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Christmas traditions around the world

Hi, I’m Wilbur. I’ve noticed that everyone’s been getting really excited about one thing lately: Christmas!

We don’t have Christmas back in Monstonia, so I’ve asked my friends here at Webcertain what it’s all about, and it seems that different countries have their own unique Christmas traditions.

Come globetrotting with me to discover Christmas traditions around the world!

Christmas traditions around the world: France

Food is a big part of the celebrations in France. Christmas dinner is usually eaten on Christmas Eve evening, and is a feast of several courses that can last for hours!

The main course is usually poultry, and other common Christmas foods include oysters, smoked salmon and pate de foie gras. Wine and champagne are drunk with every course. Dessert is often bûche de Noël, which is a sponge cake decorated like a yule log, covered with chocolate and chestnuts. Nuts and dried fruit are also popular.

There are traditions to do with the dinner table itself too: the ends of the tablecloth might be knotted so that the Devil can’t get under the table!

Christmas traditions around the world: Germany

In Germany, the festive season begins on the night of 5 December, when children clean their shoes and leave them outside the front door overnight. When they wake up in the morning, their shoes are filled with sweets, nuts and other little presents from St. Nicholas!

Another important German Christmas tradition is the advent wreath. This is made of dried flowers, berries and pine cones – along with four candles. Every week throughout the month of December, they light one candle every Sunday.

They actually celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, and on this day, children will sing Christmas songs for the Christmas angel, known as the “Christkind”, which brings them presents. Once the Christmas angel has delivered the gifts, a bell rings to let the children know they can stop singing!

The fun doesn’t stop there. In southern Germany, on 6 January, children celebrate Epiphany by dressing up as the three Kings and going around neighbours’ houses to sing songs and raise money for children’s charities.

Christmas traditions around the world: Italy

A very important part of an Italian Christmas is the nativity scene. Most families have their own miniature nativity scenes that they put up at home – but the baby Jesus is not put into his crib until Christmas Day.

Food and family are very important at this time of year, and families come together to feast multiple times throughout the festive season.

Another popular Christmas family activity is playing tombola, which in Italy is similar to a game of bingo.

Christmas celebrations last from the beginning of December all the way to the beginning of January, and on the 6 January, a good witch known as “la Befana” fills children’s stockings with sweets if they’ve been good, and coal if they’ve been bad!

Christmas traditions around the world: Portugal

In the Portuguese region of Trás-os-Montes, they celebrate the winter solstice by dressing as Caretos. These Caretos are usually teenage boys who dress from head to toe in colourful wools and fabrics, with painted masks to cover their faces.

On Christmas Day, they jump around, scream and tease people in their village by singing funny songs about them, to create chaos and entertain the villagers. They may also go from house to house, where they’re given food.

The idea is to celebrate the fact that it will soon start to get warmer, so everyone can have fun again!

Christmas traditions around the world: Finland

In a typical Finnish Christmas, the morning starts with rice porridge with a hidden almond in it. Normally, the person who gets the almond has to do something, like sing a song, or is just considered the luckiest person at the table.

Later in the day, the family will take a sauna together. This is one of the most important Christmas traditions in Finland. Some families choose to make the occasion extra-special by using a vihta, which is a whip made of birch twigs, to beat each other, which enhances the effect of the sauna’s heat.

In the evening, Santa comes to visit to give presents. Children get to sit on his lap and the whole family sings Christmas songs for Santa, with at least one song being dedicated to him.

And of course, all this happens on Christmas Eve!

Christmas traditions around the world: Austria

In Austria, on 5 and 6 December, they have the terrifying Krampus! The Krampus is a scary-looking creature, with a costume made up of real fur, huge cow bells and horns, carrying a wooden stick.

Parades go through towns and whilst good children are rewarded by Saint Nikolaus by being given sweets, the Krampus would traditionally punish naughty children by beating them with their sticks!

For health and safety reasons that’s not allowed anymore, but the Krampus still make a lot of noise with their cow bells and hit people gently.

Yikes, I’m going to behave myself from now on!

Christmas traditions around the world: Romania

In Romania, they have a tradition where people disguise themselves as goats and bears and then dance in the streets or go from house to house to wish people a happy new year!

The goat costume involves a wooden head, a brightly multicoloured coat, and horns decorated with bells, ribbons, tassels and beads. The goat dance is most popular in rural areas and usually happens on Christmas night or New Year’s Eve.

The bear dance involves people dressing up as bears, as well as some human musicians, acting out the death and rebirth of the bear, to symbolise the coming new year.

Those bears looked pretty scary! They don’t eat monsters, do they? No? Good…

Christmas traditions around the world: Colombia

In Colombia, it all kicks off on 7 December, when people put small candles and paper lanterns on their balconies and windowsills, as well as around roads and parks.

These pretty lights seem to be quite a big deal in Colombia, because electric light displays are also hugely popular around Christmas time, and the city of Medellin is especially famous for this.

The main meal is eaten on Christmas Eve night, and often includes pork stuffed with rice and peas, as well as soup made of turkey, ham or chicken.

The festivities start to wind down towards the end of the month, and 28 December is a day of fun and jokes, with TV programmes often featuring bloopers, a bit like April Fool’s Day!

Christmas traditions around the world: Scotland

Christmas was banned in Scotland for almost four centuries! For that reason, New Year’s Eve (also known as Hogmanay) is a very important celebration in the Scottish calendar.

On New Year’s Eve, Scots do a thorough clean of the entire house, an activity known as redding, to encourage good luck.

Then, when the clock strikes midnight, it’s time for some “first-footing”. First-footing involves going to the house of a friend or family member with the aim of being the first person to set foot in their house that year. It’s customary to bring a gift such as whiskey, shortbread, fruit cake or coal.

In more modern times, a new tradition has emerged called the Loony Dook, where hardy Scots dive into the cold water of the Firth of Forth on 1 January!

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Monstonian at Webcertain
Wilbur is from the remote island of Monstonia, which only recently discovered the existence of the internet – and the rest of the world. He is here at Webcertain to learn more about this “internet” and get to know humans from all over the world!

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