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Foreign Christmas Traditions?

FortKnox (169099) writes | more than 10 years ago

User Journal 26

OK, I was watching a "Wiggly wiggly Christmas" with my sick son yesterday (We TiVo "The Wiggles" cause its his favorite show). There was something seriously wrong, though. The Wiggles is an Aussie kids show, so they were talking about taking a Christmas picnic out onto the beach and stuff like that. I realized, 12/25 (err... 25/12 I guess) is summertime in Austrailia. Go fig.OK, I was watching a "Wiggly wiggly Christmas" with my sick son yesterday (We TiVo "The Wiggles" cause its his favorite show). There was something seriously wrong, though. The Wiggles is an Aussie kids show, so they were talking about taking a Christmas picnic out onto the beach and stuff like that. I realized, 12/25 (err... 25/12 I guess) is summertime in Austrailia. Go fig.

This made me wonder what Christmas time is like in foreign countries. Anyone care to explain what their countries (and cultures) Christmas's include? Hey Canadians/UK'ers... how about explaining "Boxing Day" for us US'ers?

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Boxing day (1)

turg (19864) | more than 10 years ago | (#7669271)

Apparently at one time in the UK, it was the tradition on the second day of Christmas to go door to door with boxes to collect money for the poor, and that's how the 26th came to be called Boxing Day. The name has nothing to do with it these days -- it's just that the first two days of Christmas (25th and 26th) are legal holidays (in Canada, anyway) and I guess they figured the second day off needed a name of it's own, rather than just calling them both Christmas.

Re:Boxing day (2, Funny)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#7669336)

Oh, I thought boxing day was when the rich kids took the presents they didn't like, reboxed them, and sent them to the poor.

Re:Boxing day (1)

Safety Cap (253500) | more than 10 years ago | (#7669689)

That would be "Fruitcake Day" where everyone sends the same @#$ fruitcake they got last year to someone new. Rinse, repeat.

Re:Boxing day (2, Funny)

bubblegoose (473320) | more than 10 years ago | (#7671964)

He already has enough fruitcakes. You ever seen the Wiggles? There's four of them there already.

Re:Boxing day (1)

SamTheButcher (574069) | more than 10 years ago | (#7671270)

I thought it was when rich kids, being spoilt brats, boxed the ears of folks that gave them presents they didn't like. ;)

Re:Boxing day (1)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#7672254)

Hey, that comment gave me my first ever 'raisin spittake'. :-D

Re:Boxing day (1)

SamTheButcher (574069) | more than 10 years ago | (#7682025)

Glad to help add to the repertoire. :)

Boxing day (1)

Cyberdyne (104305) | more than 10 years ago | (#7669356)

Hey Canadians/UK'ers... how about explaining "Boxing Day" for us US'ers?

Google's definition feature was (unusually) almost stumped by this one, turning up only this [princeton.edu] : Boxing Day -- (first weekday after Christmas). On the other hand, Snopes has an entry [snopes.com] , debunking the myth that the name derives from disposing of empty boxes after Christmas day, and giving a few different possibilities. The one I've always heard is that this was the day on which the Church "poor box" was opened, and the contents distributed to the poor.

Boxing Day and Christmas in Germany (1)

Ethelred Unraed (32954) | more than 10 years ago | (#7671533)

The one I've always heard is that this was the day on which the Church "poor box" was opened, and the contents distributed to the poor.

That's the story I've heard as well (or somewhat similarly, that Boxing Day was the day that alms/donations for the poor were boxed up and given to the recipients). The Encyclopaedia Britannica also agrees, although in an oddly hesitantly phrased entry ("Explanations for the origin of the name have varied, with some believing that it derived from the opening of alms boxes that had been placed in churches...").

Somewhat oddly, Germany also has the 26th as a holiday, but it's just called "Second Christmas" ("zweite Weihnachten"). Christmas Eve is "Heiligabend" ("holy eve"), Christmas Day is "erste Weihnachten" ("First Christmas"), and Epiphany is "Heilige Drei Koenige" ("Holy Three Kings").

For what it's worth, one difference in Germany is that presents are traditionally opened on Christmas Eve, not Christmas morning. The tradition is that the children have a nice meal with the family while a relative sneaks off and puts the presents under a tree (sometimes that relative will dress up as Santa/Weihnachtsmann and come in). When all is ready, a bell is rung and the children come into the room with the tree and open their presents -- the idea being that the Christ Child and/or Santa were just there to quickly dispatch their presents and had to run, ta-ta.

Depending on whether your family is Protestant or Catholic, the "gift-giver" is either the Weihnachtsmann (literally "Christmas Man", essentially the same thing as Santa Claus or St. Nicholas) or the Christ Child ("das Christkind", sometimes called "Christkindl").

