Most people have traditions that they celebrate each year when families
gather and tell the stories, share the songs and foods that reflect their
Christmas Around the World
In Austria, many families have a special Sweet Tree decorated with tiny
packages of candies. When guests visit, they are invited to take a sweet from
In England, friends gather to go caroling. Neighbors often join the
entourage. After the singing, many gather for a steaming cup of wassail punch.
The day after Christmas is also celebrated as Boxing Day. On Boxing Day,
employers and employees trade places. Lords wait on servants, and servants get a
taste of life "upstairs".
In Norway, most families open their presents on Christmas Eve after a very
nice meal. Before they go to bed, they hide all the brooms, fire shovels and
tongs in the house. Long ago, Norwegians believed that mischievous spirits came
out on Christmas Eve, so they hid the brooms so the imps couldn't play with them
and make a mess.
In some small villages in Spain, townspeople gather at the village square on
Christmas Night. Everyone writes his or her name on a little piece of paper and
puts it in the "Urn of Fate". Then, the names are drawn out two at a time. The
two people will be friends for the coming year.
In Japan, even though only 1% of the population is Christian, people go out
for dinner on Christmas Day.
In China, people who celebrate Christmas decorate their homes and Christmas
trees with paper lanterns, paper chains and flowers. Children hang cloth
stockings, and Santa Claus fills the stockings with gifts.
The United States
I am proud to consider myself an Italian American. In my family we have many
traditions that we cherish and keep alive, along with the memories of dear
departed ancestors. Some of our traditions are from Bari, Italy, our ancestral
home. Some come from our life in Chicago and then homesteading on the Illinois
prairie; some come from our cousins who have emigrated to other countries; some
are of our own invention.
Food is a big part of all celebrations for Italians. The special holiday
cookies that were only made once a year bring bittersweet tears to my eyes as I
remember the generations of women who made them with a little flour and sugar,
very little money, and a generous portion of love. I have collected recipes, and
I try to make those cookies, but they never quite have the magic that my
mother's cookies had.
Christmas Eve is the big holiday in my family. We gather at my father's house
to enjoy a seafood meal. Each course is supposed to represent one of the
apostles. My mother always made fourteen courses because she counted Jesus and
Mary who were also at the Last Supper. Honestly, appetites have shrunk, and that
much food is too much, no matter how wonderful it is. So, now, my father, my
sister and I make a scaled-down Christmas Eve dinner. Daddy still shucks and
cleans the oysters, and we still ask him how many pearls he found. Emily
prepares a wonderful appetizer medley and main courses almost too pretty to eat.
And I make lobster bisque, brandy or eggnog and desserts. I am going to try to
make those cookies again this year. If I succeed, I'll post some of the recipes
next time the December holidays roll around.
What are your traditions?
If these musings helped you remember some family traditions, I hope that
you celebrate them with your family this holiday season. If you would like to
share information about your traditions, please e-mail me.
Happy Holidays to everyone!
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