Christmas Day will rapidly be upon us and many of you travellers will be thinking about how to celebrate. Perhaps you will be with loved ones or friends, or maybe you are choosing to spend this Christmas in a country that doesn’t mark the religious event. Either way it is a very magical time of year that makes us all think of childhood memories, making snowmen (or barbeques on the beach), Christmas carols and movies, plus of course gift giving. But how do people mark the Christmas countdown around the world?
Households in Germany generally begin by making an adventskranz – a Christian wreath composed of pine, wood, plastic or metal with four candles placed inside it. On each Sunday within December a new candle is lit until all are burning together to mark the fourth Advent week. Religious families will sometimes sing carols or read passages from the Bible as they light the candles.
You might be surprised to learn that Nikolaus arrives on the 6th of December in Germany to hand out presents. Children will leave a boot or shoe outside their front door on the night of the 5th and in the morning it will be full of Christmas surprises. Rather than opening gifts on Christmas Day, presents are brought to German people by the Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus) on Christmas Eve.
Europe is renowned for Christmas markets and in Italy’s shopping capital – Milan – you can discover the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! market, a traditional experience dating back to the 16th century! The stallholders sell everything from arts and crafts to toys, plus you can enjoy a variety of Italian food and drink and live music. The setting around the Castello Sforzesco is simply magical at this time of year.
Italians also celebrate a Roman Catholic tradition on the 8th of December – the Immaculate Conception of Mary when bonfires are lit around the country to represent the warming up of the Madonna and to purge human sins for the year to come.
UK and USA
We couldn’t leave out the UK and the USA, where Christmas has become a bit of a commercial occasion for some. Advent calendars are traditionally opened on each day of December and in the past these were usually composed of nativity pictures behind each door. Today however, the windows generally house a chocolate treat, while there are also many digital advent calendars from travel companies offering prizes for each day of the month.
Households around the UK and the USA leave out a stocking for Santa Claus on the night before Christmas and many families will attend Midnight Mass in their local church on Christmas Eve.
For some, Russia’s snow-covered landscapes epitomise what Christmas is all about – a winter wonderland. Russians traditionally mark Christmas Eve as an important date where friends and family members come together to eat a large meal made up of various dishes. Meat will not generally be seen upon the table – 12 dishes are made to represent the 12 apostles, the cloth will be white to symbolize the cloth that covered the baby Jesus, a candle will be lit and the tree decorated beforehand. The date will depend upon the family celebrating and it can even fall in January!
Australians enjoy plenty of sunshine on Christmas Day since the celebration takes place during their summer. Carols by Candlelight are held throughout the month of December when people join together in the warm evenings, light candles and sing at open-air concerts. Sydney and Melbourne both host these famed events.
Homes around the country are decorated with bunches from ‘Christmas Bush’ trees that contain small green leaves with white flowers. Boxing day is a time for barbeques on the beach, while the famous yacht race leaves from Sydney to Hobart on the day after Christmas as well.
So there you have it – a selection of Christmas traditions from around the world. Why not tell me about your own celebrations planned for this year in the comments?