Merry Christmas! Wow, can you believe it’s already the last day of Blogmas? Since this is a travel blog, first and foremost, I thought for Christmas, I’d highlight some traditions around the world! If you want to read more about my traditions, check out the rest of Blogmas, specifically my Christmas favorites.
China: Sheng Dan Kuai Le
Because of the lack of Christians in China, Christmas is mainly just celebrated in the major cities, wow that was a lot of C words. Try saying this three times fast: Christians in China Celebrate Christmas in Cities. The decorations include a Christmas tree, light, and a Santa Claus called Shen Dan Lao Ren. However, their trees are typically plastic and decorated with paper ornaments like flowers and lanterns. Forget partridges and pear trees, on Christmas Eve, Chinese give apples wrapped in colorful paper. This is because the Mandarin word for apple, “píngguǒ” (苹果) sounds like peace, and Christmas eve, Ping’ an Ye” (平安夜), means peaceful night.
Italy: Buon Natale
Pizza isn’t the only thing Italy is known for, they’re also known nativity crib making. Telling the Christmas story with the nativity crib scenes is one of the most important ways that Italians celebrate Christmas, which explains why Naples is known for its crib-making abilities. Naples even houses the world’s largest crib scene; it’s decked out with over 600 objects! If you choose to join in this Italian tradition, put your crib out on December 8, but make sure to leave baby Jesus out until Christmas Eve. Another Christmas Eve tradition that differs from the States in gift-giving. Move over Santa, Befana here. On Epiphany night, an old lady, Befana, fills the children’s stockings, having already been hung by the chimney with care, with gifts. Well, Santa may still bring some small gifts, most presents are given on Epiphany.
Sweden: God Jul
Christmas isn’t the only important holiday in Sweden; there’s always a massive celebration for St. Lucia’s Day. St. Lucia was a young girl who was known for sneaking food to persecuted Roman Christians. To celebrate, small children will dress up as St. Lucia, and a national St. Lucia will even be chosen. As far as Christmas Eve goes, Swedes take after Whoville with a giant feast. Instead of the roast beast, there’s cold fish, jellied pigs feet, bread, and of course, pastries. After gorging yourself on a giant feast, it’s common to watch Donald Duck on Christmas Eve and tell the story of the Yule Goat, an invisible spirit that made sure everything went well. Some men would even take part in Julebukking, dressing up like goats, going around houses, and playing tricks.
Germany: Frohe Weihnachten
If you’re still looking for a Christmas Market that I mentioned in Winter Essential Kit posts, then Germany’s the place to go. Germany has a variety of Christmas markets, all which sell Christmas food, decorations, and glass ornaments. Instead of trusting the postman with their letter to das Christkind, children place their sugar-decorated letters on the windowsill during advent. Similar to Sweden’s St. Lucia, das Christkind is a young girl with curly blonde hair, a gold crown, and a white dress. Whether its Weihnachtsmann, Santa Claus, or Christkind, who brings the presents that’s debated.
Poland: Wesołych Świąt
Since Poland is a mostly Catholic country, Christmas Eve is taken very seriously. The smell of tangerines lingers everywhere. There’s fasting, cleaning, and festive clothes! Often, food can’t be eaten until the first star is in the sky. When the food is served, it consists of 12 dishes to represent the next 12 months or the 12 disciples, all of which are meat-free as a reminder of the animals in the nativity scene. Instead, carp is often served, and some will even keep the carp scales in their bras for good luck. After, the tree is brought in and decorated with straw ornaments on Christmas Eve, with a star on top to represent the Star of Bethlehem.
Estonia: Rõõmsaid Jõulupühi
In Estonia, stockings aren’t just filled on Christmas Eve. Starting with the advent, children hang their socks on the window ledge, and each morning, find that an elf has filled it with sweets. Christmas trees are a big deal in Estonia; in fact, Estonias and Latvians even argue who was the first country to display a public Christmas tree.
To narrow it down, I just stuck to some of the countries that I’ve been to, but if you’re interested in reading about how people celebrate Christmas in other countries, click here. Let me know what your favorite Christmas tradition is, whether it’s your own or one you read about!