Christmas traditions around the World

Foreword:

In these times with restrictions and the temperatures turning frigid, it is important to settle down. Take yourself some time, a blanket a cup of tea and make yourself comfy. It is the Christmas season and you have earned yourself a break.

This article, kindly shared with us by the lovely people of the ESV News, from Varese, introduces you into the culture around Christmas from many countries. It is written in multiple languages, so you might even find an article in your mother tongue.

Make sure to visit the amazing people over at ESV News Home | ESV News (wixsite.com) .

Enjoy this trip through Christmas in its many different forms!

Have a Merry Christmas!

Last year we looked at magic winter destinations: from chasing Aurora borealis to visiting ice sculptures.

Photo from Pixabay

This year due to the covid-19 pandemic, many of us will not be travelling anywhere (at least not physically). Still, we can enjoy lots of things at home and traditions are things that can make our holiday seasons so special.

And as we are lucky to be in a truly international school, with students from around 47 different countries, we asked students to share the special traditions in their home countries.

Here is what we’ve got! Enjoy the flavours of Christmas spirit in 20 different countries in this multilingual article!

Thanks to all of you who shared and made this “travel, taste and experience” through reading possible!

AUSTRIA & GERMANY (by Emilia)

Austria and Germany share many

Christmas traditions and have very similar celebrations.

In these two countries Christmas is awaited through the Advent Season. Meanwhile it is a popular tradition worldwide, but it arose in Germany, before spreading to other countries.

There are many practices linked with this season. First of all, the Advent Calendar, which is a particular calendar used to count the days until Christmas. Traditionally it is a rectangular card with windows for each day, starting from the first day of December until the 24th. Poems, images and sometimes toys and chocolate are found inside. Nowadays these calendars are created in many different designs and forms.

Photo from personal album

Further on also the Advent Wreath is a typical feature of this season Austria and Germany. They are usually made of evergreen leaves or out of straw. Four candles, which represent the four Advents, are placed on it. In addition, the wreath may be embellished with other decorations. It is placed on the centre of the table and each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas one candle is lit.

Another famous Christmas tradition is the Christmas tree. This too originates from Germany, in the 16th century. It is decorated with all kinds of ornaments. In Germany and Austria it is often illuminated with real candles. The Christmas tree is traditionally only set up on the 24th of December.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the family gathers together and songs are played and sung. The most famous carol is “StilleNacht, HeiligeNacht” (“Silent Night”), which originates from Austria.

Photo from personal album

Baking Christmas biscuits over the whole Advent period is also a common tradition in both Austria and Germany. Some of the most popular ones are vanilla crescents and gingerbread.

Presents are opened on the 24th of December. For families with children this happens in a particular way. Especially in Austria children don’t believe in Santa Claus but in the Christkind (Christ Child), while in Germany it varies. Its arrival is announced by ringing a bell. When children hear that sound, they are allowed to enter the room and open their presents, which are lying under the Christmas tree.

The main meal is mostly eaten on Christmas Eve. In Germany this commonly consists of roast duck or goose, accompanied by roast potatoes and various forms of cabbage. Also potato salad with sausages is a common meal. In Austria a traditional dish is fried carp along with potatoes and vegetables. A popular dessert for both Germany and Austria is the Christmas stollen.

Moreover, many people visit the Christmas markets, which are held during the Advent period. The world’s first real Christmas market was found in Dresden, Germany.

FINLAND (by Paulina)

What our Finnish students say about Christmas in Finland?

Paulina: “Si mangiainsieme, sigioca a giochi da tavolo e ci sigodel’atmosfera.

Il Natale finlandese è quell’ atmosfera nell´aria. Le più belle canzoni di Natale.

Gli profumi… Ed il tempo passato con la famiglia.

L´attesa del Natale

Photo from Pinterst by Solosepensi
Photo from Pinterst by Solosepensi

Il Natale finlandese è un misto di tradizione religiosa e tradizione secolare (con Babbo Natale).

La neve è una parte importante del Natale e, se non nevica si é molto delusi.

Il Natale è atteso con impazienza e i preparativi iniziano già a fine novembre:

le strade si addobbano di luci, le case vengono pulite, gli addobbi vengono tirati fuori, si fanno i dolci, si ascolta la musica natalizia, si spediscono cartoline di Natale e si prende un vero albero dalla foresta.

Photo from a personal album

Un’usanza particolare che abbiamo è mettere dei chiodi di Garofano in un’arancia. Ha un profumo meraviglioso!

Il primo giorno di dicembre, i bambini guardano il calendario natalizio in TV.

Anche le scuole e gli asili festeggiano il Natale prima dell’inizio delle vacanze. Cantano insieme, hanno una recita natalizia, una rappresentazione natalizia degli eventi della nascita di Gesù e spettacoli musicali per bambini.

La celebrazione del Natale

Photo from personal album

In Finlandia, il Natale si celebra alla vigilia. Poi il momento in cui Babbo Natale porta i regali é dopo che si mangia il pasto di Natale.

La vigilia di Natale decoriamo l’albero, cuciniamo, andiamo in chiesa per Natale e andiamo a trovare una persona cara al cimitero.

