A Chistmas around the world

A big part of the Christmas celebrations in Germany is Advent. Several different types of Advent calendars are used in German homes. As well as the traditional one made of card that are used in many countries, there are ones made out of a wreath of Fir tree branches with 24 decorated boxes or bags hanging from it. Each box or bag has a little present in it. Another type is called a 'Advent Kranz' and is a ring of fir branches that has four candles on it. This is like the Advent candles that are sometimes used in Churches. One candle is lit at the beginning of each week in Advent.

Traditions

The Christmas season lasts for 3 weeks in Italy. ...

During this time children go from home to home reciting Christmas poems and singing.

In Italy, children wait until January 6, Epiphany to open their presents.

The children's presents are delivered by Befana, a kind ugly witch who rides on a broomstick.

Christmas in The Netherlands / Holland. For most children in The Netherlands, the most important day during December is 5th December, when Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) brings them their presents! St. Nicholas' day is on the 6th December, but in The Netherlands, the major celebrations are held on the 5th December.

Sinterklass travels with his servants called 'Zwarte Pieten' ('Black Peters'). When Sinterklaas and the Black Peters come ashore from the steam boat, all of the local church bells ring in celebration. Sinterklaas, dressed in his red robes, leads a procession through the town, riding a white horse. Every town in The Netherlands has a few Sinterklaas helpers, dressed the same as Sinterklaas who help give the presents out. (and sometimes you might one see one or more Zwarte Pieten with Sinterklaas!)

Jul (Sweden) Jul ([jʉːl]), the Swedish Christmas holiday, is celebrated throughout December and traditionally until St. Knut's Day on January 13. The main celebration and the exchange of gifts takes place on Christmas Eve, December 24. The Lucia Day is celebrated during Advent, on December 13.

Around Christmas time in Sweden, one of the biggest celebrations is St. Lucia's Day (or St. Lucy's Day) on December 13th. The celebration comes from stories that were told by Monks who first brought Christianity to Sweden.

St Lucia was a young Christian girl who was martyred, killed for her faith, in 304. The most common story told about St Lucia is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians in Rome, who lived in hiding in the catacombs under the city. She would wear candles on her head so she had both her hands free to carry things. Lucy means 'light' so this is a very appropriate name.

There are many local traditions of parades and carol singing in Switzerland. In the Bernese Oberland region, there are processions starting on Christmas Day and finishing on New Year's Eve. They're known as the 'Trychle' as people parade wearing a big Trychler (cow bell) or carrying drums and normally wearing masks.

In Switzerland St Nicholas is known as 'Samichlaus' and he might visit you on 6th December. You might also be fortunate enough to have some presents from the baby Jesus (or Father Christmas) on the 25th and on Epiphany (6th January) you might be visited by the Befana (in South Switzerland) and/or the Three Kings (in the rest of Switzerland). That's a lot of present bringers!

In Poland, Christmas Eve is a day first of fasting, then of feasting. The Wigilia feast begins at the appearance of the first star. There is no red meat served but fish, usually carp. The supper, which includes many traditional dishes and desserts, can sometimes last for over two hours.

On the table there are 12 dishes - they are meant to give you good luck for the next 12 months. The meal is traditionally meat free, this is to remember the animals who took take of the baby Jesus in the manger. Everyone has to eat or at least try some of each dish. For catholics the 12 dishes symbolize Jesus's 12 disciples. Like in many Catholic countries, Christmas Eve is often a 'fasting day' meaning that some people don't eat anything until after sunset (when the Church day officially ends). So that's where the custom of the first star come from. Some people in central Poland say that at midnight the animals can talk.

Once in a small Russian town, there lived a women called Babushka. Babushka always had work to do sweeping, polishing, dusting and cleaning. Her house was the best kept, most tidy house in the whole village. Her garden was beautiful and her cooking was wonderful. One evening she was busy dusting and cleaning, so busy that she didn't hear all the villagers outside in the village square talking about and looking at the new star in sky.

She had heard about the new star but thought, "All this fuss about a star! I don't even have the time to look because I'm so behind with my work. I must work all night!" So, she missed the star as it shone brightly, high overhead. She also missed the little line of twinkling lights coming down towards the village at dawn. She didn't hear the sounds of the pipes and drums. She missed the voices and whispers of the villagers wondering whether the lights were an army or a procession of some sort. She missed the sudden quiet of the villagers and even the footsteps coming up the path to her door. But the one thing that she couldn't miss was the loud knocking on her front door!

Christmas Day is celebrated either on December 25 in accordance with the Roman Catholic tradition (Gregorian Calendar), or on January 7 which is traditionally the Orthodox or Eastern Rite (Julian Calendar) church holy day.

Among the Ukrainians, the most beloved of all festivities is Christmas which covers a cycle of important fest days, centering around family and agricultural modes of life, is very colourful, being the most important part of Christmas. Its main feature is the evening meal called “Holy Supper” (Svyata Vechera) in literal translation. According to custom, all members of the family should be that night for a family reunion.

Credits:

Created with images by Pedro Angelini - "Árvore de natal 2007"

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