When it comes to Christmas traditions around the world, hostels are great places to find out about them. Our hostel staff are dusting down the decorations and everyone naturally got talking about christmas traditions in their own countries. In typical hostel fashion we decided to share our Christmas traditions with each other. We discovered that Christmas is about fantastic customs, food, families and fun.
Delphine from France explained to us they have their big meal on December 24th. They call it Réveillon and it can involve roast turkey with chestnuts, goose, oysters, lobster, venison and of course, cheese. Dessert can often involve 13 different types including Buche de Noel which is a chocolate sponge cake log. One of the unusual traditions that Delphine told us about France was that they have a butcher, a policeman, a baker and a priest in their Christmas nativity scenes. Joyeaux Noel Delphine!
Noemi from Germany told us about the Sternsingers from her town. They are four chidren who go from house to house, singing songs and collecting money for charity. Three of them are dressed like the Wise Men and the fourth carries a star on a stick as a symbol for the Star of Bethlehem. Another tradition which has spread to us in Ireland is the exchanging of secret presents. In schools and offices in Germany, presents are thrown into an empty room and then everyone comes in together to sort them all out. Noemi told us that it is bad luck to find out who sent you your present.
Frohe Weihnachten Noemi.
Salvo from Italy told us that when he was a little bambino, the Befano was more important than Babbo Natale (Santa Claus). The Befano was a good witch who leaves gifts for children on the night of the Epiphany (January 5th). Salvo explained that when the Three Wise Men arrived at her house she was too busy doing the housework to go with them. She regretted not seeing the new Christ child and has been searching for good children ever since then. Good children receive caramelle sweets while bad children get a lump of coal or a stick to help sweep their rooms.
Buon Natale Salvo!
Misty from New Zealand explained that most towns in her country would start getting into the Christmas spirit very early. From mid November onwards, there are Santa parades with decorated floats, bands and marching girls. Families would gather together to eat barbeques and cold salads on the beach on Christmas Day. Like Ireland they have a tradition of swimming on Christmas Day, but they also play cricket and touch rugby. Mere Krihimete Misty!
According to Monika, in Poland you have to try each of the 12 dishes that are put on the table on Christmas Eve but it is unlucky to eat until the first star is seen in the sky. Being a hospitable country, they also like to leave a free seat at the dinner table for a guest. Carp is the main dish and many Polish people will keep scales from the fish to bring good luck in the New Year. At midnight in Poland, it is said that the animals can speak with a human voice. Wesołych Świąt Monika!
Daniel from Brazil told us that amigo secreto is very popular in his country at Christmas. This is another version of secret gift giving. In Brazil they like to celebrate Christmas with huge firework displays. Most towns will have giant Christmas Tree shaped displays of electric lights. Feliz Natal Daniel.
Ivica from Croatia explained to us about the Krampus in his country. This is a horned devil figure that prowls around during the Christmas period after St Nicholas. Unlike the gentle Befano from Italy, the Krampus is more interested in bad children than in good ones. Nowadays, instead of whisking the children away he leaves them a lump of coal. It is good to see that in these times of climate change, coal is seen as a bad thing. Sretan Božić Ivica.
Of course, Brendan from Dublin told us plenty about Irish Christmas traditions. He told us about the belief that fairies stop their mischief during the Christmas period because they like to come indoors and shelter in the holly. Every year he goes for his chilly Christmas Day swim in the sea to clear his head and the day after he likes to follow the Wren Boys. The Wren Boys dress up in outlandish clothes and go from pub to pub playing music and collecting money for charity. Then he goes to watch the Christmas horse racing. Nollaig Shona Duit Brendan!
What Christmas traditions do you have?
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