Il momento preferito dei finlandesi è la sauna di Natale.

Photo from personal album

Se trascorri il Natale in una casetta, nel cortile ci potrebbe una casetta per gliuccelli. Agli uccelli vengono messe del mangime di Natale (d’avena) e delle palline di sego.

La mattina della vigilia di Natale, tutti i bambini si riuniscono intorno alla TV per guardare la hotline di Babbo Natale, il calendario natalizio e altri programmi per bambini.

Poi durante il giorno visitiamo la chiesa e la città.

La sera andiamo appunto al cimitero, dopodiché prepariamo e mangiamo la cena di Natale. Prima che arrivi Babbo Natale, vieneletto un verso dalla Bibbia e quando è il momento di distribuire i regali, viene cantata una canzone per Babbo Natale e vengono giocati dei giochi di gruppo con lui.

Cibo natalizio

Photo from personal album

Una parte importante del Natale è il cibo, le bevande e i dolci.

In Finlandia si mangiano dei “puré” cotti al forno chiamati “scatole”. Come, ad esempio, una scatola di liuto, una scatola di carote e una scatola di patate. Anche il “rosolli” (salsa di barbabietola) si trova spesso sulla tavola di Natale. Il cibo principale di Natale è il prosciutto, che viene lasciato in forno durante la notte e glassato con senape.

Il mio piatto natalizio preferito è sicuramente il salmone. Ci sono così tanti “tipi” diversi di questo pesce! Salmone affumicato speziato, salmone affumicato caldo, salmone affumicato a freddo, benrangel, uova di pesce, ecc. Il salmone non è l’unico pesce nel pasto di Natale. Ci sono molti tipi pesci diversi!

Un altro alimento importante è il porridge di Natale. Si mangia il giorno di Natale e ci simette dentro una mandorla. Chi riceve la mandorla avrá fortuna! Il porridge di Natale è porridge di riso che viene mangiato con cannella e zucchero. Si puó mangiare sia come colazione che come pasto salato!

Photo from personal album

I dolcetti vengono giá prima di Natale. Due classici finlandesi sono i biscotti di pan di zenzero e delle “tortinenatalizie” che sono praticamente della pasta sfoglia con sopra della marmellata di prugna. Di solito si mangiano con il Glög, che é una bevanda alcolica calda in cui vengono spesso messi uvetta, mandorle, bastoncini di cannella, chiodi di garofano e tanta altra roba, ma è solo per adulti.

FRANCE (by Berenice)

In France, Christmas is celebrated the night of the 24th of December. At midnight, parents wake their children, and everyone opens the presents under the Christmas tree. However, the Christmas mood and feeling starts weeks before this. On the first of December, French people usually start their advent calendar and around the same time, they send their letter to Santa. Both children and adults play the game, writing a letter to Santa and sending it to other family members.

On the 24th of December, at night, the “Réveillon” starts. This is the name that is given to the meal and the time before midnight. Everybody eats together and the has three steps. Everything starts with a champagne flute (French people are very fond of it), usually in the living room. Depending on the family’s preferences you can enjoy sea food such as oysters or smoked salmon as an appetizer. Everyone is well dressed and there might be some Christmas music in the background. You then move on to the dining room and there starts the serious stuff!

On a typical French Christmas Eve table, you’re going to find snails, foie gras, candied chestnuts and capon (chicken). The meal can last for hours when you’re in good company! Nobody rushes eating, instead we enjoy every bite. Finally, if you are not full yet, we move on to dessert and you can be sure to get some bûche de noel (Christmas log). Once everything is done, people usually clean up all together and if it’s not midnight yet, French people might start a movie that all the family will watch together or might engage in discussions. But at the end of the night, you usually find yourself in the living room and then, it’s finally time to open the presents!

CAMEROON (by Murielle)

Christmas is a very joyful event everywhere. In Cameroon it is an occasion to spend time with family, friends, and neighbours.

Dinner starts at 20 o’clock and the typical dishes are served. On the table we’ll find braised fish, plantain, Ndolè (an aromatic Cameroonian spinach stew made of spinach and bitter leaves – flavored with garlic, crayfish and fortified with shrimp and beef), roasted lamb, Taro (a crop like smashed potatoes), and manioc (also a crop like potatoes).

Taro with sause and meat. Photo from personal album

After the dinner meal, people listen to music, dance, and meet up with neighbors as they all wait midnight to go to church. After the Midnight Mass, everyone goes back home and find the gifts under the Christmas tree. After opening the gifts, people make wishes and go to sleep.

The Christmas day on the 25th December is marked by another family gathering and a barbeque with lots of other dishes remaining from a previous rich dinner a night before.

And of course, you can imagine, there is no snow but the family spirit and joy makes it a special occasion.

RUSSIA (by Alisa)

When we talk about Christmas, in Russia we consider a period of time of celebrations which last from December 31, one of the most important traditional holidays, to January 19, the Orthodox epiphany.

During the Soviet period religious celebrations were forbidden and, in general, religion, was practically non-existent. This means that many families today are atheist and often there are not many celebrations at home for religious holidays.

