• Jonathan Zhou

Christmas traditions across cultures

Many different countries have different ways of celebrating the holiday/Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/etc.season; some traditions combine nonreligious winter festivals with religious trappings. While Christmas was originally a religious holiday, it has now become a national and even global holiday for appreciating friends and family.

In Norway, Christmas is mostly celebrated on Christmas Eve, while Christmas day is significantly quieter. On Christmas Eve, brooms and other cleaning instruments are hidden away, and men fire their guns due to a belief that witches and evil spirits emerge on Christmas Eve. Instead of believing in Santa, they believe in julenisse, which can be considered mini-santas; they are short gift bearers that wear red hats.

Christmas in Australia occurs in summer, so Australians naturally celebrate differently. The most popular event in Australia is known as Carols in Candlelight, where people come together at night to light candles and sing Christmas carols.

Another interesting Christmas tradition is found in Ukraine, which involves using fake spider webs to cover trees. In a Ukrainian legend, a poor widow was too poor to decorate their Christmas tree, earning the pity of some neighbors. At night, when everyone was asleep, the neighbors decorated the tree with silver and gold. After that, the poor family became rich, and decorating trees with fake spider webs began to represent wealth and prosperity.

In Germany, there is a Christmas legend known as Belsnickel. It is a pre-Christian tradition that was eventually incorporated into Christmas. Belsnickel is similar to a furry Santa, and gives out gifts to good children, even carrying a sack of candy and nuts. When he enters a house, he first taps on the windows before bursting through the doors. The naughty children are swatted, while the good children are rewarded with treats in his bag.

In Central Europe, many people dress as Krampus, a being with claws, horns, and a long tongue. According to legend, Krampus hauls off naughty children and uses them as food. People tend to dress up as him on December 6, which is also called Krampus night. Jeremy Seghers, the organizer of the first Krampus night in Orlando, Florida told the Smithsonian Magazine, “It taps into a subconscious macabre desire that a lot of people have that is the opposite of the saccharine Christmas a lot of us grew up with.”

Another tradition closely related to Christmas is Boxing Day, which is a British holiday, celebrated by England and other countries that were once part of the British Empire. This holiday was traditionally a holiday for servants, where they would receive a gift from their masters and return home to their families.


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