Christmas is celebrated all over the world with great religious fervor. It is also a time of festivity and collective enjoyment. There are a lot of traditional activities that are almost the same all over the world. Having said that, it is also true that these traditions vary considerably to suit the cultural differences of different localities.
The Christmas tree, Santa Clause and his gifts, Christmas dinner and the nativity scene crafting are some of those traditions followed almost everywhere in the world. Christmas carol singers go about singing carols all over the world. They collect money and use it for charity purposes.
In most European countries Christmas starts well before the Christmas day. Countries like France and Holland starts their Christmas day celebrations from December 6th, St. Nicholas day; countries like Italy and Germany start their Christmas four weeks before the Christmas Day, and they call it Advent. Spain commences the festivities from the feast of Immaculate Conception of Mary on the 8th of December while Sweden starts the celebrations from 13th December, which is the St. Lucia’s day.
The midnight mass and the extravagant Christmas feast are also popular traditions which are conducted by various parts of the world with slight variations brought about by the cultural diversities of the regions.
Some Interesting Christmas Traditions
But it is very interesting to note that there are many traditions that are bizarre and strange. Some do not have any explanations apart from the fact that they are followed by generations.
Altered Date of Christmas
Some countries like Russia, Ukraine and Ethiopia follow the ancient Julian calendar and celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January.
The Ethiopians celebrate the baptism of Christ in a three day ceremony from the 12th day of Christmas.
In Ukrainian people decorate their Christmas trees with artificial cob webs. As the legend would have it, a woman who was sad that she did not have money to buy decorative articles for her Christmas tree found her Christmas tree covered with spider webs on the Christmas morning. These spider webs later turned into gold and silver, thus ending the woman’s poverty. So it is considered to be lucky to have cob webs on your Christmas tree in Ukraine.
In some parts of Spain, they place a bizarre figurine with the holy family and shepherds in the crib. It is the figurine of a peasant with his pants down and defecating. No satisfactory explanation for it is found so far. It is called ‘Caganer’.
On the Christmas day the unmarried women of Czech Republic will throw one of their shoes backwards, towards the door. It is believed that if the shoe falls with its heel towards the door, the woman will not get married during the following year. If the toes face the door there is a chance of her getting married and leave her present home.
In Norway it is believed that witches and other malevolent spirits come to haunt earth on the Christmas Eve. They come to steal brooms and so people painstakingly hide all such articles on the Christmas Eve.
In Venezuela people go to attend early morning church services between December 16 and 25 on roller skates. The vehicles are banned from the roads till 8am. Children tie long strings to their big toes and leave their ends through the window, on to the roads, so that the skaters can pull on them and wake them up on time.
In Canada Santa Claus has his own postal address and children write letters to him. The letters are promptly opened and answered by volunteers.
In Iceland they believe that a terrible beast called ‘yule cat’ will attack the badly dressed people. The tradition is that the workers who work hard in the wool factories will be given new dresses. Those who do not do enough will not be given new dresses and they will be shabbily dressed for Christmas. These people will be attacked by the Yule cat. This motivates the workers to do hard work.
In Germany something called a Christmas pickle is hung on the Christmas tree. This is usually a glass ornament and it will be well hidden from the view. The child who finds out the thing first will be rewarded with a special gift and it is believed that he will have good luck all through the following year.
So Christmas season is filled with happiness and hope. People of the world celebrate the birth of the Holy Child with traditional activities that have special significance for themselves. Hence these traditions are highly varied. All the same, people find ways and means to extract maximum entertainment all through the season.
by Marina Chernyak
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