In the Gulian Calendar, Christmas falls on January 7th but, one of the most important holidays for Russians is December 31st,which does not exactly correspond to the New Year’s Eve that everyone knows.

This is the day for decorating the tree and getting together with family before the festivities with friends. On the night between December and January, Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz – Дед Мороз) and his granddaughter Nevina (Sneguročka – Снегурочка) arrive together to bring gifts for the children, just like “Babbo Natale” or “Santa”. The two characters are always depicted dressed in blue and white fur.

The food “factor”, of course, also differs. In every home there are always secret recipes which are not to be shared with anyone, among all we can mention mandarins, caviar, champagne; winter salad, known in Italy as Russian salad; seledka pod shuboi (Селедкаподшубой), the typical winter fish, with seasonal vegetables, eggs and garlic. Everything is accompanied by abundant cups of tea and the ever-present Vodka.

At midnight of the New Year the president gives a speech and wishes all Russians a great year and everyone then celebrates the new beginning. From personal experience the best place to be celebrating New Year in Russia is definitely the Red Square that is decorated and full of people ready to party. The night often ends watching classic movies that are broadcasted on the TV the whole night and every year, the movies are the same, but never get old becoming a national tradition.

One thing for what the whole world knows Russia is probably the ballet.The Nutcracker” is a ballet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and was performed for the first time in December 1892 in St. Petersburg by the Imperial Russian Ballet. It is a transformation of a German story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, then rewritten by Alexandre Dumas father) about a girl who becomes a friend to a nutcracker that comes to life on Christmas Eve and starts a battle against the evil Mouse King. By now it became a winter performance with many adaptations which can be seen in different theatres of the World, and somewhat a competition between theatre directors who will make Christmas decorations more gorgeous (you may watch online this year, though it is not the same as a live performance).

I hope I’ve gotten you all in the mood for a little celebration. And this year at midnight wish you a Happy New Year like this: S Novym Godom!

HUNGARY

Article in Hungarian and English by Csanàd and Blanka

BETLEHEMEZÉS

Két magyar karácsonyi hagyományt szeretnénk bemutatni nektek, mert érdekesnek találtuk őket, miután mi is jobban megismerkedtünk velük.

Az első a betlehemezés, amelynek az első említése a 16. századból való. A betlehemezés egy magyar népszokás, amely a karácsonyhoz kapcsolódik. Ez a sokszereplős drámai játék a legnépszerűbb karácsonyi játék a Kárpát-medencében, ott mindenhol ismert.

Szereplők: a pásztorok, az angyalok (akik a jászolt viszik és énekelnek).

A betlehem középpontjában a betlehemi pásztorok interaktív, énekes fellépése áll. A drámai játék fő eleme a pásztorjáték, amely három pásztor, köztük a nagyothalló öregember közötti vicces párbeszéden alapszik. A betlehem fő támasza az egyház alakú betlehem, amelyben a Szent Család látható. A pásztorjáték szereplői a kis templomot hordozó két angyal, három pásztor, amelyet egyes régiókban több szereplő is kiegészít. A szereplők ma is eljátsszák a bibliai Jézus születésének történetét, majd továbbadják adományaikat és jókívánságaikat. Ezután a házigazdák szórakoztatják őket.

Manapságaziskolákeztszindarabkéntjátszák el karácsonyelőtt.

Nativity

Photo from Pixabay

We would like to introduce you to two Hungarian Christmas traditions because we found them interesting after we got to know them better.

The first is the nativity scene, the first mention of which dates from the 16th century. The Nativity is a Hungarian folk custom associated with Christmas. The multiplayer and dramatic play is the most popular Christmas game in the Carpathian Basin. It is known throughout the Carpathian Basin.

The characters are the shepherds, angels (who carry the manger and sing).

At the heart of the nativity scene is the interactive, singing act of the shepherds of Bethlehem. The main element of the dramatic play is the shepherd’s game, which is based on a funny dialogue between three shepherds, including the hard hearing old man. The main prop of the nativity scene is the church-shaped nativity manger, in which the Holy Family can be seen. The characters still play the biblical story of the birth of Jesus today and then pass on their gifts and good wishes. They are then entertained by the hosts.

Nowadays schools would do this as plays before Christmas.

Luca széke

Luca székét december 13-án, Luca napon kezdték el építeni. 13 nap alatt készült el, 13 darabból állt és 13 különböző fa fajtából. December 25-én az éjféli misére a mesterek a kabátjuk alá rejtve vitték be a templomba. Aki ráállt megláthatta a boszorkányokat. Használat után berakták a széket a tűzbe és ez a boszorkányok végét jelentette.

Another tradition of Lucy’schair

Lucy’s chair was built on the 13th December. It took 13 days to build, it was made out of 13 pieces of 13 different wood types. On the 25th of December the masters would bring the chair to the midnight mass hidden under their coats. Whoever stood on the chair would be able to see the witches. After it had been used people would put the chair in the fire and that fire would mean the end of the witches.

