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Christmas Traditions in Different Cultures

Tell me all about what you and your family/friends do to spead Christmas cheer! Or even the traditions. Or something that you and your friends do that not many people know about.

I'll start :P

I play Secret Santa or KK every year. So basically you draw a name out of a hat and you buy a present (under the limit of spending money) for them. The catch? They don't know that you're buying them a present and you don't know who is buying you a present :P

2 years ago

40 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7
Usagiboy7
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I know a lot of people with "chosen" families. They go and spend Christmas with them. This is often an assortment of people without blood relations but with close bonds.

This year I think I'm spending Christmas with someone who mentored me when I was much younger and some of their friends. But, I might decide to stay in my bunny warren. Holidays are loud, social, often hosted in less familiar places, and they make me nervous . (Of course, if I can spot a good bookshelf and nobody minds me having a sit and read then I don't mind so much. Especially when there is also yummy food stuffs. ^_^)

Edit: Oh! But there's a small chance I might go camping in Death Valley with a friend this year!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/QQJoy

Death Valley doesn't sound too safe... Bring Duo with you, he can use his language skills to scare off Death :P

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jolynnedougherty
jolynnedougherty
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Don't you just love looking at someone's book collection? I love knowing what people read and value enough to keep. Also, it is much more polite than snooping around their medicine cabinet at parties :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Carrie008
Carrie008
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Sat reading in corner sound amazing! That is what i am looking forward to most about the start of the holidays. :-)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/QQJoy

We eat dumplings, near the New Year though...

Sometimes people put a coin in one dumpling, and whoever gets it, gets good luck for the rest of the year.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/m.tastic
m.tastic
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Nice :) I love how the dumplings are colored.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PolyglotCiro
PolyglotCiro
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Very cool!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ERGCEspinoza7

A lingot is as close as I can get to give a coin. Happy New Year to you too!!!!!!!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pseudocreobotra

I live in Germany and I think my family is rather typical... But of course, others might have a slightly different experience ;)

In general, most people celebrate the whole Advent.

We make (or buy if you're busy) an Advent wreath, usually in late November. The simplest form is just a wreath covered in fir sprigs and decorated with four big candles but my family always adds some conifers, box tree and often even rose hips to make it more interesting. Because we use so many different plants, we usually keep the decorations low-key - a few cinnamon sticks, small, decorative cones, star anise and maybe a small ribbon that matches the colour of the candles. Others like it more sparkly and use huge ribbons (the wreath of a family friends looks like it was inspired by Frozen - everything's icy blue and teal and sparkles and there are even huge sparkly ice crystals...)

Every week on Sunday, a new candle is lit until, in the week before Christmas, all candles are lit.

We also have Advent calendars, especially the children. Starting on the 1st December until the 24th, they get a small present every day. A piece of chocolate is common but it may also be another small thing like a pen or a new hair band. Usually, the presents for the 6th and the 24th December are a bit bigger.

The 6th December is St. Nicholas Day. On the evening before, children polish their shoes (preferably boots) and put them next to the door so that St Nicholas can fill them with sweets and other little gifts.

As many others suggested, the major Christmas celebrations take place on Christmas Eve. In my family, we'll decorate the tree that we bought a week or so in advance (my mom insists on spruce because Caucasian fir doesn't smell... so we can't buy it earlier unless we want to have a tree without needles on Christmas) in the morning. Usually, we stick to one or two colours and add in stuff like straw stars or wooden ornaments... We usually keep it simple.

The last presents are wrapped and placed in the living room (out of reach of the dog!). Then, in the afternoon my mom and my sister will head to church while my dad and I (being the non-religious family members) prepare the meal. The service never ends on time (that's part of the tradition I guess) and my mom and sister will talk with their friends forever... So we'll wait for them until they return after two and a half hours or so.

Then, we all sit down, have a nice meal (usually raclette because it makes it easy to cater to different tastes), drink some wine, chat... When we're done, we'll head to the living room. My mom will insist on playing some Christmas carols (since we all refuse to sing them anyway) and maybe even light some sparklers... And then we take turns to open our presents. When my sister and I were younger, we used to tear apart the wrapping as fast as possible but by now, we became a lot calmer and actually try to stretch this part of the evening as long as possible by taking turns, unwrapping carefully, thanking each other etc.

The wrapping paper then goes to our dog who happily takes care of the "shredding it into tiny pieces" part while we all sit together and chat, drink some more wine maybe and have a good time =)

The 1st and 2nd Christmay Days (25th and 26th) are mostly reserved for family visits... My aunt comes over, we also have a nice meal, exchange some small presents etc... But the real Christmas is 24th only to me!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lorel90
Lorel90
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Christmas in Germany are the best, so many wonderful traditions.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pseudocreobotra

Thanks =)

I don't have much comparison but I definitely like it, especially how relaxed it is... Well, unless you postponed buying presents until the 24th and have to do it in a hurry. Even though the 24th is the most celebrated day, it's no holiday and there are tons of stressed-out last-minute shoppers... Probably our closest approximation to Black Friday shopping in the US minus the injuries.

