Christmas Around The World! by maggie h.

Germany
Evergreen

Many Christmas traditions practiced around the world today started in Germany.

It has been long thought that Martin Luther began the tradition of bringing a fir tree into the home. According to one legend, late one evening Martin Luther was walking home through the woods and noticed how beautifully the stars shone through the trees. He wanted to share the beauty with his wife so he cut down a fir tree and took it home. Once inside he placed small lighted candles on the branches and said that it would be a symbol of the beautiful Christmas sky. Hence, the Christmas tree.

Another legend says that in the early 16th century, people in Germany combined two customs that had been practiced in different countries around the globe. The Paradise tree (a fir tree decorated with apples) represented the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. The Christmas Light, a small, pyramid-like frame, usually decorated with glass balls, tinsel, and a candle on top, was a symbol of the birth of Christ as the Light of the World. Changing the tree’s apples to tinsel balls and cookies; and combining this new tree with the Light placed on top, the Germans created the tree that many of us know now.

Today, the Tannenbaum (Christmas tree) is traditionally decorated in secret with lights, tinsel, and ornaments by the mother and is lit and revealed on Christmas Eve with cookies, nuts, and gifts under its branches.

Britain
Mistletoe traditions:The best-known tradition is the kissing one; – hanging mistletoe high in a room and kissing loved ones, or complete strangers, beneath it, is hugely popular Christmas custom.Other old traditions, other than kissing and those stories from Druid, Norse and ancient legends, include warding off evil. One popular version of this suggest that mistletoe brought into the house at Christmas/mid-winter/New Year (depending on your custom) should be kept hanging for a full 12 months. This will protect the house from evil .

It will also prevent evil spirits from entering. The old mistletoe can be ceremoniously burned after new mistletoe is brought in.

Crackers,Dinner, and other foods:Christmas "crackers" are paper cylinders that make a loud popping sound when opened. They are filled with a paper crown, a cheesy gift, and an extremely bad joke. The dinner is usually made up of turkey, Brussels sprouts, and gravy. Dessert is normally pudding. The pudding is composed of many dried fruits held together by egg and suet, sometimes moistened by treacle or molasses and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and other spices. The pudding is aged for a month, months, or even a year; the high alcohol content of the pudding prevents it from spoiling during this time.
In Britain, children hang their stockings on their bed. Although it is wonderful to wake up surrounded by gifts, it also gives Santa a chance chance to get close to you in your sleep. Sweet dreams!Speaking of Santa, instead of cookies and milk, they leave out brandy and mince pies since he is an adult. Talk about strange! Children throw their letters to Santa - instead of in the mailbox- in the fireplace! Supposedly Santa can read the letters in the smoke. What?
Britain has a little something called boxing day. It is unclear where this tradition came from. Some say that the tradition originated from bosses giving their employees gifts on boxing day, and others say many traditions, so many that there are too many to mention!
France: France has a lot of Christmas traditions, and it would be difficult to name them all! I will try to name at least most of them, or at least as many as I can... here we go!
French desserts can be very-er-eccentric. This cake, called Buche de Noel, looks like a yule log. The Twelfth Night cake is a lot like our New Years cake. They bake in either a bean or a small china doll, and the person who finds it is the King or Queen for the rest of the day. They choose a partner, and the couple wears crowns as the group sings, dances, watches plays, and eats.
French Noel
Spain
In Spanish, Christmas Eve is called La Noche Buena or “The Good Night” and in Spain it is celebrated with a large family feast that is eaten late in the evening and lasts a couple hours. Some families attend midnight mass before or after, although many families are still finishing dinner around the table at midnight!

Christmas Eve is a time for celebrating in neighborhood bars and taverns and around the table with family and friends, not a time for gift exchanges or Santa Claus. That must wait until January 6th, which is Epiphany, a religious holiday.

Outdoor markets open in early December, selling zambombas (drums) tambourines, small guitars, and other musical instruments. Zambombas are a kind of drums that make a serious, peculiar sound.
The three kings leave toys in the shoes of children.

Children have some presents on Christmas Day, but most are opened at Epiphany. Some children believe that the Kings bring presents to them at Epiphany. They write letters to the Kings on Boxing Day, December 26th, asking for toys and presents. And on Epiphany Eve (January 5th) they leave shoes on windowsills or balconies or under the Christmas Tree to be filled with presents. Gifts are often left by children for the Kings, a glass of Cognac for each King, a satsuma and some walnuts. Sometimes a bucket of water is left for the camels that bring the Kings! If the children have been bad, the Kings might leave pieces of coal made out of sugar in the presents!

Italy
Epiphany is also important in Italy. On Epiphany night, children believe that an old lady called 'Befana' brings presents for them. The story about Befana bringing presents is very similar to the story of Babushka. Children put stockings up by the fireplace for Befana to fill. In parts of northern Italy, the Three Kings might bring you present rather than Befana. On Christmas day 'Babbo Natale' (Santa Claus) might bring them some small gifts, but the main day for present giving is on Epiphany.
On Christmas Eve, it's common that no meat (and also sometimes no dairy) is eaten. Often a light seafood meal is eaten and then people go to the Midnight Mass service. The types of fish and how they are served vary between different regions in Italy. When people return from Mass, if it's cold, you might have a slice of Italian Christmas Cake called 'Panettone' which is like a dry fruity sponge cake and a cup of hot chocolate!
No Italian Christmas would be complete without the sound of bagpipes. Everywhere from the piazzas of Rome to remote hillside villages, the Zampognari (pipers) continue the tradition of festive bagpipe playing that dates back to ancient Roman times. Traditionally, the pipers were shepherds who, in a bid to earn an extra income, would travel down from their mountain homes at Christmas time to perform for the townsfolk in their markets squares. The regions where you’re most likely to see a piper are Abruzzo, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Molise, Puglia and Lazio.
Netherland
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!)
Children are told that the Zwarte Pieten keep a record of all the things they have done in the past year in a big book. Good children will get presents from Sinterklaas, but bad children will be put in a sack and the Zwarte Pieten take them to Spain for a year to teach then how to behave!
Mexico
There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettias and Christmas come together, it goes like this: There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up. 'Pepita', he said "I'm sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy." Pepita didn't know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus.

I couldn't fit the rest of the legend up there so I put it down here.As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the 'Flores de Noche Buena', or 'Flowers of the Holy Night'.The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.

USA
Santa Claus's reindeer form an imaginary team of flying reindeer traditionally held to pull the sleigh of Santa Claus and help him deliver Christmas gifts. The commonly cited names of the reindeer are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. They are based on those used in the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ,commonly called "The Night Before Christmas", which is arguably the basis of the reindeers' popularity.
Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or simply Santa Santy in Hiberno-English, is a legendary figure of Western culture who is said to bring gifts to the homes of well-behaved ("good" or "nice") children on Christmas Eve ,24 December and the early morning hours of Christmas Day ,25 December.

That was my Christmas around the world. Hope that you enjoy!

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