THE NETHERLANDS AND BELGIUM

Two articles in Dutch and English

The first article by Mert, Aram, Thimber, Luca, Giuseppe,

Kerst in Nederland en België

Kerst in Nederland en België gaat vooral om de gezelligheid en de kledij. Hoewel er soms cadeautjes worden gegeven, doen de meesten dat bij het Sinterklaasfeest op 5 december. Nederland en België doen duidelijk mee aan kerst versierende spulletjes, bijvoorbeeld mooie dingetjes voor de kerstboom en leuke lichtjes. Ook maken de mensen in Nederland en België van alles te eten voor kerstmis. Zoals ganzenlever, kalkoen, tomatensoep en nog veel meer.

Christmas in the Netherlands and Belgium

Christmas in the Netherlands and Belgium is mainly about cosiness. Although some presents maybe given on Christmas, the most presents are given at the typical Dutch holiday ‘Sinterklaas’ (or Sint-Nicolaas) on the 5th December.

Still in both countries, the Netherlands and Belgium, the festive atmosphere is there with lots of Christmas decorations, Chrisstmas tree and lights.

The Netherlands and Belgium also make all kinds of food for Christmas. Such as foie gras, turkey, tomato soup and much more.

The second article Lara, Lola, Nieza, Estelle

Kerst in Nederland

In Nederland hebben ze geen cadeautjes met kerst. Ze doen het 20 dagen eerder met sinterklaas op 5 december. Ze hebben wel kerst diner of zetten ze de kerst boom op. Meestal vieren ze het met de familie. Ze kleden zich mooi aan en gaan uit eten met de familie. Ze maken allemaal eten voor de avond en ze decoreren hun huizen mooi. Ook hebben ze de kerstvakantie om het te vieren.

Christmas in Holland

In Holland they don’t normally give presents at Christmas. They do it a month before Christmas with Sinterklaas on the 5th December. But they put the tree up and have a Christmas dinner. Sometimes they celebrate it with their family. They dress nicely and they go out for dinner or something else. They all make food and they put decoration at their home. They also have the Christmas vacation to celebrate it.

DENMARK (by Af Sigrid)

Article in Danish and English

Juletraditioner i Danmark

Photo from Pixabay

I Danmark har vi mange traditioner men jeg vil kun nævne tre nu. For det første, vi fejrer jul og åbner gaver den 24. dec., ikke den 25. Vi åbner gaverne om aftenen, efter et stort festmåltid.  

For det andet, vi går rundt om juletræet mens vi synger julesange. Vi holder hånd i hånd og synger de forskellige julesange og -salmer mens vi går rundt om træet. Jeg kan ikke sige det lyder godt, men det er meget sjovt. Når vi kommer til en bestemt sang, “Nu’ Det Jul Igen” begynder vi at løbe, ikke rundt om træet men rundt i huset. Ja, det er meget sjovt så længe det er en voksen og ikke et lille barn der har for meget energi.  

Efter vi har gået igennem hver eneste sang vi kan tænke på, åbner vi gaver baseret på alder- yngste til den ældste. Vi sidder rundt omkring træet og en af os vælger en gave uden at vide hvem den er til- eller det er det der er meningen- og tjekker kortet og giver den til modtageren. 

Og for den tredje har vi vores måltid. Som sagt spiser vi et stort- kæmpe- måltid. Flæskesteg, risengrød, ris a l’amanden, and og de her er kun noget af måltidet. Vi har endda en leg med risalamanden. Kokken- mormor- lægger en mandel ned i risalamanden og den der får mandlen vinder. Det man vinder, kommer an på om de andre har forberedt en gave. Og det er tre (måske fire) juletraditioner i Danmark. 

Christmas traditions in Denmark 

Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas from Pexels

In Denmark we have many traditions but I will only mention three now. Firstly, we celebrate Christmas and open presents on Dec. 24, not on the 25th. We open the presents in the evening, after a big feast. 

 Secondly, we walk around the Christmas tree while singing Christmas carols. We hold hands and sing the various Christmas songs and hymns as we walk around the tree. I cannot say it sounds good, but it’s a lot of fun. When we get to a particular song, “Now It’s Christmas Again” we start running, not around the tree but around the house. Yes, it is a lot of fun as long as it is an adult and not a small child who has too much energy in front. 

 After going through every single song we can think of, we open gifts based on age – youngest to the oldest. We sit around the tree and one of us chooses a gift without knowing who it is for – or that is what is meant – and checks the card and gives it to the recipient.  

And thirdly, we have our meal. As I said, we eat a big -  huge meal. Roast pork, rice porridge, rice a l’amanden, duck and these are just some of the courses. We even have a game with the rice a l’amanden. The chef – grandmother – puts an almond into the pudding and the one who gets the almond wins. What you win depends on whether the others have prepared a gift. And these are three (maybe four) Christmas traditions in Denmark.  

THE UNITED KINGDOM (by Emma)

Photo by Oleg Zaicev from Pexels

In the UK, Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December. This is the day when presents are opened, and often kids will wake their parents up to be able to open them as early as possible.

There are many different traditions that are practiced in the country, depending on regions where you live.

One thing a lot of people look forward to each year is the royal message. It is at 3pm UK time on the 25th of each December since King George the V put it into place in 1932.

