Christmas has recently been accompanied by great urban stress. Choosing the right gifts to fill the shops, planning your trips and preparing for the festive evenings can sometimes be a big question. But Christmas and Christmas Eve are primarily family holidayswho suggest that we stay in a close family circle, a quiet and pleasant atmosphere that will prepare the spirit for welcoming The birth of Christ and the miracle that comes on the night before Christmas.

As an international holiday, Christmas has gathered a whole kaleidoscope of traditions passed down through the years and centuries, and each nation has added something of itself to make the holiday its own. Let's find out how the countries of Europe and Scandinavia celebrate, and what songs sound during their holidays.



Christmas begins on December 8 in Spain, p The Feast of Immaculate Conception. One of the interesting traditions performed on this day is the beating of Christmas tree (Tió de Nadal or Caga Tió) - kind of like our surfboard. The den is festive, has eyes, a mouth, a nose and Christmas clothes. He is an old hero of Catalan mythology, later entering the Christmas tradition of Catalonia and some regions of Aragon, where he is also called Tizón de Nadal or Toza. Usually its length is about 30 cm and stands on two or four feet (sticks). The face is drawn with a smile, and a red sock is placed on the head - the color of a traditional Spanish beret. Tradition commands children from 8 December to Christmas to take good care of him, feed him and wrap him with a blanket so that he is not cold. On December 25, he burns himself in the fireplace, if there is one, and sings Christmas songs related to it.

According to tradition, before children to Terv, they must leave the room and ask him to bring them the gifts they want. This is also a great opportunity for parents to place purchased gifts and make the miracle possible. Usually The Christmas tree "carries" candy and nuts. Depending on the region, it can also leave dried fruit, and its gift is considered to be shared by all.



Daddy Christmas or Pai Natal is the person who leaves presents under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve or in the socks hung on the fireplace. Some people think the gifts are from the new born Jesus, not from Father Christmas, but anyway, they are compulsory in Portugal, as it is in our country. Traditionally, the Portuguese have a Consoada dinner, which includes fish with green vegetables and cooked potatoes, followed by mussels and wild meats. After dinner the family goes to church for "Missa do Galo" - "Rooster Meat" to celebrate the holiday.

The tradition of the midnight meat was first recorded by Egeria, a Galician who came to worship in the Holy Land around 381 - 384. She witnessed how early Catholics worship the Christmas mystery in Bethlehem. A candlelight procession followed to Jerusalem, arriving at the Resurrection Church at dawn. Half a century later, Pope Sixtus III established the practice of midnight meat at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. In 1587, the chief monk, from the San Agustin Acolman Monastery in San Diego de Soria, petitioned the pope to allow the meat to be held outdoors because the church was unable to welcome the large number of people attending the evening celebration. This tradition is still observed today in Hispanic-speaking Catholic countries in Latin America and the Philippines.

In Portugal, it breaks during the service the image of baby Jesus and everyone goes to kiss him. After the service, people go home and open presents. Birth picture is a traditional Christmas decoration and most families have it smaller or larger. At the dinner, Porto wine is drunk and traditional Portuguese biscuits and sweets are served for dessert. The Christmas table does not rise like in Bulgaria. Traditional Christmas sounds, "O, que quer dizer Natal".



In Poland, families also reunite with Christmas Eve they call Wigilia. An interesting fact is that they start to feed once the first star rises in the sky. The dishes at the table are 12, with carp or other fish required. Theirs a special ritual bread is called "Oplatek" and symbolizes forgiveness. Then the elderly give out gifts, and the eager children can receive theirs already at St. Nicholas - December 6. The Christmas mood is reinforced by fun holiday songs like "Gdy Sie, Chrystus Rodzi" - "When Jesus Was Born."



Christmas festivities in Germany also start early - on 6 December, again with St. Nicolaus. Children leave shoes at the door where they are Daddy Christmas or Nicolaus, as they call it, will leave them presents if they are good throughout the year. But if they were disobedient, his servant - Knecht Ruprecht will leave them only twigs.

