It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas...here, there and in so many other parts of the world. But what does Christmas mean for different cultures, how do they celebrate and where do our beloved Christmas traditions come from?
Our Worldwide Christmas snapshot is specially designed to capture your children's imagination, ignite some festive sparks and warm hearts, not just by bringing you closer to friends and family, but also by connecting you to distant parts around the globe!
“O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree – how did you ever become so popular?”
While countless of houses around the world have Christmas trees sparkling and beaming with joy, someone must have been the first to say “what a wonderful idea, let’s do this!” So, who was it, then? Like all wonderful ideas, everyone wants a claim to fame for this one, so rumors tend to vary and it is said that the importance of the tree grew gradually. Here are some of the most popular ones:
According to one legend, the first person to have ever decorated a tree was German protestant Martin Luther, who, on his way home one day, was captivated by the shining stars between the branches of a tree. “Oh my, how shiny and bright. My children would like that,” he thought, and brought a tree home with him, decorating it with candles.
Another legend, says that the first decorated Christmas tree was in Riga, Latvia, where the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a group of unmarried merchants, put up a tree for celebration.
Whatever the case, we are glad the tradition took off.
“Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Italy lane...” sang Santa on his way to Italy, on Christmas Eve.
“Santa, don't give out all the gifts yet!” shrieked La Befana, the old witch that was riding her broomstick around Italy. “Children here also expect presents on 6th of January.”
“On the 6th of January?” exclaimed Santa. “I can't do that. I'll be catching up on all the sleep I’ve missed in December, wrapping gifts, training elves, ringing sleigh bells.”
“I’ll take over,” offered La Befana kindly, and has been delivering gifts and sweets to children around Italy on the 6th of January, ever since.
Still, Santa does have a lot of visits for one night, but thankfully, delicious cookies and milk are there to keep him going. Except in Ireland. There, children prepare minced pies alongside a…GUINNESS BEER for him. Let’s just hope Santa stops by your country before he visits Ireland, or you’ll get one tipsy Santa and possibly mixed up gifts!
How does the rest of Santa's journey look like? Can he travel all around the world in one night? Well, not quite.
In many countries of Asia, like India and China, where most residents are not Christians, only a very small part of the population celebrates Christmas, and Christmas Day is not a holiday. That really helps Santa complete his mission faster, as both countries have the two largest populations in the world and delivering presents to all the children there would require lots of additional elf power.
And on his way to Australia? Santa switches to his red bathing suit and always carries his sunglasses, just in case. Christmas in Australia falls on a sunny summer day, so Australians can even enjoy some ice cream after their dinner. HO(t) - HO(t) - HO(t)!
Even if Santa claims that in January he catches up on lost sleep, he still has a few stops to make. In Russia, people celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January, so Santa switches to his blue coat (as you can imagine, his red coat does need to go to the dry cleaners after all the Christmas sweat!), and delivers his last batch of presents.
You can thank Tom Smith for that. Inspired by the French bon bon sweets of the time (almonds wrapped in pretty paper), Tom wanted to bring the concept to England. But while sitting in front of a crackling fire one night, he decided to develop the idea further. “What if the sweets and toys I sell don't just have a pretty wrap, but also make a crackling sound every time someone opens them? That would make them even more marvelous!” And it did. Ever since, we have Christmas crackers and sometimes...really bad jokes.
Do you go carol singing during the holidays? What is your favorite Christmas song? If “Jingle Bells” comes to mind, then think again. "Jingle Bells", which was written in the US, was originally called "One Horse Open Sleigh" and was intended for Thanksgiving.
If, for some bizarre reason, you end up carol singing in Romania, be prepared for a peculiar surprise. Amongst your friends’ faces, it’s likely that you’ll also see a face with a multicolored mask, dressed up as a goat. That's what Romanians call the “Capra” and his/her job is to jump up and down, dance and bop around and be joyfully mischievous.
“Oh, I do love chocolates, so very much”, said French chocolatier 1.
“They're so tasty, I bet people would still want to eat them, even if they had the shape of...MUSHROOMS!” added French chocolatier 2.
And so they tested it. They made chocolates that looked like fungi, named them chocolate truffles, and sent them out as Christmas time goodies.
THANK YOU, FRENCH CHOCOLATIERS.
As for candy canes? They first made their appearance as all white canes, and their shape was inspired by the hook Jesus used to shepherd his lambs.
CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS WE LOVE:
“Time to clean your room to get ready for Christmas!” said no mom ever in Norway. Christmas household chores? In Norway, there aren’t any. Well, not really, but according to sources, there's an old rumor that in the past, Norwegians thought evil witches and spirits would steal brooms on Christmas Eve and ride in the sky. As a result? They would hide all brooms and cleaning agents, and no one could clean. Our kind of Christmas.
And here's one for those who like to play dress up. In some countries of Western Africa, including The Gambia, towns and villages celebrate Christmas with masquerade parties, extending the religious traditions to include people of all religious beliefs and backgrounds. Two big high-fives, one for masquerade parties, and one for embracing inclusivity.
Finally, our very favorite: Jolabokaflod. The Christmas book flood, in Iceland. On Christmas Eve, Icelanders exchange books, spend their night carried away in their magical worlds and eat lots and lots of chocolate.
Make the most of our our Worldwide Christmas Snapshot and turn it into fun, festive activities to introduce your little ones to Christmas delights from around the world with our easy DIY crafts and shenanigans here.
Send love and wishes to your loved ones with our easy-to-print cards, or make your own Worldwide Christmas pop-up map to decorate the house and help your little ones learn to identify different countries.
Have a Whimsical, Wonderful Christmas
and a Quirky New Year!
We hope we'll meet again soon in a story,
Your Worldwide Buddies - Us