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Holiday Traditions

Most people have traditions that they celebrate each year when families gather and tell the stories, share the songs and foods that reflect their heritage.

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 the tree.


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.

 Anna Marie Pietrolonardo


Happy Holidays to everyone!

Other Links  

To >     Every Day is Special Calendar_December

To >     Christmas

To > A Hispanic Christmas

To >    Christmas in Germany

To >      Christmas in Italy

To >    Christmas in Japan

To >       Saint Nicholas

To >  Multicultural Education  Holidays Around the World - includes lesson plans for teachers!

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Anna Marie Pietrolonardo © 2004, All rights reserved