Did you know…
- Origin of Santa Claus?
- To whom Santa is coming in Canada?
- How do Lithuanians get rich for the whole next year?
- What is the best vegetable in Romania?
- Why it is not easy for children to get presents in Poland?
Santa Claus (originally Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas) is a local hero who delivers gifts to children on Christmas night (the night between December 24 and December 25).
Saint Nicholas was a Christian saint who lived in Myra (today’s Demre district of Antalya) in the 4th century. After visiting Palestine and Egypt in his youth, he returned back home and was said to be the bishop of Myra. Santa Claus is famous for his good heart and generosity.
St. Nicholas’ reputation grew so much that thousands of churches were built around Europe and in many other countries. One of the churches built in the name of Santa Claus by the Roman Emperor Justinian I is in Istanbul.
People in United States of America like to decorate the outsides of their houses with lights and sometimes even statues of Santa Claus and Snowmen. Some cookies and glass of milk are often left out as a snack for Santa on Christmas Eve!
Famous Christmas movies
- A Charlie Brown Christmas
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- The Christmas Story
- Home Alone
- Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- Frosty the Snowman
- The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
- Elf oA Miracle on 34th Street
About Christmas Lights
Thomas Edison may be famous for the light bulb, but it was his partner and friend, Edward Hibberd Johnson, who had the bright idea of stringing bulbs around a Christmas tree in New York in 1882.
In Canada, people bake Christmas cookies and clean all entire house and put up the Christmas tree waiting for Santa to come. Santa comes only to those who cleaned their living space and have changed clothes to new ones. People confess to start a new year without sin. Children are told that Christmas is about sharing and about Jesus to receive him in our hearts and our life. People go to church at night to attend the mess and come back on Christmas Eve. Presents are opened on the first Christmas day.
Though most of Egyptians are Muslim, around 10 percent of population are Copts. Copts (Coptic: ⲛⲓⲣⲉⲙⲛ̀ⲭⲏⲙⲓ niremənkhēmi; Arabic: الْقِبْط al-qibṭ) are a Christian ethnoreligious group indigenous to North Africa who have primarily inhabited the area of modern Egypt and Sudan since antiquity. Most ethnic Copts are Coptic Oriental Orthodox Christians. They are the largest Christian denomination in Egypt and the Middle East, as well as in Sudan and Libya.
During Christmas time, touristic areas of Egypt (Hurgada, Sharm El Sheikh and others) are abundantly decorated with Christmas attributes. Together with the rather warm weather (about 25 degrees during the day), blooming flowers and green trees, it forms a rather contrasting, exotic picture.
Images: on the left: Christmas tree (decoration) and tamarind tree (real) in the square of the mall; on the right: Christmas decorations behind the resort, Hurgada suburb, Egypt, Dec 2022
Christmas cookies in Egypt are similar to those from Turkey and Greece, but baked and prepared in a different way.
People in Mexico visit church and enjoy a Christ service. Then going home and enjoy big feast.
Special sweet Mexican food
Mole is a kind of dessert sauce made from dried chilis, tomatoes and pumpkin seeds. It is often poured over baked chicken and served with sesame seeds on top.
Pollo en mole is a chicken dish with mole sauce on it.
Sweet tamales is a Mexican dessert made from a sweet masa corn dough and filled with a variety of fruit, nut and sugary fillings.
Common fillings include raisins, pineapples, fruit preserves, cajeta and dulce de leche.
Traditions as memories from one’s lady childhood
The smell of the first Orange and Tangerine….and the first Christmas chocolate in the shops, maybe at the beginning of November…
In one’s lady childhood, advent calendar was an important tool to look for the date, because it was filled with small pieces of chocolate. Usually, it was self-made by her mother.
An Advent wreath should of course not be missing. Usually it was self-made with lots of improvisations.
The only important thing was that it had four candles that can be lit every Sunday until Christmas.
The tree On Christmas Eve (or the day before) is decorated with candles (or fairy lights), colorful glass balls, Christmas figures and sometimes with sweets. The important thing is: the more, the better!
Germans started the gingerbread house tradition. And when the German Brothers Grimm wrote “Hansel and Gretel” a new holiday tradition was born.
Just for note, Decorated Christmas Trees date back to Germany in the Middle Ages.
The traditional Christmas dinner on December 24th is undisputedly sausage with potato salad.
