Continuing our journey to find out how Christmas is celebrated around the world, it’s incredible how sometimes cultures imitate one another when it comes to fun things.
Many Western traditions actually came from Germany in different ways. Christmas trees for example were taken to England by the German prince Albert, who married princess (and future queen) Victoria in the mid-1800s, even though the Christmas tradition had been accepted by European royal families for a while before that.
In Germany, many of the gifts children receive are left in their shoes, and people gather around the tree on Christmas Eve, where the shoes with gifts are also placed.
In Russia Christmas remains an almost completely religious holiday with very little secular influence. Because of the calendar differences between the Roman Catholic church and the Easter Orthodox church, Christmas in Russia is celebrated on 7 January and features lengthy church services. On Christmas Eve most Russians have the ‘secret dinner’ with twelve meals, one for each of the twelve apostles.
In many of the North European countries Santa Claus is a modern version of the traditional jultomte (the Swedish Santa). Initially is was a gnome who watches over the house and the people in it, and distributes the gifts on Christmas Eve. The tradition is to leave a bowl of oatmeal for jultomte on Christmas Eve; people believe that if they don’t do that, bad luck will enter the house and the gnome will leave through the chimney without leaving any gifts. This tradition was transferred to many western countries as leaving cookies and milk for Santa.
Ireland takes Christmas very seriously, it’s their biggest holiday. People stop working tow days before Christmas and, cliché or not, every restaurant and bar offers Christmas wine, and many go around to people’s houses with that wine. The concept of Santa Claus is very similar to that in the UK.
Greece is another Eastern Orthodox country that celebrates Christmas in January. A large part of the imagery is the traditional Christmas trees, lights and gifts. The Greeks make traditional pastries with a cross in the middle, which are eaten on Christmas day.
Christmas is an important and jolly holiday. Internationally, whether it is religious or secular, it is a unifying factor across cultures and borders. This is something that we as part of the world of translation services are happy to see!
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