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Christmas around the world with GlobaLexicon

GL Team 2018

This year, once again, we have asked some of our colleagues how they spent the holiday season. Have you ever wondered what someone from Japan does for New Year’s, or what Christmas is like in Argentina? Read more to find out!

Adina from Timișoara, Romania, spent Christmas with her family:

“We had a traditional Romanian Christmas this year. My girls went off to sing carols for our relatives, friends and neighbours in exchange for nuts, apples and money on Christmas Eve, while I stayed at home preparing all the traditional meals and desserts. This year, we decided to have the tree decorated in white with handmade woollen angels the girls made in class.

On Christmas day we went to visit our parents in the countryside and will spend New Year’s Eve with friends eating placinta cu branza si bani, a traditional cake in which we put coins while rolling it out. Each family member takes a piece and tries to have as much luck as possible in the year ahead.”   

Evdokia from Athens, Greece, reminisces about Christmas carols and time spent together:

“On Christmas Eve, children go out singing kalanda (carols) in the streets so we typically wake up to these sounds. For dinner, we usually have roast lamb or pork (plus lots of sweets like melomakarona—a traditional dessert made from flour, olive oil and honey) and spend hours at the table talking, joking and playing cards. The fireplace is of course always lit!”

Sakurako from Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, describes Japanese customs over the festive season:

“Japan doesn’t have traditional Christmas celebrations, but we adapt to Western culture for Christmas. Like in Western countries, we exchange gifts mainly from parents to children or just couples, because in Japan, Christmas is more for couples than family gatherings. The most interesting fact about celebrating Christmas in Japan is fried/roast chicken (from KFC, etc.), which is a sort of equivalent to turkey as a main dish!

We celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s (1st Jan to 3rd Jan) much more, which are national holidays. These days are for family events and most people go back to their hometown to celebrate New Year’s with special food called Osechi (which is a set of different dishes, each dish representing a different meaning or wish for the new year) with family. People also usually visit a shrine for the first time in the new year during these three days.”

Micaela from Rosario, Argentina, has been enjoying the hot weather and a lot of food:

“This year I went back home for Christmas, arriving on Christmas day. What is really special about Christmas for me is that it is actually very hot in Argentina, so we normally spend the day in the countryside by a swimming pool.

My family’s tradition is to eat—starters, main, dessert—and then continue eating for the rest of the day. We are a very big family so sometimes we have to share seats, and even plates if there are not enough! We always say that the heart is big so we can always make space for everyone.”

Tessa from Minden, Northern Germany, was counting the days until she could go back home:

“In Germany, we celebrate Christmas on the evening of December 24th, which is called Heiligabend (‘Holy Eve’). And yes, us lucky people are allowed to unwrap our gifts that evening! Traditionally, we go to church in the afternoon, as there is always a special family service during which children act out the Christmas nativity. Regarding food, we always keep it simple that day and have some traditional Northern German potato salad with sausages. The real feast is mostly on the 25th and 26th, as people usually spend those two days with the entire family, eating traditional food like Klöße (dumplings) or Braten (roast).

I travelled to Germany the weekend before Heiligabend to have enough time to enjoy our lovely Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets) with some Glühwein (mulled wine) and a Bratwurst. Before that, I had been counting the days with the 3 advent calendars my parents had sent me and had lit a candle on my Adventskranz (advent wreath) every Sunday of December!”

Emre from Istanbul, Turkey, thinks of the snow and traditional games:

“We don’t typically celebrate Christmas in Turkey but New Year’s Eve is celebrated. We are affected by the Christmas culture though, and you can see palm trees and lights around shops and streets to get us in the mood. I am from Istanbul and have lived there pretty much all my life. Snow symbolises ‘new year’ more than anything, as it snows almost every year and children look forward to schools being on a ‘snow holiday’ due to blocked roads.

In Turkey, we have a good dinner with drinks on New Year’s Eve, and then play a game called ‘Tombala’ where you draw numbers from a bag and put it on your paper. The first one who draws all the correct numbers wins.”

Claire from Edinburgh, Scotland, is setting her French roots aside this year:

“Normally I spend Christmas celebrating the French way with Christmas dinner on the 24th of December and presents on the 25th, but this year I spent Christmas with my fiancé’s family in Scotland. I had never experienced a Scottish Christmas before but I’d been told to expect a big fry-up in the morning, complete with black pudding, haggis and a pint of Tennent’s (the best kind of breakfast), then presents followed by a big Christmas dinner. The night ends with family friends visiting, some games, more food and of course, a lot more alcohol (is it even a Scottish Christmas without whisky?). Despite not being able to spend my favourite time of the year with my family, there is no doubt that it has been a great Christmas!”

Federica from the canton of Ticino, Switzerland, tells us all there is to know about Saint Nicholas:

“On the 6th of December, school children from all over Switzerland receive a special visit, that of St. Nicholas, or better San Nicolao (Italian), Samichlaus (German), Saint-Nicolas (French) or Son Niclao (Romansh), depending on the region.

In the Catholic regions such as Ticino, where I grew up, San Nicolao wears a traditional white or red bishop’s robe and in the protestant regions, St. Nicholas wears a red coat; in both cases, he is always accompanied by his donkey, who helps him to carry the all-important sack full of presents. While this figure evolved to become Santa Claus, San Nicolao is still as celebrated and his visit is just as eagerly anticipated by kids as that of Santa Claus. San Nicolao’s presents are also closer to tradition and not as lavish; he usually distributes sweets, dried fruit, nuts and tangerines, but also (sugar) coal for the naughtier children. During my childhood, the visit of San Nicolao marked the actual beginning of the Christmas period.”

Kaiser from Chittagong, Bangladesh, reflects on Christmas and Eid:

“Any big festival like Christmas engages us directly or indirectly irrespective of caste, creed or religion. I really enjoy the festive spirit in the air during the preparation leading up to Christmas. The sound of jingle bells, the haste to buy gifts for each other and the decorations all around gives a distinct feeling that the day of Christmas is fast approaching. On Christmas day, I sometimes do a roast turkey alongside other varieties of dishes. As most of us stay at home, friends all gather in one place to enjoy most of the day together.

Like Christmas, our biggest religious festival is ‘Eid’. To celebrate the day, we buy gifts for each other, not only for our nearest and dearest ones but also for those in need around us. Different types of food is cooked at home and everyone tries to wear new clothes and visit each other’s house, where we exchange Eid greetings. A joyous festive mood prevails in every household. The day reminds us of the all-important message that human beings are all equal regardless of rich and poor, black and white.”

Whether you are spending time with your family, playing games or enjoying homemade delicacies, we wish you Happy Holidays, from the whole team at GlobaLexicon.

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