Most of you are familiar with American, Canadian and English Christmas customs, which are largely the same, including Santa bringing presents that sit below a lit up tree. But have you ever wondered just how Christmas is celebrated in China, or in Finland?
Finnish people honor their departed loved ones on Christmas Eve by visiting the cemeteries and leaving candles on the graves of their family members. If they live too far away to visit their loved one’s graves, most graveyards have an area you can light a candle to remember those buried in other cemeteries. The soft snow and gentle glow of the candles make graveyards a very beautiful place to visit on Christmas Eve.
Spain’s celebrations vary greatly depending on the region. In the Basque regions, the Santa role is filled by Olentzero, a fat man in a beret who smokes a pipe. He used to be an enforcer against naughty children who was said to throw a sickle down the chimney to cut the throats of kids who didn’t sleep. Nowadays though,
In the Catalan region, families “feed” a little log called a “Caga tio” every night from the 8th to the 23rd. On Christmas Eve, the family hits the log with a stick to release sweet treats that have been hidden in his hollow center. If you hadn’t guessed yet, “Caga tio” translates to “pooping log.”
The celebration ends when the log poops out something decidedly not sweet, usually a dried herring, an onion or a head of garlic. Catalans must enjoy poop jokes because aside from their pooping log, they also celebrate with a “Caganer,” a nativity scene character that is seen to be pooping in the corner of the scene.
In Italy, there is no Santa, but instead there a woman called a Befana that performs the general duties of Saint Nick. The story is that the three wise men stopped during their travels and asked a woman for food and shelter. She said no, but later realized her mistake when it was too late. She now travels the earth looking for the baby Jesus and on January 6th, she leaves kids a sock filled with candy or a lump of coal.
Residents will fill a shallow bowl with water and then tie wire with a wooden cross and a sprig of basil over the bowl. Once a day the cross and basil are dipped into holy water, which is then sprinkled through the house. This ceremony is used to keep out goblins, known as Killikantzaroi out of the house.
These mischievous goblins that come from the center of the earth only appear during the twelve days of Christmas. While bratty, they’re not really evil and tend to do bratty things like souring milk and extinguishing fires. Because they are said to enter the house through the fireplace, fires are left burning all day and night during this time of year.
Children of East France have an evil visitor to keep them behaving all year long. Le Pere Fouettard, which translates into “The Whipping Father,” accompanies Saint Nicolas in on December 6. While St. Nick gives good children presents, Le Pere Fouettard gives coal and whippings to the naughty children.
One of the most popular origin stories of the character say that he was a greedy inn keeper who killed three rich boys on their way to boarding school. In many versions of the story, he even eats the children. Whether or not he cannibalizes the boys, the story ends when Saint Nick finds out and resurrects the children and forces Le Pere Fouettard to act as his servant throughout time.
Aside from The Whipping Father, another popular French tradition involves making a cake that looks like a traditional Yule log, known as buche de Noel. Christmas trees never really caught on in the country and while most people don’t have any use for an actual Yule log, the cake is a fun and festive substitute. Some of the buche de Nol can get fairly elaborate and even involve meringue mushrooms and edible flower decorations.
Belsnickel is the German Santa’s dark enforcer, but he’s not nearly as evil as Krumpus or The Whipping Father. Instead he just wears fur from head to toe and gives good girls and boys candy and bad children coal and switches.
Many are decorated with a wreath known as an “Adventskranz.” These wreaths have four candles which serve as a sort of weekly advent calendar, as each Sunday marks the opportunity to light a new candle.
On December 21, St. Thomas Day is believed to be the shortest day of the year and anyone who arrives late to work is called a “Thomas Donkey” They are also given a cardboard donkey and made fun of throughout the rest of the day.
Like many places in Europe, the Christmas tree is kept secret from the children until Christmas Eve. The parents bring the tree in, decorate it with candies, tinsel, lights and toys, put presents and plates of candy treats under the tree and then ring a bell signaling that the children can enter. The children then get to eat snacks and the whole family opens presents.
That’s how Christmas is celebrated all over the world. Have you added some new fun to your Christmas?
Post time: Dec-17-2020