Being born in Denmark, Christmas automatically plays a big role in a families life and traditions. Especially when I was younger, Christmas was absolutely magical to me, and I have a ton of good memories from my childhood Christmases. Last year on the 24th of December I was in Denmark getting ready to go to my grandfather’s house to celebrate Christmas, as I Skyped my boyfriend who was in Brooklyn, NYC with his own family. Due to the time difference, I asked him what he was doing later and how him and his family were going to celebrate. He replied that he might just go to a restaurant with his mom and his two brothers. I thought “What!? Are restaurants open on this holy sacret night?!” – duh, of course, it is New York City we are talking about, and secondly I thought that this was a very different way of spending the night of the 24th of December that what I am used to. This inspired me to ask some of my friends from around the world to elaborate on how they celebrate Christmas – how do we celebrate Christmas around the world . I hope you like it aaaand then it is over to your, lovely readers! How do you celebrate Christmas, what are your best and/or weird traditions and your favorite memories?
Me – Caroline, 21 years old, Denmark
How do you celebrate Christmas? The whole month of December is like one big month of celebrations. We have countless of traditions in Denmark, and it starts already in November where the radio starts playing christmas songs 24/7, the streets and all stores start putting up Christmas decorations and the supermarkets sell Christmas candy. The 1st of December, various TV channels start sending their Christmas calendar shows (meaning they will show one episode per day of a new made Christmas show till the 24th of December – the big finale!) and at dinner time we will light our calendar candle (see photo). Every date has to be light, or it will never be Christmas – a horror story if you ask kids! The 1st of Dec we eat warm rice pudding with cinnamon sugar. If we are lucky, we will find a present in our socks either every morning or every sunday from the Christmas elf. At least one night we have to place a bowl of rice pudding on the attic to keep the elf happy.When it is finally time for the 24th of December, the whole day will seem very long, depending on your age. Around 6 pm we shower, dress up and take the car to my grandfather’s house, and we help finishing the food – Danish traditional Christmas food is pork roast, duck, red cabbage, sweet potatoes, potatoes and gravy – heavy and heavenly at the same time! For dessert we have ris a la mande (sweet rice pudding with cream and pieces of almond), and there is one whole almond in the bowl. Then the game is – whoever gets the one almond will receive the “almond present”. After dinner we light the beautiful Christmas tree and we all hold hands while walking around the Christmas tree singing Christmas carols. After the singing and dancing it is time for the presents! Usually there is a mountain of presents, and we will open them for hours.
What is your weirdest Christmas tradition? When my grandfather leaves the company all of a sudden, and a few minutes later someone knocks on the door. It is my grandfather dressed up as Santa Claus. He still does it to this day, even though my youngest cousin is five, and the rest of us are 16-21. All of us are perfectly aware that is is him, and not Santa Claus 😉
What is your best Christmas memory? Every single Christmas I had when I was younger. The whole month of December was truly a magical time. I especially loved the mornings of the 25th, where we would wake up early and all our presents that we got the night before would sit on the floor in our bedroom just waiting for us to play with all the toys we’d got!
Deya, 20 years old, Bulgaria
How do you celebrate Christmas? The 24th of December, I wake up way after my mom has woken up, the washing machine is on, it smells of food, she washes the dishes, it is crazy noise everywhere- that is why I woke up lol! My mom is nervous, my dad is outside just having a normal day. My stressed mom gets tired around noon after she has finally finished cooking all the food. I will decorate the tree, clean, help if I am allowed to. I am singing and dancing around all day. We invite my grandma and grandpa to our place, they arrive all shining and very well dressed, with a big smiled on their faces, very official. Family talks begin- “let’s go through my childhood again”, all funny moments and comments. Then we have dinner, we talk, laugh, share our dreams and memories, After dinner my mom likes to read from a Christmas book that i have had since I was three years old. We always reread the stories and sing the songs, it is the sweetest moment, because I recall and re-feel as if I was three years old again.
