With Christmas only a week away, let’s take this time to learn about Christmas traditions from all around the globe!
1. The real St. Nicholas was a bishop in the small Turkish town, Myra, in the early 4th century. The Dutch were the first to make St. Nicholas into a Christmas gift giver as well as introduced him to America where his name eventually became Santa Claus.
2. Before its use to attract smooches during the Christmas season, mistletoe was known to have magical powers, such as the ability to heal wounds and increase fertility, by Celtic people. Celts hung mistletoe in their homes to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits.
3. The traditional American Christmas flower, the poinsettia, is originally from Mexico and known as the “Flower of the Holy Night.” The plant was brought to The States by Joel Poinsett in 1829.
4. The Christmas hymn ‘Silent Night’ was written in 1818 by Austrian priest, Joseph Mohr. Days before Christmas, Mohr received news that the church organs were broken and would not be ready for the holiday festivities. He couldn’t think of Christmas without music, so Mohr wrote ‘Stille Nacht’ to be sung with guitar music – no organs necessary. Later that night on Christmas Eve, people sang Silent Night for the first time.
5. In southern France, people burn a log of wood in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. This stems from an ancient tradition where farmers would use a portion of the log to guarantee a plentiful harvest the following year.
6. Minced pie is a staple for the Irish Christmas. The fruit and spices used for minced pie symbolize the gifts offered to the Baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men. People eat minced pie to prove their Christianity.
7. In the Netherlands, Christmas revolves around the arrival of St. Nicholas, who is believed to come on horseback bearing gifts. Before going to sleep, children leave their shoes outside their room in hopes to find them filled with sweets the following morning.
8. It’s the British Christmas tradition to make a wish whilst mixing the Christmas pudding. However, the wish will only come true if the ingredients are stirred clockwise.
9. In Italy, La Befana, a kindly witch, rides on a broomstick down the chimney to stuff children’s stockings. Legend has it that Befana declined the three Wise Men’s offer to visit the Baby Jesus. Later, she changed her mind, but it was too late. To this day, Befana goes out on Christmas Eve searching for the Holy Child, leaving gifts for Him in each household.
10. Ukrainian Christmas Eve suppers consist of 12 courses – each course dedicated to one of Christ’s apostles.
11. In Dutch towns, young men used to carry large silver stars through the snowy streets, collecting palms from pedestrians for the sick and old.
12. In Syria, Christmas gifts are distributed by one of the Wise Men’s camels.
Please share other international Christmas traditions. Happy Holidays!