The countdown has started: Only six more nights until Christmas! Excited? Stressed? Or panicking because of the upcoming family reunion? For myself, it’s an interesting mix of all three. Still, Christmas is definitely my favourite season, which means that I got up at 6 am this morning to bake Christmas cookies while listening to “Feliz Navidad” for the 512th time, that the Albert Heijn in my neighbourhood is running out of Glühwein, and that I’m already sleeping in Christmas pyjamas. Yes, thanks for asking, I am indeed obsessed. Today our Christmassy world tour continues, fasten your seat belts please, we’re about to arrive in…
As you can imagine, Christmas in Norway is a huge thing. There are Christmas parties, present workshops, lightning events and Christmas shows on TV all December long. The actual celebration is on the 24th, where most people, even if they are not religious, go to church to enjoy the Christmas spirit together. In the evening, there is a big family dinner. What you will get to eat depends on where you celebrate. The traditional dishes in the north are not the same as in the east, are not the same as in the south, and so on, you get the game. Generally, it seems like Norwegians are also little foodies, there is not one, not two, not three, but SEVEN Christmas cakes. After dinner, one dances around the Christmas tree to sing carols and Santa Claus (“Julenissen”) comes with his reindeer sleigh and many, many presents. The 25th is mostly another very formal day, but on the 26th the younger generation usually goes out to party.
(Please keep in mind that there are many different languages spoken in South Africa, English and Afrikaans are only two of them. Unfortunately, there are too many to list all of them.)
In case you didn’t notice yet, South Africa is in another hemisphere, thus, Christmas time is summertime. Most people prefer to celebrate at the beach, so during holidays, most travel to the coast of this beautiful country. I personally totally see myself relaxing in the sun with a mojito in my hand, singing the 513th round of “Feliz Navidad”. Besides the beach feeling, there are a lot of Christmas decorations and, of course, a huge Christmas dinner. On the 24th, some go to church to have a mass, light candles and sing Christmas carols. Presents are usually given on the morning of the 25th. However, since we all know that South Africa is a very diverse country, their traditions and customs vary a lot.
As in many other countries, people often go to a mass on Christmas Eve. The next morning, on the 25th, there is a so-called “Christmas morning swim” in the freezing water at the beach. Doesn’t this sound as tempting at the beaches in South Africa? Also rather unconventional, there is a pantomime show that a lot of families go to. Later on, everyone gets a box of chocolate and sweets. There is also an event for the lighting of the Christmas decorations in almost every town, which is always a very big deal.
It is a neck-and-neck race between France and Italy: Who loves their food more? In Italy, every region has their own traditional Christmas food. But what all Italians love is their Panettone, a traditional Christmas cake. Besides their addiction to food, they also have a fable for Christmas trees. Children usually write a wish list and on the night of the 24th, “Papá Noel” brings them their presents.
I guess we all know that Germans are as addicted to Christmas as they are to beer. Even though in December they exchange the beer with Glühwein. Similar to Norway, you can find Christmas events, markets, movies, songs, cookies, cakes, and so on, all December long. Especially their relationship with cookies is very … special. Without exaggeration, there are by far more than 100 different types of Christmas cookies. Children either believe in Santa Claus (Weihnachtsmann) or in Christ Child. There is also an ongoing debate if Santa lives in the sky or at the north pole, and if he has angels or elves as helpers. The last four weeks before the Holy Eve, each Sunday there is a little celebration where every family has an Advent wreath with four candles and lights one more candle every week to raise the joyful anticipation. The Adventskalender has exactly the same function, during the last 24 days before Christmas, children get to open a small present or receive a tiny treat every morning, The actual celebration is on the 24th, and similar to many other countries it includes a mass, family dinner, carols, story-reading, the decoration of the Christmas tree and, of course, presents. The only little disappointing thing: After making hundreds of cookies, most Germans eat sausage and potato salad for Christmas, wow. By the way, did you know that in Germany one also celebrates Sinterklaas?
In Colombia, one can feel the Christmas spirit everywhere! The celebrations already start on the 7th of December, the “Día de las Velitas” (Day of the little candles). On this special day, everyone decorates the house and street with as many lights as possible and a great firework adorns the sky. And since we are talking about Colombia, there is also a lot of music and dancing involved. From December 16th until Christmas Eve, they take part in ‘novenas’, where Colombians come together to pray, sing, and eat with their loved ones. A very important tradition is the “pesebre”, a representation of the nativity scene which can be found in every house. Just like in Norway and Germany, children write a wish list (“Carta al Niño Dios”) and place it in the “pesebre”. On Christmas Eve, Christ Child will come to fulfil their wishes.
Even though we’re back in Groningen, I still feel the salsa vibes. Just the mojito in my hand is gone. What a pity. I hope you can enjoy the holidays, wherever you will be and however you celebrate. As different as our traditions are, there is one thing I have learned while writing this post: We are all food addicts and will probably gain at least 5kg during the holiday season. Please don’t forget, even if you stay in Groningen during Christmas, you don’t have to celebrate alone: ESN offers you a great Christmas programme. Just check out the website!
Lovely people, there is not much left to say other than MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Written by Elli Winetsdorfer.