Stockings are something many kids love. They are long socks, that are hung at the end of children’s bed (or sometimes on the chimney but that is more of an American tradition) so that Father Christmas can fill them with small present and sweets. Something a lot of families do on Christmas day is go to a ‘Christmas pantomime’ which is a musical comedy based on mixed up fairy tales and fables.

Photo from Unsplash. Christmas Crackers

On Christmas day the most important meal is the Christmas dinner which is often eaten at lunch time. A fun thing we do is to hold, with our arms crossed, two crackers that we share with each of our neighbours. Then everyone starts pulling, this makes the crackers break with a bang, as a joke, a small toy and a crown fall out of it. The person with the biggest piece of the cracker is declared the ‘winner’ and gets to wear the crown as well as keep the present. The lunch itself is often made up of roast turkey, potatoes, parsnip, and pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon). Some also enjoy Yorkshire puddings and different pies. For dessert, many families eat Christmas pudding (which I personally don’t enjoy), which is a fruity pudding, or mince pies.

Photo from a personal album

Photo from a personal album

As my family is half English and half French, we mix both countries’ traditions. This means that we enjoy playing with crackers, but also sometimes celebrate Christmas on the 24th. We prefer beef to eating goose, turkey or chicken, and often enjoy Beef Wellington (a dish with beef coated in pâté and wrapped in puff pastry). If I am with my French family members we always go for a long walk, and if I am with my English family members, we go to a Protestant church service before opening the presents.

Another important day close to Christmas is the 26th December, or Boxing day. It was originally a day where employers gave their workers presents but has since become a national holiday, where most people go shopping.

LITHUANIA (by Micol and Gaia)

In Lithuania, Christmas eve, the 24th December, is traditionally more important than the Christmas day itself on the 25th December.

Photo by D.Jakstaite, from Lithuania Travel.

Christmas eve meal (Kūčios) gathers all family members around the huge family meal of 12 dishes, which symbolizes 12 months of prosperity. As it is also the last day of Advent, all 12 dishes have no meat, eggs or even milk products. Traditional and popular dishes include fish (often herring), beet soup (often with mushroom-filled dumplings), vegetable salad, mushrooms, boiled or baked potatoes, sauerkraut, and bread. For dessert everyone enjoys kūčiukai (small sweet pastries) normally soaked in poppy milk, dried fruit soup, dried fruit compote and kisielius (a sweat drink made from cranberries).

Traditionally, the house is well-decorated. Hay straw decorations are extremely popular (as you can see in a video). The table is also laid with straws that remind us of baby Jesus laying in the manger, and then covered with a white tablecloth. This hay straw is used to entertain the family during the dinner too: one must pull the straw from behind the tablecloth and it is kind of a superstition to predict your life or the upcoming year. If a straw is long or has grains or leaves on it, it will be a long life or a rich year; if you pulled out a short straw, it is a prediction of a short life or a poor upcoming year.

While awaiting the midnight mass, the evening is spent playing games and predicting the future. Spells and games from the pre-Christian past are mixed up with Christian traditions. For example, at midnight all the girls run outside and listen where the dogs are barking. It means that the future groom would arrive from that part. Or the wax from burning candlelight is dropped into cold water and the image that forms is a hint for the year to come, so one must look and guess what kind of a shape the wax takes.

On the 25th morning all kids run to open the gifts, which are found under the Christmas tree. Also, on Christmas day finally the meat can be eaten, and the Christmas lunch is a rich meal after a long advent time.

ITALY (by Elena)

In Italy there are different traditions depending on the region. In southern Italy is Christmas less characteristic, mainly because of the warm temperatures. When I think about Christmas, I imagine street markets, Glühwein, cold, snow and of course decorations. The more north you are, the more you see those things. In Trentino alto Adige for example there is a peaceful and wonderful Christmas atmosphere.

Photo from Unsplash

I personally love Christmas and therefore I always decorate my house a lot. Everyone always makes fun of my decorations because they say that it looks like Santa’s workshop. I like to decorate a huge Christmas tree and put wreaths everywhere. I am also used to build small villages and nativity scenes. Everywhere you go you’re going to see reindeers, snowmen and Santa. Christmas time is the best time of the year and is a source of joy for everyone!

Talking more about Italy, we celebrate not only Christmas but also the night of Christmas Eve. In my family we open the gifts the 24th night, but most of the people open them the next morning.

As you may know, Italians love food and dedicate most of their time cooking. Traditional dish is “tacchino ripieno”, in English is a stuffed turkey. Most of the families have different traditions and therefore is difficult to classify all of them. In my family, we do a fish-based menu on the 24th and the 25th we mainly eat meat. Something that for sure all the Italians, at least these in the Northern Italy, eat is “Pandoro con la cremina” or “Panettone”. In Italy is a sign of Christmas the advertisement on the tv “Bauli” (as in the video). In the Southern part of Italy, “torrone” and various sweets from nuts and honey make the core tradition.

Independently of where we, Italians, live, we are united by one thing: food!

ISRAEL (Milla)

Photo by Rodnae Productions from Pexels

In Israel, the Jewish holiday Hannukah is celebrated. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games, and gifts. This year the celebrations start on December 10th and ends December 18th, when the final candle of the Chanukkiah is lit.