There are so many 'can's but few 'must's. My mom likes to meet with her religious friends on each Sunday in Advent to sing Christmas carols... For me, it's the time to bake tons of traditional Christmas cookies (Vanillekipferl, Zimtsterne, Kokosmakronen, Schwarz-Weiß-Gebäck, ...) while my sister likes roaming the abundance of Christmas markets and drinking Glühwein with her friends...!

It's a time to unwind and cherish the people important to you but there are so many different ways to do it =)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lorel90
Lorel90
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Nice. Bitte, share one of your cookie recipes. Merry Christmas

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pseudocreobotra

I just found the recipes online when I first decided they would be so much better than bought cookies, decided they were even more delicious than anticipated and re-used them every year since then... I think you don't mind the untranslated German recipes, right?

http://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/570771155723405/Omas-Zimtsterne.html, http://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/29321007560010/Vanillekipferl.html and http://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/487021142848767/Sandiges-Schwarz-Weiss-Gebaeck.html

I already made a batch of "Zimtsterne" this year but they're already gone. Luckily, they are quite simple (just the icing is a mess) but their taste is amazing! No comparison to the dark, super sticky, overly sweet ones you can buy everywhere... They are light and very nutty with a lovely cinnamon note and a hint of fresh citrus. Sticky on the inside but a slight crisp on the outside - my family's favourite so far ;)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lorel90
Lorel90
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Danke I will try them. Have a wonderful Christmas.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pseudocreobotra

Oh... And Secret Santas (called "Wichteln" - lit. gnome-ing, as Santa's helpers are little, friendly gnomes here and you "play" one of them) are also pretty popular but mostly done at school or work, not so much within the family. I've also seen a particularly large number of Secret Santas (often combined with an Advent calendar) in online communities!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Livvvy75
Livvvy75
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On Christmas eve we do most of the preparations for food the next day and spend the rest of the time swimming in the pool (haha cause our Aussie Christmases are hot). Then in the evening we settle down and have a nice dinner and watch the televised Christmas carols. Then on Christmas morning we wake up and open presents, have breakfast and finish preparations for Christmas dinner. Then everyone comes over for lunch and we have so much food (like nibbles, then seafood, then dinner, then dessert, then tea, then supper) and after that swim in the pool, play outdoor games like 'Finska' and maybe go to the beach :) I love our Christmases but half of my family is British and can't get used to a warm Christmas ;) This is such a great topic idea, so interesting to read about what everyone does!!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/m.tastic
m.tastic
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I'd love a warm Christmas.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Livvvy75
Livvvy75
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Haha I'd like to try a COLD Christmas!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ddesgagne
Ddesgagne
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Christmases here in Canada are famously cold, and it looks like this year's is going to be particularly so. How does negative 20 to negative 25 degrees Celsius sound to you? ;)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/A_User
A_User
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That's a bit too cold for me. :-) I think I'll stay here in England, thank you. :-)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PolyglotCiro
PolyglotCiro
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For you what is a WARM christmas?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sibhreach

I've had both - the hot in the Philippines and the cold in the Midwestern United States and I would totally choose the hot! :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PolyglotCiro
PolyglotCiro
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For you what is a COLD christmas?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/tinnatay
tinnatay
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In Slovakia the most important day is not Christmas Day, but Christmas Eve.

Many families decorate the tree on that day or the day before. In our family we have a tradition of helping my grandmother with decorating her tree in the morning, so all her grand-children always meet there.

In the evening we have dinner together. It's a tradition to put a carp scale (what's the proper English term?) under each plate, which is supposed to bring luck. First, we eat a kind of thin waffle ( it's called 'oblátka') with garlic and/or honey. The soup, 'kapustnica', is made from sauerkraut, sausages and musgrooms. Then we have the main dish, which is fish and potato salad (although many people don't like the salad, so they just have potatoes instead).

After the dinner, it's the most important part of the evening: presents! The person who brings them is Ježiško, literally 'little Jesus'. Children will find them under the tree.

On the next two days people visit their families all over the country. The 26th December is called Stephen's Day. The traditional dinner (eaten at midday) is duck with potato salad. Usually the whole family (parents, grandparents, brothers, uncles etc) eats together. This tradition isn't followed by everyone in Slovakia, though.

And then, it's time to wait for New Year.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/kim92ander
kim92ander
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I will tell you about how Christmas Eve goes in Denmark!