As with us, Christmas Eve fasting meals, the meat is left for the next day. Throughout the month, the Christmas mood is felt everywhere. People traditionally visit some of the thousands of Christmas markets in almost every German city and gather for a glass of Glühwein - warm red wine with brandy, cinnamon, lemon, orange, sugar and vanilla. Christmas bazaars offer typically German foods, such as wursts (the famous bratwurst), a variety of treats, and a multitude of handmade items. The atmosphere is more than festive, the lights create an incredible Christmas spirit, backed by Christmas carols from every corner. At these bazaars, a huge diner that can feed 3 people costs only a half and a half, and the mulled wine is offered in a beautifully painted glass for only 2 euros, which in a regular shop would cost 8 euros. The cup remains as a gift and a wonderful memory to remind of an incredible holiday evening and meeting friends. In general, the Germans know how to rejoice, and that is precisely their purpose in organizing these bazaars - not profit, but warming of every soul and body.



Austria shares a lot of German traditions, but there are some of their own, which also deserve attention. During Advent, which in Latin means "coming," is the period of four weeks before Christmas in which people await the birth of Jesus. The families hang a wreath of evergreen twigs decorated with ribbons and four candles. In each of the four weeks a candle is lit during Advent and Christmas carols are sung. Austria is also filled with Christmas bazaars, perhaps even more picturesque than the German ones, where traditional ginger bread - Glühwein and a huge amount of Christmas decoration are offered. Fairs are visited by people from all over the world every year.

Every city in Austria has a Christmas tree in the center. Christmas traditionally begins at 4 hours after noon Christmas Eve (Heilige Abend)when the lights of the tree first light up and people sing Christmas carols around it. The most famous of these is Stille nacht, Heilige nacht (Silent Night, Holy Night), which has been translated into over 50 languages ​​worldwide. Her native country is Austria, and in particular Oberdorf, where composer Franz Gruber and writer Joseph More, wrote it, in the distant 1818. In 2011, UNESCO declared the song part of the intangible cultural heritage of Austria.

The national radio station Ö3 necessarily includes an incredible selection of Christmas songs in its program, which are played continuously from 4 hours after noon on Christmas Eve and many people use the station as a soundtrack for their festive evening. Traditionally, the tree is decorated with many candles (today electric) and some put on sweet, candy. Children believe that Christkind (baby Jesus) decorates the tree and carries the gifts. Christkind is often depicted as an angel with golden hair, wings and a halo. Apart from him, they also receive gifts from St. Nicolaus on December 6.

The traditional Christmas Eve menu includes roast carpsince the day is considered a fast by the Catholic Church. The famous Sacher Cake, as well as Christmas cookies with ginger and vanilla, as well as Vanillekipferl - almond-shaped horseshoe cookies are served for dessert.



It exists in Italian folklore the La Befana old lady who comes to Epiphany (January 6) and fill the socks of the children with sweets and goodies if they were obedient, and with charcoal if not - like St. Nicholas and Santa. Families usually leave a glass of wine and some food for Befana. Most often the old woman is depicted with a black robe and all in soot, riding a broom like Baba Yaga, enter through the chimney. For some, it is ugly and old as it symbolizes the old year.

For the Italians The birth scene is essential. In 1223, the year after St. Francis of Assisi saw where Jesus was born in Bethlehem; the plot of birth was popularly played through a baby cot. Naples is known for its cribs (Presepe Napoletano), and the first stage illustration of the birth scene (before Francis made it popular) was made in 1025 in the church of St. Our Lady. " In the 16 century, it is now a mandatory tradition to put a baby cot in the home of 8 December, and baby Jesus is placed in it on the night of 24 December. This is still happening today in some homes.
Another old Italian custom is for kids to go out singing Christmas songs in holiday outfits. The Italian Panettone cake is very famous - a sort of raisin with raisins served with a glass of hot chocolate.



They are very popular in France souvenirs depicting the scene with the birth of Jesus, and are sold in every city. Other similar figures that often adorn the shelves are the butcher, the baker, the policeman and the priest. One of the largest Christmas markets is Christkindlesmarkt in Strasbourg. It is a real event for connoisseurs. Also popular are Christmas tree trunks made from cherry woodwhich are sprayed with red wine on Christmas Eve to smell nice when burned. It is a custom that the stall and candles are left to burn all night, accompanied by a little food and drink if Mary and baby Jesus visit the house.