The festival of Hanukkah was instituted to celebrate the successful Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy by 164 BCE. Specifically, it commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Hannukah has many traditional foods, such as Latkes and Sufganiyot. Latkes is a potato-based dish which is usually served with applesauce. Sufganiyot are another famous tradition, they are custard or chocolate filled donuts which are then topped with powdered sugar. They are depicted in the picture.

Photo by Rodnae Productions from Pexels

As mentioned above, a vital part of Hannukah is the Chanukkiah, or the menorah. It is the traditional candle holder of Hannukah and can come in various shapes, colours and sizes.

Every day, one additional candle is lit, symbolizing 8 days. The center candle, called the shamash, is a so-called ‘servant’ to the other candles as its only purpose is to light them. On the 8th day of Channukah, when all candles are lit, it is a tradition to enjoy the special foods and play with the dreidel, a small toy specifically used during this holiday, as seen in the picture above.

Lastly, many families enjoy giving and receiving gifts on the eight day of Channukah, to show their appreciation and love for their family.

Happy Channukah!

SWEDEN

Multilinigual article in Swedish and English by Liv, Rio, Julia, Giulia, Ester, Aral

What our Swedish students think about Christmas?

Svensk Jul

Några röster om den svenska julen från eleverna i S1L1-SVB:

“Jag gillar maten och julklapparna. Jag tycker om maten därför att det finns mycket kött. I Sverige kommer Tomten hem och ger presenterna till alla på den 24 december.” (Rio)

“I Sverige finns det något som heter “Julbord”. Det finns massor av mat som t.ex. köttbullar, prinskorvar, gravad lax,sill, Janssons frestelse och julskinka. Julskinkan är en sorts skinka som man griljerar med senap och ströbröd”. (Julia och Giulia)

“I Sverige är det tradition att titta på “Kalle Ankas Jul” kl. 15.00 på julafton, 24 dec.” (Ester)

“Det jag gillar mest med julen är att vi brukar resa utomlands, men nu är det svårt eftersom Covid-19 finns.”(Aral)

Swedish Christmas

Some voices about the Swedish Christmas from the pupils in S1L1-SVB:

“I like the food and the presents. I like the food because there is a lot of meat. In Sweden Santa comes home and gives the presents to everyone on 24th December.”(Rio)

“In Sweden there is something called “Julbord”. There is so much food e.g. meatballs, prinskorvar (small sausages), salmon, julmust (a typical Swedish soft drink), marinated herrings and julskinka (ham) which is breaded with mustard and grated bread in the oven”.(Julia and Giulia)

“In Sweden it is a tradition to watch the “Donald Duck’s Christmas” from Walt Disney at 15.00 on Christmas eve, 24th December.”(Ester)

“What I like the most with Christmas is that we usually travel abroad, but now it is difficult because there is Covid-19.”(Aral)

And Liv tells us:

Photo by Deena from Pexels

Sweden is a country with many Christmas traditions, and the Christmas celebration is very important for most of us. It is a period filled with a little more joy than usual. You take the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with people you love, for example, your family – by eating, spending time together, and cooking.

In the past, it was common for the preparation to take weeks, and often you made all the food by yourself. Lutfisk (which is a type of Swedish fish), sausages, and pastries were manufactured and produced locally on the farms of families.

But over time the Christmas traditions have changed, and who knows what it will look like in 100 years from today? Therefore, no matter how we have celebrated, how we will celebrate or how we celebrate nowadays, it is one thing for sure – it is a time almost everyone looks forward to, not only children but also adults.

Media from Unsplash

Photo from Unsplashed

One of the most traditional beverages is the Swedish drink, so-called “Glögg”. In English it is known as mulled wine, which is a drink that is made from red wine and several different spices, such as cinnamon and ginger. The drink can be both non-alcoholic and alcoholic. Raisins and almonds are usually served with the drink. Gingerbread or other sweets are also very common to serve with mulled wine.

Media from Wix

It usually snows during Christmas, which makes the whole holiday even more magical. All the trees become white and you go outside with all the other kids in your neighborhood to build a snowman or to start a snowball fight. In the end of the night, most of the people go outside for a walk or to meet their friends before it turns midnight. Even though it is extremely cold during winter the landscape is beautiful and it brings joy to everyone to be outside.

IRELAND (by Emily)

Christmas time in Ireland is guaranteed to be something magical for anyone who experiences it. It has certainly always been this way for me. Being born abroad, and never having lived in the country where I claim to be from, our yearly trips home are always of great importance to me. After a late-night flight; often with many delays due to a frozen runway or heavy winds; a compulsory packet of cheese and onion Tayto crisps on the airplane; and then a ride in the back of my grandad’s car, surrounded by luggage and looking out the window, the streetlights become blurry and the talking from the front seat eventually fades away as my brother and I fall asleep leaning on each other.

Photo from a personal album

Photo from a personal album

I know what to expect when I wake up the following morning, yet every year I’m excited to pull back the curtains of my bedroom window. The wind howls outside, and the rain falls from the low, dark clouds, onto the seemingly endless fields of deep, rich green. Even the cows and sheep, which usually speckle the country’s pastures, are huddled up inside barns. Following their example, the rest of the country does the same: people come together and spend precious time with their families, friends and communities to celebrate Christmas.