Besides the long hours of food preparation, we watch a national Christmas TV-Show, that is sent from December 1 - December 24 in 24 episodes. And of course the 24th is the most exciting one, where Santa Claus and all the revealations about the 'teasing' elfs become good. These shows are primarily goaled for children, but there are several shows meaning some of them are also ADULTS ONLY (tough sense of humour, sarcasm, political incorrect etc) :D

It is also a national tradition to watch the Walt Disney Christmas Show at 4 pm.

The dinner consists of typical danish food which is mostly caramelized potatoes, red cabbage and pork skin. We have a MANDATORY dessert game: everyone is served a plate of 'rice'n'almond', which is a sweet meal full of whipped cream. Now, the almonds in the dish are all completely mashed, but there is only ONE full-size almond on one of the plates. From this point, everyone has to finish their plate until we find out the person who got the full-sized almond who wins a present!

After dinner we dance around the Christmas tree and run around the house, while we sing Christmas carols (before opening presents late at night).

25th and 26th we do Christmas lunch leading to heavy drinking of 'Snaps' and eating 10 different types of fish.

Glædelig jul!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/m.tastic
m.tastic
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Our Christmas is pretty standard. But New Years is fun. Once the clock strikes twelve, we eat twelve grapes for good luck, one for each month.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ddesgagne
Ddesgagne
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Generally Christmases for me are commendably low-key: staying at home, opening presents on Christmas morning, brunch, spending the remainder of the day hanging out, and then of course my mom's Christmas dinner. Often I'll play my violin as well, and my family will sing Christmas carols.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CodyORB
CodyORB
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My family visits my grandparents for Christmas. Also we are going to Mammoth lakes for New years Eve :D

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WanderingMonk
WanderingMonk
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We all go to grandmother's house on Christmas eve and eat a big meal then we go to the living room and open presents. We all draw names in August so we just buy one present each, there are about 25 of us, it's all great fun, especially when the kids start opening theirs. We usually get the children to go to the tree and get the presents and then they hand them out and we open them one at a time. After that one of my uncles will go around and give everyone a chocolate santa.

It's kind of odd but one of my favorite parts is late at night when it is all over with and the family members with kids have left 5 or 6 of us will stay behind and wash all the dishes and put things away. I really like that for some reason.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/QQJoy

YES obviously grandma cooks the best meals during any holiday :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/WanderingMonk
WanderingMonk
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Absolutely!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/painai2
painai2
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Here in Thailand, Christmas is not a holiday. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are the big days.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sibhreach

Maligayang ng Pasko! ("Merry Christmas" in Tagalog/Filipino) :)

No real traditions in my household, but the one thing I miss about my childhood is having a Filipino "Christmas Star" or Paról. They are star-shaped lanterns and can be as simple or elaborate as anything.

I haven't lived there in a very long time, but if I could get a star shipped here (if I could afford it), I'd find a place to hang it outside our home. I love them! One day, I'm getting one and it's going to happen. :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Oldie2015
Oldie2015
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In the Philippines, the most important Christmas tradition is attendance of the nine Misas de Aguinaldo or Misas de Gallo which are celebrated daily at 4am or 5am starting on the 16th of December. Then the Christmas vigil mass which starts at 9pm on the 24th. This is followed by the Noche Buena, where all kinds of diet, portion control or pretensions to healthy eating are largely forsaken :)

When I was much younger, there was only one Misa de Gallo daily. Now, with the higher population count, there are there masses: anticipated mass starting at 8pm the night before, and then one 4am mass followed by a 5:30am mass.

Our family tradition in the province is that on Christmas morning, candies or coins are given to all children who knock on the door and wishes everyone a "Maayong Pasko" or "Malipayong Pasko" (Good Christmas or Happy Christmas).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sibhreach

What dialect is that? I only know a little bit of Tagalog.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Oldie2015
Oldie2015
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Bisaya or Cebuano, spoken in parts of central and southern Philippines

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sibhreach

Aha! My mum is from Leyte! Bisaya is her 1st language, but I only know kaon (and I don't even know if I spelt that right...???) LOL Salamat!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Oldie2015
Oldie2015
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Probably the only word you really needed? LOL And, yes, you spelled it right. Hinaot maayo ang imong adaw. (Hope you have a nice day)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aaditsingh8
aaditsingh8
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Christmas n India is not so special, although, one can find Christmas decorations at random places, like malls, etc.

And, the [only] advantage of Christmas in India is actually...

...and one get's the idea ;)

<h1>Merry Christmas everyone!</h1>
2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/UneJamKuqEZi

My family is Albanian, and Muslim, so we don't celebrate Christmas, but we celebrate New Year's Eve just like everyone else.

2 years ago