Christmas Around The World…And A Hope For Peace On Earth!
As my husband and I travel to various destinations throughout the world, one of the things we love to do is get fun Christmas ornaments from the different places we have visited, as well as learn about some of the unique holiday traditions and customs that are celebrated in each area.
On our latest venture this past fall, when we went to see our son and his wife in gorgeous Germany, the charming Christmas villages and shops we encountered along the way, made us quickly realize that the lovely people there embrace the festivities of the Christmas season with great conviction and that so many of the holiday traditions celebrated in America originated in Germany. Maybe a good way to try to better understand other cultures around the world, and perhaps help us find a little common ground, is to see how they celebrate Christmas!
Celebrating Christmas Around The World!
Germany is well-known for its many quaint Christmas villages. My son and his wife live about an hour’s drive away from Rotenburg, Germany, home of one of the most famous Christmas markets! It was so much fun to visit a few of these darling stores while we were there and collect some of the beautiful hand-blown glass ornaments that are so popular over there.
The introduction of the Advent calendar originated in Germany. Oftentimes, a wreath made of fir tree branches is decorated with 24 boxes hanging from it, each one containing a present to be opened in the days prior to Christmas. In Germany, letters are written to Christkind (the Christ child) asking for presents. The letters are then put in envelopes that are decorated with colored sugar glued to them, to help them sparkle and attract attention when they are placed on the window seals of their homes. The tradition of Christmas trees is very important in Germany! Originally, beautiful evergreen trees were brought into the house on Christmas eve and decorated by the parents as a surprise for the children. Presents are typically exchanged on Christmas Eve too. Another neat Christmas tradition in Germany is the gathering of Sternsingers (star singers) who go from house to house and collect donations for charity. Goose is often served for the main holiday meal along with Stollen, a popular yeast fruit bread.
My father’s family was of Norwegian descent, so I’ve grown up knowing many of the Christmas traditions observed in Norway. Children of Norway are taught that gifts are not only brought to them by Julenissen, (Santa Claus) but also small gnomes called, Nisse, are believed to guard all the farm animals. On Christmas Eve, if families don’t leave a special bowl of porridge outside the barn for Nisse, they better watch out, since these mischievous creatures just might play tricks on everyone! Small woven heart ornaments adorn many of the Christmas trees in Norway; they are usually filled with biscuits and treats to give to guests when they come to visit during the holiday season.
During the winter season in Norway, the days are short and sunlight lasts for only brief periods each day, so extravagant holiday lights are a big part of the Christmas celebrations there. Big parties where dinner is served and caroling takes place are planned for when the lights are first illuminated in cities and villages all over the Norwegian countryside.
Like many of the countries with South American heritage, Christmas in Mexico is celebrated with a beautifully lit backdrop of brightly colored décorations, where festive music and lively dancing take place, and tables are filled with delectable dishes of traditional Mexican food.
For most of the people from Spanish descent, Christmastime also involves several special religious commemorations. From December 16th until Christmas Eve, children and young adults participate in Posada processions, where they carry candles on small wood planks and celebrate the part of the Christmas story where Joseph and Mary looked for a place to stay. Life-sized nativities are popular in many South American countries too.
A wonderful lady who is a housekeeper at the hospital where I work, comes from Bosnia. She and her husband are only able to go back home to visit during the holiday season every few years or so. It’s always intriguing for me to hear about her country and the Christmas traditions observed over there. During the cold winter months in Bosnia, Neya describes the weather as “bone chilling” -so it makes sense that in their culture it is believed that old Father Frost is the one to bring Christmas gifts. Trees are decorated with wooden toys, chocolate, and woolen knit balls. Typical holiday fare usually consists of a stuffed turkey, cabbage, spinach pie, mayonnaise salad, and pita.
Since I’m used to celebrating Christmas where the weather is cold and snowy, I’ve always thought it would be fun to spend Christmas someplace like Australia, where people are not only celebrating the Christmas holidays, they are enjoying their summer vacations as well. One advantage of Christmas falling during the summer months in Australia is that native trees called, Christmas bushes, are in full bloom and are often used to make wreaths and other beautiful decorations that adorn homes in Australia. Instead of parkas and boots, people who live in Australia are usually having a fun time at the beach and going camping. Native folklore shares the tale that Santa gives his reindeer a rest in Australia by using kangaroos to pull his sled for a little while. It’s also believed that Santa Claus changes into his casual beach wear and flips flops in Australia too!
No matter where you celebrate Christmas…
…you can’t help but be aware of the universal feelings of kindness and love that are so prevalent at Christmastime! In thinking of the unease that seems ever present in the world today, we can only hope that the joyous celebration of Christmas can bring us together in a common cause of peace and harmony that will last throughout the year!
Do you celebrate any holiday traditions from other countries with your families?
Best Christmas wishes to everyone!