One slight difference is that in Germany, red and green are not the only traditional colors for Christmas; the combination blue/gold is just as common (to represent the night sky). The typical Christmas symbol is the shooting star, to represent the Star of Bethlehem. The shooting star is normally a six-pointed star with a sort of swoosh coming out of it.

Also, children in Germany usually don't make lists for Santa (or the Christkind), and Santa doesn't come down the chimney, either (since most Germans don't have one). The German Santa and Christkind are much more conventional and just use the door. ;-)

Other than that, Americans and Brits would feel right at home in a German Christmas -- not too many other differences, really. Mistletoe ("Mistel"), evergreen ("Tannen"), exchanging presents ("Bescherung"), etc. are all here in much the same way as in America.

FWIW I also mentioned a bunch of things about Christmas in Germany in my journal [slashdot.org] .

Cheers,

Ethelred

boxing day (1)

SolemnDragon (593956) | more than 10 years ago | (#7669391)

in some areas, it has evolved into the day you leave gifts for officials, landlords, postal workers, stuff like that. I'm not sending my landlord a present. After what he charges for rent, he can buy his own.

In Brooklyn (1)

asv108 (141455) | more than 10 years ago | (#7669479)

There is a small group of people who celibrate Festivus [karber.net] . :)

In TN also. (1)

TechnoLust (528463) | more than 10 years ago | (#7671839)

Christmas was always a big ordeal for PH, because his family is almost entirely nuts. So he's not big on Christmas trees or decorations. He said he was going to start celebrating Festivus.

Christmas in Finland. Well, at least in my family. (1)

wheany (460585) | more than 10 years ago | (#7669727)

First of all, Christmas is celebrated on Christmas eve, that is, on 24th of December. And (a relatively sober) Santa Claus comes through the front door with a bag full of presents and after the kids have sung to him, he gives the presents to everyone, one by one. (Because Santa visits every home it is not that uncommon to see a van unload half a dozen Santas that visit different houses...)

And by the way, Santa lives on Korvatunturi ("Ear Fjeld"), not on the North Pole.

Traditional foods are ham (or turkey), carrot, rutabaga and potato casseroles, Rosolli [google.com] (it's the red salad), fish in all kinds of forms, and rice porridge.

People also light candles on the graves of family and friends.

Oh yeah, at noon on the 24th, "Christmas peace" is proclaimed. This has been done since the middle ages. Traditionally, if you break the law when Christmas peace is in effect, you will be punished under aggravating circumstances.

On 25th, you eat the leftovers from yesterday. And on the next day. And the next. On the day after that you have pretty much had it with traditional Christmas foods and are thankful that the next time you have to eat them is a year away.

Fortunately New Year's Eve is just around the corner, time to eat junk food, get really drunk and shoot off fireworks.

Re:Christmas in Finland. Well, at least in my fami (1)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#7669964)

Korvatunturi ("Ear Fjeld"), not on the North Pole.

Where do you tell children that is (is there a real Ear Fjeld)??

Oh yeah, at noon on the 24th, "Christmas peace" is proclaimed

When's "Christmas Peace" over? Midnight 26/12?

Thanks for the input. Cool stuff :-)

Re:Christmas in Finland. Well, at least in my fami (1)

wheany (460585) | more than 10 years ago | (#7670177)

Where do you tell children that is (is there a real Ear Fjeld)??
http://www.korvatunturi.fi/ [korvatunturi.fi] . There's a map that shows where in Finland Korvatunturi is. And yes, that's what we tell children.

When's "Christmas Peace" over? Midnight 26/12?
On 1/13, but people don't make a big deal out of it. I had to look it up with Google...

One more thing... (1)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#7669990)

Is Santa Claus (the guy pretending to be Santa Claus, that is) a family member/friend or some random old fat guy with a beard?

Re:One more thing... (1)

wheany (460585) | more than 10 years ago | (#7670584)

It can be either a family member or a friend, but around the end of November you start seeing ads for "sober (yeah, right), motoring santas" that will visit your home at a given time to distribute the gifts (that have been hidden in some convinient place to be given to Santa).

Now that there aren't any kids that believe in santa in our family, we just put all the presents under the tree and at around 6 pm we gather around the tree to divide the loot. It's not nearly as fun...

Re:One more thing... (1)

TechnoLust (528463) | more than 10 years ago | (#7671874)

Why doesn't the real Santa visit Finland? ;-)

Re:One more thing... (1)

wheany (460585) | more than 10 years ago | (#7671992)

Because he lives there 364 days of the year.

Santa living on the North Pole is a lie spread by jealous foreigners.

