What are your Christmas traditions?

1 Fact coming for every day of advent… day 21.

Christmas around the world

Today, I am excited about Christmas. A long standing tradition in my family has been to make gingerbread men together and hang them up on the Christmas tree.  Over the years, this has become a tradition not only with my own family but with friends and their children joining in to.  The decoration of the gingerbread men has become less traditional over time and once or twice, probably too much fun has been had with creative rights. This year, a modern day nativity scene was created with the Angel Gabrielle, Pregnant Mary, Grumpy Joseph and not forgetting the 3 somewhat ‘dodgy’ looking wise men. I take genuine pleasure in this tradition and more especially how friends have come to be part of what is my ‘heritage’.

Having made the UK my home for about 16 years and working in many other countries during this period, I am fascinated by the way that different people from different cultures communicate and work together. In my work (marketing), relationships are so very important and I have learnt that to achieve significant goals, you must be able to listen AND communicate regardless of culture, language and tradition. Being aware not only of other cultures but of your own is critical.

This time of year is possibly the most interesting across the world. Traditions tell a story. When technology, modernism and science has become so important, going back to your ‘roots’ is so important.

Here are 21 different ways we celebrate Christmas around the world.

  1. Lithuanians use straw to decorate their Christmas trees.
  2. People in Poland hang ornaments depicting birds.
  3. In Denmark, Danish flags are used to decorate the tree.
  4. In the Ukraine, spider webs are hung on the tree for good luck.
  5. In Germany, a glass pickle is hung on the tree Christmas Eve, the first to find it Christmas morning receives a special gift.
  6. Christmas comes early in the Netherlands, as St Nicholas (called Sinterklaas) arrives by boat on the last Saturday in November with his helper Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), who is said to punish bad children. Sinterklaas doesn’t live at the North Pole like Santa though – he comes from Spain!
  7. The Christians in China light their homes with beautiful paper lanterns. Santa is called Dun Che Lao Ren. The children hang stockings just as we do.
  8. It Italy, the main exchange of gift doesn’t occur until January 6th, the day traditionally believed that the Wise Men reached the baby Jesus.
  9. In India, houses are decorated with strings of mango leaves.
  10. Russia has someone named Babouschka, who would bring gifts for the children. The tradition says that she failed to give food and shelter to the three wise men and so she now searches the countryside searching for the baby Jesus, visiting all children giving gifts as she goes. Santa – known as Grandfather Frost, wears a blue outfit instead of red.
  11. In Ireland, it’s a tradition to leave out mince pies and a bottle of Guinness for Santa.
  12. In Armenia, many people fast (don’t eat anything) the week before Christmas.
  13. In Costa Rica, people like to decorate their houses with beautiful tropical flowers and put a model of the nativity scene in the centre of the display.
  14. In Egypt, Christmas day is celebrated on the 7th January. For the 43 days leading up to Christmas (advent), Coptic Orthodox Christians have a special fast where they basically eat a vegan diet. This is called the ‘Holy nativity fast’.
  15. Guatemala is a very diverse country with more than 20 ethnic groups. Each of them has their own tradition in celebrating Christmas however, at midnight on Christmas Eve, everyone lights hundreds of fireworks or firecrackers to celebrate the birth of Jesus. A family prayer is then said around the tree and presents are opened.
  16. In South Africa, Christmas falls in the summer time so it is sunny and lots of beautiful flowers are in bloom. The Christmas meal is often eaten outside and if it’s really hot they might have a BBQ (braai).
  17. In America, many families use pop-corn threaded on a string to decorate their Christmas tree.
  18. For many Japanese, traditional Christmas dinner is Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is so popular and well marketed that reservations may have to be made to eat at a KFC on Christmas in Japan.
  19. A post office in the tiny Welsh village of Bethlehem is swamped every year with visitors that want to get their Christmas cards stamped with the unique postmark.
  20. In Hungary, children traditionally place a boot on their windowsill to be filled with treats and sweets.
  21. In Iceland, it is traditional to bake gingerbread cookies and pain them with different colour glazes. (Interesting how this tradition followed my family all the way to South Africa!).

With Christmas well and truly under way, I wish you from my own traditions a Geseënde Kersfees (Merry Christmas).