The yuletide season is here. At Flip Flop Daily, we’re shifting our focus to Festivities – all over the world.
We all grew up with so many Christmas traditions – putting up Christmas trees, baking cookies and opening gifts. But have you ever wondered: Is Christmas celebrated differently around the world?
Even though you may sing carols, decorate a Christmas tree, make advent calendars, and eat a lot of Christmas ham wherever you live, there are some Christmas traditions around the world that may surprise you. Some of these traditions may even inspire you to start your own!
Find out how different these global holiday traditions are, from Christmas on sandy beaches with fresh seafood to picture perfect Christmas markets during the cold winter.
Let’s explore Flip Flop Festivities all over the world beginning with Europe!
Christmas in France
Traditionally, Nativity cribs are used to decorate houses in France. The French cribs have clay figures inside. Many cities and towns, including Marseilles, hold fairs during December to sell Nativity figures. French Nativity scenes also include figures like butchers, bakers, policemen and priests in addition to the normal Nativity figures.
Strasbourg, in North Eastern France, hosts one of Europe’s biggest Christmas markets. The Alsatian language refers to it as the “Christkindelsmarik”.
Yule Logs made of Cherry Wood are often burned in French homes during the holidays. As a tradition, the log and candles are left burning all night long with food and drinks left out in case Mary and the baby Jesus pass by.
Réveillon, the main Christmas meal, is eaten after the midnight church service on Christmas Eve/early Christmas morning. Typical dishes include roast turkey with chestnuts or roast goose, oysters, foie gras, lobster, venison, and cheeses. Bûche de Noel, a chocolate sponge cake log, is traditionally served as dessert.
Christmas in Greece
Christmas Eve is usually marked by children singing ‘kalanda’ (carols) in the streets. As they sing, they play drums and triangles. They sometimes carry model boats with gold-painted nuts as decorations. Boat-carrying is an ancient Greek custom.
An enormous Christmas Tree and three-masted sailing ship are set up every December in Aristotelous Square in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. This is a popular tourist attraction. In other large Greek cities, such as Athens, there are also large boat displays. Greece has a long tradition of decorating ships after sailors return from sea voyages.
The main Christmas meal is usually lamb or pork, roasted in an oven or over an open fire. Typically, it is served with spinach and cheese pie, salads, and vegetables. A variety of other Christmas and New Year foods are available, including ‘Baklava’ (a sweet pastry made from filo pastry with nuts and syrup or honey), Kataifi (a pastry made of shredded filo dough flavored with nuts and cinnamon), and Theeples (fried pastries).
Traditional table decorations include loaves of ‘Christopsomo’ (Christ’s Bread). This sweet bread is flavored with cinnamon, orange, and cloves. A cross is engraved on the top. It is made on Christmas Eve and is ready to eat on Christmas Day.
Christmas in Germany
Advent is an important part of German Christmas celebrations. German homes use a variety of Advent calendars. In addition to the cards used in many countries, there are ones made from Fir tree branches with 24 decorated boxes or bags hanging from them. There is a little present in each box or bag. There is also an Advent Kranz, which is an arrangement of four candles on a ring of fir branches. It is similar to the Advent candles that are sometimes used in churches.
Christmas trees are another important part of German Christmas traditions. The first mention of Christmas trees in German folklore dates back to 1750, but they weren’t popular outside Scandinavia until the 1800s (where they are known as “Yule trees”).
The houses of many Germans are decorated with fairy lights and ornaments in December, but the Christmas trees are not usually set up and decorated until the morning of the 24th.
In Germany, the 26th of December is also a public holiday, so many families celebrate with each other, go to church, or go to the park.
Christmas in Portugal
Children are believed to receive presents from Father Christmas (‘Pai Natal’) on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. Christmas presents are left beneath the Christmas Tree or in shoes next to the fireplace. According to some people, the presents are brought by the Baby Jesus rather than Father Christmas.
In Portugal, the traditional Christmas meal, known as ‘Consoada,’ is eaten on Christmas Eve evening and consists of salted cod served with green vegetables, boiled potatoes, and boiled eggs. Usually, shellfish, wild meats, or other expensive foods follow. Roast turkey, cakes, fried cookies, nuts and other goodies are also popular Christmas foods.
There is a traditional Christmas cake called Bolo Rei (which means King Cake) that is placed in the middle of the table.
Christmas in Russia
Christmas was not celebrated very much during the Soviet era. The New Year was made into an important time. Christmas was banned as a religious holiday in 1929 following the revolution in 1917, and Christmas trees became ‘New Year’ trees in 1935! Christmas had to be celebrated in secret just within families if people wanted to celebrate it.
Christmas was celebrated again after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In Russia, however, it’s still not as festive as New Year’s.
A few Catholics might celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, but most Russians celebrate it on January 7th. Due to the old Julian calendar, the Russian Orthodox Church uses a different date for religious celebrations. Russia’s official Christmas and New Year holidays last from December 31st to January 10th.
Wrapping it all up!
No matter where you celebrate Christmas it’s important to remember that there are many similarities between Christmas celebrations around the world.
Different countries have vastly different Christmas traditions, the celebration of family, food, and faith is a common thread.
Even though different countries have vastly different traditions surrounding their own version of December 25th (and sometimes even before), there are some commonalities in how we celebrate this most wonderful holiday season—especially when it comes to our families.
Celebrating with family at home is an important part of any celebration; especially since many people spend so much time away from theirs during their childhoods. So, whether you’re traveling abroad or just looking for some inspiration on how best to make those long-distance phone calls work out better than ever before…
We hope you enjoyed reading about how Christmas has been celebrated around the world. We’ve only touched on a few countries here, but there are many more that can be explored—and even more things to learn about them! Happy holidays from all of us at Flip Flop Daily!