What is your weirdest Christmas tradition? It is a family fact: On Christmas my dad ALWAYS repairs something, just in the last moment he will find something to fix and get distracted and everyone will wait for him. This will happen this year as well, I am so sure! I will laugh so much when it happens!
What is your best Christmas memory? Watching Vicky Christina Barcelona with my dad in front of the fireplace!
Marco, 21 yers old, Italy
How do you celebrate Christmas? Well, we put up our Christmas trees and nativities on the 8th December, it’s a holiday in Italy. Aunts and moms start cooking like days before Christmas, we do eat a lot on the 24th (mainly fish), 25th and 26th, basically until you’re just about to explode. Listing what we eat would take me ages so here are some random dishes: antipasti (olives, ham, cheese), lasagne, cannelloni, tortellini, lamb, pork, rabbit, roasted potatoes and looooads of cakes and sweets (special mention for some small pieces of fried dough with chestnut cream inside, delicious). We exchange presents on the 24th around midnight. That’s also the time when we unveil Jesus Christ in the nativity. We normally play tombola (it’s the original version of bingo with 90 numbers, each number is related to a character of the ancient Neapolitan tradition, for exemplar 47 is “l’omm e merd” which means literally “the shit man”, a guy who cheats and robs weak people ) and some other funny card games. Oh, we’re always in big groups, like 15-20 people, family and friends.
What is your weirdest Christmas tradition? I would say the “befana”, an old witch that comes in the night between the 5th and the 6th January and fills up a sock that we hang by the window. Good kids get sweets, bad kids get sweet…coat.
What is your best Christmas memory? My best Christmas memory is eating with all my family when my grandma was still alive. We were like 20 people sitting at a table, laughing and having fun together.
Kristen, 30 years old, Boston, USA (check out Kristen’s blog www.bougiebohemian.com, which will air in January!)
How do you celebrate Christmas? As this year is officially the first Christmas I will be spending on my own, in my first house, with my new husband, it will be a year of firsts. Essentially, I will beg, borrow and steal the traditions I liked the best from growing up in both of our pasts and hopefully get some Boston Christmas snow.
- Pre-Christmas- we travel down to DC to spend time with my husband’s family for Chanukah, my mother in law is an amazing cook and she makes a whole organic spread from her backyard garden. The traditional food I enjoy the most are the sweet potato latkes.
- Christmas Eve- Christmas Eve has always been the biggest part of the holiday in my family; we usually exchange the majority of our gifts that day as well as enjoy a large Christmas spread. As the years have went on my family has spread out across the country and it has become harder to get together. However, my husband and I are going starting our own tradition, where we make Christmas dinner together while listening to holiday music. As gifts we always either buy or make ornaments for each other so we can build our own tree as a family. Last year when we got married, the best ornament was a porcelain classic car dragging cans saying “Just Married” with our names etched into it.
- Christmas Day- my family essentially did nothing Christmas day growing up. “Santa” would come in the middle of the night and I would be woken up while it was still dark outside to open gifts. This year I plan to steal a tradition from my best friend growing up. Her family used to go to the movies on Christmas and I always loved that. This year hopefully that will mean seeing the new Star Wars. As the day winds down we will head to the Christmas tree in Faneuil Hall (in downtown Boston) and explore Chinatown for dinner.
What is your weirdest Christmas tradition? On Christmas Eve when my extended family would all get together, a mix match of the Irish, the Polish and Slovenians, essentially an average American family; my grandfather, uncles and cousins would take this occasion to partake in the tradition that binds us all, drinking. His poison of choice: Sambuca with coffee (I know Italian anise favored liquor, where did this come from? Why?).
What is your best Christmas memory? Hands down my favorite Christmas memory is watching “White Christmas” staring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire pretty much every Christmas Eve. I would fall asleep in our family room while watching, slightly with the hope I would catch Santa putting my presents under the tree. There is just something about a classic black and white film about a snowy Inn that features holiday themed show tunes that just gets a girl. Still to this day, whenever I hear Bing sing “I am Dreaming of a White Christmas” I still feel sentimental.