for a quiet celebration. Christ's bread or ‘Christopsomo’ is served along with stuffed turkey and other foods such as turkey salad, meat-pie, fried pork, spinach-pie and fried aubergines with cheese.

New Year's Eve is filled with merriment as everyone eagerly awaits the coming of Aghios Vassilis, the Greek equivalent of Santa Claus. At the stroke of midnight, the New Year starts, and a large New Year's cake or ‘vassilopita’ is cut as everyone searches for hidden coins baked in the cake. Getting one will ensure good luck in the coming year.

The twelve days of Christmas end with the Theophania on January 6. The priests bless the waters of Greece and everyone's home, and the kallikanjari is forced to return to its underground lair for another year.
 
Central America
 
A nativity scene is the primary decoration in most Southern European, Central American, and South American nations. St. Francis of Assisi created the first living nativity in 1224 to help explain the birth of Jesus to his followers.
 
Japan
 
Even though most Japanese are not Christians, Japan still celebrates Christmas, and many houses and shops are adorned with traditional Christmas decorations such as evergreens. Families would buy a special Christmas cake and eat this at home. Exchanging gifts is another Christmas tradition that is widely observed in Japan.
 
China
 
Despite communist rule, there are many Christians in China, but they celebrate Christmas in different twists depending on region, clan, and history.

Some Christians in China observe Christmas by putting lighted paper lanterns in their houses. They also have Christmas trees, called ‘Trees of Light,’ which they decorate with paper chains, paper flowers, and paper lanterns. The children hang stockings for Santa Claus, whom they call ‘Dun Che Lao Ren,’ or ‘Christmas Old Man,’ to put gifts in.
 
India
 
For Christmas, Christians in the tropical areas of India decorate mango or banana trees. Their houses are sometimes decked with mango leaves. In some parts of India, small oil lamps made of clay are placed on the edges of the flat roofs and on the tops of the walls as Christmas decorations. Christian churches are decorated with poinsettias and lit with candles for the Christmas Eve service.
 
Philippines
 
In the Philippines, the Christmas season is a colorful extravaganza. Streets and houses are decorated with star-shaped Christmas lanterns called ‘parols,’ which symbolize the star of Bethlehem, and strings of multi-colored lights. In the rural areas a band plays traditional Christmas carols all over town an hour or so before the ‘Misa de Gallo’ or the Midnight Mass. In some communities, the parish priest would go as far as banging on every door at midnight to wake up the whole town for the mass. After the church service, families would gather at their homes to eat traditional Christmas snacks like ginger tea and ‘puto bumbong,’ a violet glutinous rice steamed in tubes and served with sugar and grated coconut.
 
Back »
 
About World of Menus World of Menus - Chefs World of Menus -  Connoisseurs World of Menus - Food World of Menus - Beverage World of Menus - Beverages World of Menus - Food World of Menus - Homepage
Contact menu@nexc.com Learn more about World of Menu Advertising
 
Site MapTerms & ConditionsPrivacy Policy
Copyright © 1995 - 2004 NexC Inc. All Rights Reserved.