The French believe in Père Noël - Santa or St. Nicholas. The traditional table of Christmas Eve is called Réveillon, which means "awakening"as the custom tells him not to fall asleep before midnight. Usually the dream comes after people have returned from the midnight church service. Dishes include roast turkey with chestnuts or roast goose, lobster, oysters and various types of cheese. For dessert, a chocolate truffle cake - bûche de Noël is eaten. In some parts of France, 13 is traditionally served with various types of desserts made from fruits, nuts or pastas. Like the Italians, the French also celebrate the Epiphany on January 6 by offering a special almond cake, named Galette des Rois. Often a small crown is inserted into it.



Norway is probably the country with the most interesting traditions, dating back to its rich mythology. Two creatures are the main characters of Christmas - the goat Julebukk, which literally means a Christmas goat with magical powers. This is actually a pre-Christian pagan ritual. The tradition is said to come from Norway when the Gentiles worship Thor, who was traveling with his chariot drawn by two goats. Between Christmas and New Year, children go skin-skinned and go from house to house, wearing a goat's head, singing Christmas songsand the farmers give them goodies. According to another tradition, one of the families visited should join the group and continue to the next houses. This ritual is reminiscent of Halloween and one more thing: the goal is to cast out evil forces. The most popular song played during the ritual is Musevisa or Mouse Song - part of Norwegian folklore.

The other famous creature is Jul Nisse, who keeps the cattle and does tricks for the kids if they don't leave him with his favorite mess. Failure to do so will also deprive them of gifts that usually open after Christmas Eve. A between Christmas and New Year families light a candle every night. Light is present in all folk traditions!

It is a very interesting fact that Norway every year donates a Christmas tree to England, which is traditionally placed in Trafalgar Square, as a thank you for the help given during World War II. Another an interesting fact is that no Christmas is celebrated in Norway until 1000 - 1100 yearwhen Christians first came to the area. Previously, the Norwegians celebrated July or jòl in the middle of winter - a harvest holiday and hope for a new spring. In honor of the old pagan Scandinavian gods, various beers are prepared and drunk.



Sweden is celebrated St. Lucia on 13 December. It is not very clear where the tradition comes from, but history tells us that St. Lucia is a young Christian girl killed in the 304 for her beliefs. It was thought that St. Lucia will secretly bring food to persecuted Christians in Rome, hiding in the city's catacombs. She will carry candles on her head to illuminate her path so her hands can be free for food. Lucia means light. The Swedes celebrate the holiday with processions, with a girl in white dress, red waistband and a crown of candles on her head. The crown is made of evergreen branches of cranberry, symbolizing life in winter. Christmas carols are sung at the procession.

On 13 December is also the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year, in the old Julian calendar. One of the pagan festivals of light turns into St. Lucia.
On Christmas Eve the kids leave a mess for Tom (their Santa)to give them presents.



In Finland, Christmas Eve is the big holidaywhile Christmas is quieter and is celebrated in a relaxed home atmosphere with the family. A special ceremony is held in Turku, which people watch on television or listen to on the radio. Then begins the Christmas peace period, which lasts 20 days from noon on Christmas Eve. Traditionally the menu includes rice porridge and fruit juice on Christmas Eve. Almonds are hidden in the porridge and anyone who finds them will be very lucky.



Christmas trees are gaining popularity in the UK Thanks to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband. As a predictable German, he decided it would be a good way to celebrate Christmas on the island. Oxford Street in London is now known as the Street with the Most Beautiful Christmas Lights, each year they get bigger and more magical.

И here the kids believe in Santa, which leaves gifts in socks and pillows that usually hang on the fireplace or beds. Often they leave pancakes and brandy to feed when they visit. Today it is believed that the drink must be non-alcoholic because Santa must drive. The children write letters of wishes, but they do not mail, but throw in the fireplace, and Santa reads in the smoke.

It rarely rains in the UK, but people want to know if there will be a White Christmas or not. That's why the UK Meteorological Service announces if there is even one snowflake in the sky for 24 hours. Statistics show that officially White Christmas is every 4-5 years, and the actual snow once every 10 years.


To conclude, I suggest the story of the world's first Christmas card. Sir Henry Cole asks John Horsley to draw winter landscape and put the inscription "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year". Henry Kohl printed and distributed around 1000 copies worth shilling - a lot of money at the time.

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