CHRISTMAS EVE!! Yep, just one night lying awake until it’s a reasonable hour to sit under a tree and rip wrapping paper to shreds! :D
It got me thinking about the Christmas traditions we have in Ireland. Both that we still have, or that were there back in the day. And then, what traditions do other countries have…!? Like when I mistakenly mentioned the occasion of a few friendly drinks on Christmas night to an Italian and have been pretty much Scrooge from then on. Yep, different strokes and all that! ;)
What Is ‘Christmas Tradition’?
We’ll start at home shall we!?
We all know the painful morning after the ‘12 Pubs of Christmas‘. Absolute nightmare! For anyone unsure of what this is and wanting to bombard us with stereotypes and the likes… this is essentially a challenge, in the lead up to Christmas whereby you set out on a pub crawl, to 12 different locations, getting more cross-eyed as you go! And usually there’d be a list of rules to follow, such as “no drinking with your right hand in the first pub, no talking to anyone you know in the second pub” and so on…! A pint per pub is the general consensus, but I guess it depends how hard you feel like hitting that festive spirit!
Sure we’ll go for a slightly older, more respectable one now I guess! Redeem ourselves a little ;) The Wren Boys! Now, this doesn’t happen quite as much anymore, but you always knew who it was at the door any St Stephens’ day. If you had spare change you’d answer, if you didn’t, you were “at a family get together”! Essentially, it went from a tradition of families dressed in old clothes would go house to house with a pole and a holly bush attached, and if you want to go way back, a wren would actually be killed and placed on top. It progressed from there, luckily, and we were just greeted by the same ole wren boy song at the door every December 26th… so not all that bad! :)
Like many countries, in Europe especially, a nativity crib is often used to decorate the house at Christmas in France. With clay figures in them, they tell the story of Christmas, but unusually, the French ones tend to have a butcher, baker, policeman and priest in them whereas others wouldn’t. It’s quite a big deal really as plenty of towns and cities, notably Marseilles host fairs where they sell nativity figures for cribs and there’s always a massive turn out and interest.
The idea of yule logs are important as well in a French Christmas. They didn’t always have scented candles you know! ;) So they used to take a log made of cherry wood in and sprinkle it with red wine so it created a nice festive scent around the house for the festive period.
If there’s ever an excuse to eat French desserts, it’s Christmas! There’s actually a festive celebration in some parts of the country where they eat 13 different desserts, all made from different types of fruits, nuts and pastries. And we think we eat a lot over the season!?
Iceland is probably one of the countries with the most celebrations over Christmas. It starts with St. Thorlakur’s Day which is the day the country’s major saint died, and now they continue with the custom of eating a simple meal of skate and decorating the Christmas Tree. There’s also a notable amount of shopping with those minute folk as shops open until midnight on that day so the rush really is on!
Quite different to Ireland, Christmas Eve is the day in Iceland where children open their presents. Celebrations kick off at about 6pm, and actually before the now generation’s technological needs took over, the TV used to stop from 5pm to 10pm on that day! Pretty big deal!
Now, New Year’s is when things start to get a little mad in this part of the world! New Year’s Eve is one of the most important nights of the year there and there are several magic traditions that supposedly happen, such as cows talking, seals taking on human form, the dead rising and the elves moving house. I’m saying nothing! :)
Christmas, or ‘Weihnachten’ is obviously a big deal all over Germany. I mean, people travel from all over the place just to see the the fascinating Christmas markets in all corners of the country. Advent is actually a massive deal there as well, everyone hanging different kinds of calendar in their houses.
The idea of the Christmas tree is absolutely huge in Germany as well. Dortmund has the biggest in the country, made up of 1,700 fit trees. Yep, that’s all.
But as for the markets, this is the biggest tradition here. Stalls selling everything from ornaments to the most delicious pastries and snacks – sweet and savoury – and of course mulled wine and German beer. It draws so many people into the centre of cities, both from all corners of Germany itself but also from around the world.
Wherever you’re celebrating Christmas this year, if not at home, keep an eye out for the unique traditions that take over different parts of the world every December. And other than that, just have a good one!