There are many Christmas occasions to look forward to, and we try to fit in as many as we can. Gift shopping on the main street of any town, big or small, is always a lovely way to spend a few hours. Joyous atmosphere radiates through the decorated shop windows, the twinkly lights hanging in the street and the smiles on the shop-workers’ faces when you wish them a Merry Christmas.

Another favourite tradition of mine is the Christmas Eve carol service at the local church. Even if you, like myself, can’t sing to save your life, don’t understand the majority of what the priest is saying in his thick Irish accent, or aren’t religious at all, there’s still something about squeezing into the pews, surrounded by folks of all ages and joining in with the choir of people to sing songs which you had completely forgotten about, yet somehow remember all the words to, which just screams Christmas to me.

Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

Christmas Day itself mainly revolves around food. At least in my family, it does. During the delightful task of seeing what Santa left you, people often enjoy a healthy breakfast of chocolate in many forms: chocolate coins, chocolate selection boxes, and Terry’s chocolate orange, to name a few. But this is only pre-breakfast. Following this, in Northern Ireland, we eat plum duff, a sort of rich, crumbly Christmas cake full of dried fruit, fried in butter and served with salty bacon. Delicious(ly bad for you)! After this lengthy morning of eating, the dinner (or lunch as the rest of the English-speaking world calls it) starts to get made, but it always runs late and ends up getting eaten at around 4pm. It’s known to be a huge meal, to the extent where the rest of the year, people will say “Oof, I feel as though I’ve just eaten Christmas dinner” when they’re full. Each family does it differently, but in mine it’s comprised of turkey, ham, roasted parsnips and carrots, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, brussels sprouts, crackling, stuffing, and potatoes in every form imaginable! It’s accompanied by wine, or Shloer for the kiddos. But it doesn’t stop there! Dessert can be mince pies, meringues and cream, apple pie, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding or just about any other sweet treat. At this point, everybody migrates to the sofa to moan about how much they’ve eaten. (But they usually end up sneaking into the kitchen at 9pm to make themselves a sandwich with the leftovers.)

And that’s it, an Irish Christmas! The days that follow are unsurprisingly filled with even more food, as well as aunts that you’ve never met dropping in and sneakingly handing you €10 which you try to which you try to refuse but end up keeping.

Even though we may be restricted in what we can do this year, there’s nothing stopping us from enjoying the holiday and the well-deserved break. Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Daoibh!

UKRAINE (by Alessandra)

Media from Wix

The period of the Christmas holidays in Ukraine is characterized by an abundance of traditional rituals, Christmas Carols, and historically rich Ukrainian folklore. It is celebrated 13 days after the 25th of December, on the 7th of January. Traditionally, Christmas festivities officially begin on Christmas Eve and end on the 19th of January. But don’t worry, since 2017, the 25th of December is also recognized as a public holiday!

You might ask “Why isn’t Christmas celebrated on the 25th of December?”, but before answering that, I should explain to you some background information for context; it all revolves around the Julian and Gregorian calendars.

The Julian Calendar:

Introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, this calendar was one of the most accurate calendars at the time, and it began being used by Christian countries from the fourth century AD. However, there is one slight problem with it: it is 11 minutes longer than the astronomical calendar, hence making it inaccurate. While this doesn’t seem to look like much of a big deal, these extra 11 minutes began accumulating to form one extra day every 128 years, and after 1,500 years, the calendar was behind the astronomical one by 10 days.

The Gregorian Calendar:

This brings us to the Gregorian Calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII on the 4th of October 1582, and has remained to be an internationally recognized calendar to this day.

In vain, Ukraine tried to adopt the new Gregorian Calendar in 1584. However, on the 16th of February 1918, it was eventually adopted (making the date of adoption automatically the 1st of March 1918 due to the transition).

While this calendar was adopted at a political level by Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Church, and several others never ratified it. This is the reason why 6,6% of the world’s Christians celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January. It also explains why the festivities end on the 19th of January, which corresponds to the Ukrainian Epiphany in the Julian Calendar.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve, or also referred to as “Holy Evening”, “Святая вечеря”, is one of the most important festivities, and it takes place on January the 6th where families celebrate with special holiday meals. On Christmas Eve, traditionally, families wait to serve dinner until the rising of the first star in the evening sky (Star of Bethlehem) to symbolize the birth of Jesus.

Photo from Pinterest

Usually, families (especially the hungry ones!) who have been fasting all day will rush outside as soon as it gets dark and will try to find the star. Once they do, Christmas has officially begun, and they can start celebrating! The meals generally contain no dairy, eggs, or meat (except for some fish). While many rituals are performed, such as decorating the house and dinner table with hay and unique decorations, the most important one is the serving of 12 dishes at the Holy Supper, which represent the 12 apostles. Among these delicious dishes are “Kutia”, Deep Fried Dumplings “вареники”, and Pampushky “пампушки” (Doughnuts filled with Jam).

