All over the world, Christmas is full of incredible traditions and delicious recipes prepared for the festive occasion.
The season’s festivities are as varied as the cultures themselves, from the cagatió in Catalonia, Spain to the barbecue in Australia.
Christmas in Italy: The original cradle in Naples
Christmas in Italy is truly a magical time. The end-of-year festivities fill the country’s streets and homes with Christmas trees and many nativity scenes.
The cot was invented in Italy in the Middle Ages, in the city of Naples, which is why it is called “Presepe Napoletano.”
Italy also has its own gastronomy: each region has its Christmas specialties and each family has its traditions. Two desserts are especially popular on Italian tables at this time of year: Panettone, from Milan, and Pandoro, from Verona.
In this European country, children do not only believe in Santa Claus, but also in the Befana. This older woman, who looks like a witch flying on a broom, visits children during the night of January 5-6.
She hands out candy to those who have behaved well and coal to the most unruly ones in a special sock!
The cagatió in Catalonia, Spain
Catalonia, one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities, has its own Christmas traditions.
Have you ever heard of the cagatió? Every year, Catalan families “feed” this wooden log for the whole month of December until Christmas Day, when it’s time to bring out the presents.
Covered with a blanket, the children hit the log with a piece of wood while singing a traditional song. Once finished, the children remove the blanket to discover the many gifts that the trunk has unwrapped.
When you see a nativity scene in Catalonia, pay close attention: you’re sure to see a strange figure – called the caganer! The name of this character, in a sitting position on the toilet, literally means “the crotch”. They are sold at all Christmas markets in the region.
As for gastronomy, Catalonia also has its typical Christmas dishes such as escudella, a tasty soup served as a starter, followed by meat cooked in the same broth.
The barbecue: A Christmas tradition in Australia
Have you ever wondered what Christmas is like in Australia? Coinciding with the beginning of summer, Christmas in Australia is synonymous with sunshine, barbecues and long days at the beach.
In fact, many Australian families enjoy a cold Christmas dinner or a seafood barbecue on the 25th. As expected, the fish markets are usually packed on Christmas Day.
The following day, known as Boxing Day, Australians gather with friends to enjoy another delicious barbecue on the beach.
Fun fact: Christmas song lyrics are often changed to replace words that are related to snow and winter with typical Australian expressions.
The Nisse in Norway
Have you ever heard of The Nisse? This mythological creature from Scandinavian folklore is like a gnome. According to legend, he protects houses and the families who live in them.
To thank him, Norwegians leave a bowl of oats under the tree on Christmas Eve. Legend has it that if he doesn’t eat his porridge, the Nisse turns into a little monster that will break things in the house.
Another very special tradition in Norway is Lille Julaften (Little Christmas Eve), which is celebrated on December 23.
On this occasion, Norwegians stay home with their families to make a gingerbread house to eat after the holidays.
December 24 is the main gathering day in Norway. The meal usually consists of pork chops called ribbe or cod, lamb chops or roast pork, all served with juleøl, the Christmas beer.
Advent wreath in Germany
December 6 is the second most important day of the Christmas season in Germany, after December 24.
The night before, children leave their shoes at the front door and, during the night, St. Nicholas (or Nikolaus in German) fills them with candy, fruit and small gifts.
Another Christmas tradition in Germany is the Advent wreath, which consists of four candles and can be found in almost every home. Every Sunday in Advent, a new candle is lit until Christmas Day.
As for the Christmas tree, it only arrives in homes from December 24 onwards!
Christmas in Japan
In Japan, Christmas is seen as an opportunity to get together, exchange gifts and eat a piece of delicious kurisumasu keki (Christmas cake), or enjoy grilled chicken at a fast food restaurant.
Japanese culture is characterized by an almost perfect balance between innovation and tradition. At Christmas, this is reflected in the way gifts are wrapped.
The Japanese often use furoshiki, a traditional wrapping paper that comes in many colors and patterns…. making it beautiful and environmentally friendly.
By Andreina Ibarra.
Read also: Fun Facts about Christmas in Latin America