It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yet every country celebrates it differently. Christmas is celebrated in more than 160 countries and each and every single one of them has its own traditions and customs. Since it would take forever to write about all of them, here are the eight most interesting ones.
Now this is a very interesting tradition. Since 1959, on Christmas Eve afternoon children sit down with their families and watch a Disney special “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas”. It airs at 3.00 pm on the Swedish national TV.However, nowadays 40 to 50% of Sweden’s population have stopped watching it. One possible reason could be that children in the 21st century have other interests.
In Germany (and Austria) during the Christmas and New Year time, there is a Ski Jumping tournament called “Four Hills Tournament” which lasts for a couple of days and is broadcast on TV in some countries.It’s perfect for Ski Jumping fans!
In Spain, after the midnight service people have a custom of going out in the streets with torches and play guitars and tambourines. It’s their way of celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus. “Tonight is the good night and it is not meant for sleeping” is a saying they use to describe this tradition.
On New Year’s Eve they also have a special tradition of eating 12 grapes with the 12 strokes of the clock at midnight. Each grape represents one month and if you eat all 12 grapes you are said to be lucky in the following year.
Amongst Italians a traditional Christmas Eve meal is The Feast of the Seven Fishes. There are several theories that explain the meaning of seven fishes. Two of the most common explanations being the seven days of world creation and the seven holy sacraments. Today this tradition is more popular with the Italian – Americans but its roots are in Southern Italy. Some families also have more than seven dishes.
Every year, on St. Lucia’s Day, people plant “Christmas wheat” which they later put under the Christmas tree. Wheat seeds are spread across the potting soil in a small flower pot and watered everyday so that they grow nicely by Christmas day. The „Christmas wheat“ is the symbol of new life, hope and fertility. St. Lucia is celebrated on December 13th, twelve days before Christmas. An old tradition is to watch the weather during these twelve days and based on that you will know what the weather will be like each month of the following year.
Around the beginning of November there are numerous lighting ceremonies where, most often a famous person, turns on the Christmas lights. The most famous one takes place on Oxford Street in London. Every year the lights get bigger and better and thousands of people come to watch.
There is another interesting custom in the UK since it rarely snows there. If a single snowflake is spotted falling in the 24 hours of Christmas day, people can call it a White Christmas.
The home of Santa Clause as they like to call it (Finland would probably disagree with this). The province of Nova Scotia is famous for their beautiful fir and pine Christmas trees and its tradition that every year they send the best and biggest fir tree to Boston. It’s a way of thanking Bostonians for their assistance and help during the disaster known as the Halifax Explosion.The Christmas tree is put in the city center and lit during a special ceremony.
Another Canadian tradition is Mummering. The origins of Mummering come from Newfoundland and it is more common in small towns and villages. This is a fun Christmas activity for adults who dress up in costumes and knock on doors saying “Are there any Mummers in the night?” in a disguised voice. When people answer their doors the Mummers then sing and dance. If people like their performance they often reward them with Christmas cake or a warm drink before they move on to the next house. This tradition usually starts on December 26th and lasts for what they call “The 12 Days of Christmas”.
And last but not least the Down Under. In Australia Christmas is the beginning of summer holidays. And just like the rest of the world they have Santa Claus but with a little twist. Instead of reindeers he has kangaroos to help him with his sleigh. After spending Christmas with family, on Boxing Day, people visit their friends and celebrate together with a barbecue on the be ach.
The customs may vary but what all countries have in common is family gatherings and good spirit. So Merry Christmas to everyone!
Written by Tea Toplak