However, the Holy Supper is not complete without “Didukh”, “дідух”. This is also referred to as “Grandfather”, and it is a Ukrainian Christmas decoration (similar to a traditional Christmas tree) that remains in the homes of families for a week. Consisting of a sheaf made of oats, rye, wheat, and flax, it is believed that Didukh will bring a good mood and comfort to the home. It is a symbol of prosperity, wealth, harvest, and could be considered as an amulet by families.

Carol of the Bells” is a ukrainian traditional Christmas carol, which many people know. You probably do not know that it has originated in Ukraine, but you have heard the tune (like in the “Home Alone 1” or “Santa Claus” movies). It was composed by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych, while an English text was created later by American (of Ukrainian descent) composer Peter J. Wilhousky, who wrote lyrics entirely unrelated to the original ones. The carol is based on a folk chant known in Ukrainian as “Shchedryk”. Here you can listen various versions of the Carol:

just tune,

traditional,

and a modern version performed by the US Pentatonics group.

Although celebrating Christmas and any form of religious celebrations was banned during the Soviet rule, many Ukrainians celebrated Christmas in secret, maintaining their beautiful culture. Nevertheless, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukrainians slowly started to get back in touch with their roots, encouraging them to regain a festive and optimistic perspective on Christmas.

URUGUAY (by Valentina)

Photo from Pixabay

Il Natale in Uruguay si festeggia in maniera diversa. Mentre in Italia quando ci svegliamo il 25 corriamo sotto l’albero a mettere il bambin Gesù, precipitosamente scartiamo i regali e festeggiamo la nascita di Cristo assieme alla nostra famiglia, gli uruguaiani si riuniscono in famiglia e festeggiano come se fosse capodanno. Per loro non è una festa cristiana, al posto del pandoro e del panettone cuociono El Hasadoe passano tutto il giorno a mangiare e brindare. Alla sera arriva il più bello, per concludere la giornata sparano i fuochi d’artificio.

GREECE (by Chrysseida)

Photo from a personal album

Photo from a personal album

Christmas in Greece is one of the most celebrated holidays of the year. It is a magical time and we have traditions that have been carried on from many years ago. Usually, the festive season begins from the 6th of December (St. Nicholas’ day) until January 6th, which is the Epiphany (Theophania). During this time, presents are exchanged and people get together to feel the Christmas spirit. We could also say that there are two sides to Christmas, one being more religious and the other more festive and glamorous.

Outside there will be many decorations and lights, in the streets, shops and houses. Inside, the houses are usually decorated, while we put up the Christmas tree early in December, which is also decorated with ornaments, lights, and tinsel. The patron saint of the holiday is Saint Nicolas, who is also the protector of sailors. And so, some people follow the tradition of “Karavaki”, decorating a boat instead of a tree, seeing as the Greeks are a maritime nation.t This is especially common on many Greek islands and has become a symbol of the holiday season, while there are also several public spaces where there is a Christmas boat right next to a tree.

Because of the nature of the Christian Greek Orthodox Religion, it is expected that the Christmas holidays will have a religious character. People of all ages are aware of the reason for celebrating Christmas, which is not just exchanging gifts, but celebrating the birth of Christ. In addition, we attend Church most commonly on the morning of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day but many choose to go on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve as well.

https://www.pinterest.it/pin/426364289698759847/

Families come together, especially on Christmas Day and Eve, and New Years, to eat and celebrate. We celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December and we make many delicacies. More traditional foods will include roast pork, lamb or goat, but roasted stuffed turkey is more common nowadays. We also make minced meat pie and stuffed cabbage leaves, while desserts include melomakarona (soft, oval-shaped cookies scented with orange and cinnamon, with honey syrup) and kourabiedes (almond biscuits). On New Year’s we cut the Vasilopita, which is a type of cake containing a hidden coin which gives good luck for the rest of the year to whoever’s slice it lands in.

In Greece, presents are given on New Year’s Eve and the equivalent of Santa Claus is Agios Vasillis, or Saint Basil who comes on New Year’s Eve to deliver gifts to children. Moreover, a widespread tradition is children carolling (calanda) around their neighbourhood from door to door with a triangle, getting sweets or some money in return. After the clock hits midnight on New Year it is customary for people to enter their household with their right foot for good luck, while many also smash a pomegranate against the door. As the pomegranate seeds scatter, the more that fall out near the door the luckier the household will be. Lastly, on New Year’s Day, all around Greece, waters are blessed, while a cross is thrown into the waters. Many brave young people dive into the water to retrieve the cross (which is freezing at this time of year), and it is said it brings good luck to the person that gets it first.

During the holidays we also have a variety of events and festivities. In big cities, there are different cultural events organized such as music concerts and theatrical performances. There are also “Christmas villages”, where people of all ages can go, but especially children can visit the little elf houses and take part in a number of activities. The Christmas holiday season in Greece is magical and beautiful, and I always feel like home when I visit for the holidays.

Editor’s Note:

I would like to thank everyone who has participated in this project. I hope you all enjoyed reading it, and if someone would like to share their own Christmas traditions you are more than welcome to do so (just send it to us through the Contact us button).

For this Winter holiday we have also prepared another article for you:”Winter Bucket list“. In this article with the help of other students we collected different ideas to what to do during the winter break.

We wish you a wonderful Christmas!

ESV News team

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