Re:One more thing... (1)

TechnoLust (528463) | more than 10 years ago | (#7672087)

Santa living on the North Pole is a lie spread by jealous foreigners.
Especially considering that the north pole is water surrounded by land [nasa.gov] .

"We're having a picnic on the beach..." (1)

Pirogoeth (662083) | more than 10 years ago | (#7672196)

Heh. My kids brought up the same question. It wasn't until I had read the bios of the cast somewhere that I realized the show was from Oz. That made the beach party pretty easy to figure out.

My kids aren't quite ready for the concept of hemispheres and axis tilt and everything, so I just tell them that it's "warm where they live."

Re:"We're having a picnic on the beach..." (1)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 10 years ago | (#7672349)

My kids aren't quite ready for the concept of hemispheres and axis tilt and everything, so I just tell them that it's "warm where they live."

I spent a good solid 10 minutes explaining the concept of the globe and axis and seasons and everything to him.
His respone was "No. Get down, daddy" which is two-speak for "I want to go play, set me down" ;-)

Re:"We're having a picnic on the beach..." (1)

dmorin (25609) | more than 10 years ago | (#7678875)

"No. Get down, daddy" which is two-speak for "I want to go play, set me down" ;-)

On a completely off topic note, my wife and I found it confusing that when holding my 17month old daughter she would often yell "Up! Up! Up!" and we would say "You are up. You want down?"

Then it dawned on me -- when she is in her high chair and done with lunch, we will ask her "You want to get up now?" which really means "Out of the chair and down on the floor." Thus has she apparently associated "up" with "walking around on my own" or something. Which is doubly confusing beacuse when she *does* want to get picked up she will also yell "up!up!up!" So I wonder what the distinction is in her brain.

Christmas here in Australia. (1)

arb (452787) | more than 10 years ago | (#7675741)

It is summer here, so yea, we do have some different Christmas traditions. My family, however, has mostly stuck with the "traditional" Christmas tradition of having a big Christmas feast for lunch on Christmas Day. This usually consists of roast turkey, roast pork, ham, plenty of vegetables, followed by steaming hot Christmas Pudding with brandy custard. It can be quite a struggle to get through all this on a stinking hot summer's day, but it just has to be done. ;-)

It is quite common for people to go to the beach and have a BBQ for Christmas Day, and seafood and salads figure heavily on the Christmas menus.

Another of my family's traditions is (or I should say was - we have all scattered across the country so getting together is a bit hard) to gather at someone's house on Christmas Eve for a party, where we hand out the presents we have bought each other. Santa still leaves his presents for the children on Christmas Morning though.

However, we do try to make believe that we are like our northern hemisphere bretheren. Spray cans of "fake snow" are sold in stores so you can give your windows the traditional, snow-dusted look. We put up the same sort of Christmas trees and decorations, tinsel, etc. We watch all the (mostly American) Christmas specials and movies, featuring plenty of snow. This had me quite confused as a wee tacker, because we would sing songs about "Frosty The Snowman" while running around in shorts and bare feet. The only "White Christmas" we get is the white sands on the beach.

December 26th is Boxing Day. The main significance Boxing Day has to anyone here anymore is that it is the first day of a cricket test match. (This year Australia play India.) This is one of the major sporting events for sports-mad Aussies. Oh - Boxing Day's other major significance is that it is a public holidy - can't forget that! ;-)

Canadian here... (1)

Interrobang (245315) | more than 10 years ago | (#7677728)

I hear that in certain circles, tv, especially football, is the thing on Christmas, IIRC. This is never done at my parents' house, where the tv stays off all day.

We have a quaint custom in our family (don't quite know where it comes from -- an old Scottish tradition, perhaps?) where we are allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve just before turning in, and then the rest of the presents Christmas morning -- but only after breakfast. It also has to be light out before we can have breakfast, but I think that was our parents' rule to keep from having to do any 6AM Christmas stuff! These days, that's never a problem for me, since I usually sleep 'til 9AM or so anyway.

Apropos of very little, a while ago I found a very funny piece of Netritus which asks the quizzical question, "What would Christmas be like if it were a Jewish holiday?" So I give you Hilchos Xmas [geocities.com] , just for laughs. Enjoy!

New Zealand Christmas (1)

kiwipeso (467618) | more than 10 years ago | (#7706697)

In New Zealand, we have the traditional roast ham and crackers for xmas lunch for family and friends. We usually have a pine tree for xmas, (Pinus radiata grows really quick here) but there is the new zealand xmas tree, the pohutakawa which has red flowers.
It's the only day that TV is ad free, and then on boxing day there is an international cricket match at the capital's basin reserve cricket field. This year it's NZ vs Pakistan.
There is only annoying xmas songs on the radio, so we just go visit our friends and later enjoy the post xmas shopping discounts.
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