Christmas playlist includes “Silent night, holy night” or “O Christmas tree” or “O you happy”.
In the part of Poland called Wielkopolska, there it is a tradition that on December 24, the Christmas Eve dinner begins when children spot the first star in the sky.
After Christmas Eve dinner comes “Gwiazdor” (Santa Claus).
For children, in order to get the gifts, they must first tell Santa a rhyme, sing a Christmas carol or a prayer. It is also a tradition that children have to jump over a stick and when they do they get a spank from Santa (Gwiazdor) for being naughty within a year. And you know that every child is sometimes naughty. After that, they only get gifts 🙂
Christmas Eve dinner starts after the western star is visible in the sky (the same as in Poland).
There are 12 meals placed on the Christmas Eve table because Jesus had 12 apostles. All dishes – fasting: fish, herring, Christmas cakes with poppy milk, kissels, dried fruit soup, vegetables salads, mushrooms, boiled potatoes, sauerkraut, bread.
The most important thing is to taste all the dishes on the table during dinner.
Kučiukai (sližikai) – special dumplings with poppy milk (symbol of returning sun and love, a tribute to ancestral souls)
Attracting wealth for coming year
The hay under the tablecloths symbolizes a good harvest for the coming year. Blooming flowers on the table are not suitable.
Another custom to attract wealth and money – If your present is a wallet, you need to put at least one coin in it to ensure that there is never a shortage of money in it.
A pan or a pot cannot be donated empty, be sure to fill it. You can do this with cookies, candy or other nice little things.
Traditionally, Christmas Eve is a day of fasting till the evening in Czech. Presents are opened on Christmas Eve, but only after the dinner, which consists of carp and potato salad and fish soup.
Czechs eat meatless dishes for lunch, such as houbový kuba – a traditional meal made from barley and mushrooms.
Fire way to predict the future is to make boats from empty walnut shells for everyone, into which a little candle is placed before they set sail in a bowl of water. If the shell makes it across the bowl, a long and healthy life lies ahead of its captain.
Czechs pour a molten wax into a bowl of water and try to predict future from the shape of molten wax. And the most popular Christmas song is Pujdem spolu do Betléma.
In Greece, not only trees but wooden ships and boats are decorated as well.
Different legends explain the tradition of the Christmas Greek boat. One of them is related to Saint Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos), the Patron Saint of Sailors.
Santa Claus is expected on 1st of January and is called Aghios Vasilis (the name Vasilis is the name Bill in English). Usually the weather is cold at Christmas time but the snow appears only in the North part of the country.
Well, about the dessert: people make two kinds of biscuits which are called melomakarona and kourabiethes. On the Christmas Eve children are doing around the houses and singing carols. People usually drink red wine.
Melomakarona is a kind of cinnamon biscuits with nuts, orange and honey.
According to a funny Romanian saying “meat is the best vegetable”.
The family then start preparing the traditional food for Christmas, including homemade sausages, as well as the traditional delicatessens called toba and caltabosi.
There are lots of snow and wind during Christmas in Romania.
Traditional Romanian Christmas Sweet Bread is called Cozonac
Cozonac is a sweet bread which contains milk, yeast, eggs, sugar, butter, oil and salt, which are mixed together and allowed to rise before baking.
Depending on the region, Romanian cozonac is filled with raisins, Turkish delight, nuts, poppy seed cream.
There are lots of Christmas traditions in Romania, but now they are mostly found in rural areas, e few survived in urban areas. Here are some of them:
- The Goat
A group of young men goes from house to house to sing a special song about a goat. One man will dress as a goat and do the dance while the others sing.
This dance is also done on New Year’s Eve in some parts of Romania.
- Three wise men/Viflaim
A group of young boys will go to every house and act the scene where king Herod has asked them about baby Jesus being born. Herod then asks the military to go kill all children under the age of 3. After the play is finished ( it’s around 5-10 minutes) they sing.
Junii is a group of young men who go to unmarried young ladies’ houses and sing special carols outside their house.
- The bear
This tradition is mainly maintained in Moldova where men dressed as bears go out on the streets to do the dance.
How To Make Authentic Sweet Tamales (3 Different Varieties)
© Dr. A. Palatronis
One thought on “Christmas traditions and customs around the world”
Very interesting article 👍