Have you ever been curious about the origins of some of our most cherished Christmas Traditions, like why we decorate trees or where advent calendars came from? Read on as we delve into the fascinating histories of some well-known and some lesser-known festive customs.
Global Christmas Traditions: A Festive Journey
Advent Calendars: A German Legacy
In Germany, windows adorned to resemble an Advent calendar are a common sight. The tradition of Advent, from the Latin 'adventus' meaning 'arrival', starts four Sundays before Christmas. German Protestants in the 19th century would count down to Christmas by erasing chalk lines drawn on their doors, one for each day of December. This evolved into paper Advent calendars in the early 20th century, thanks to Gerhard Lang who mass-produced them, inspired by a homemade calendar from his mother. These calendars only began to include chocolate in the late 1950s. Today, enormous Advent calendars can be seen on buildings across European towns, particularly in Hattingen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Bernkastel-Kues in the Moselle Valley, Germany, and Innsbruck, Austria.
Europe's Tradition of Decorating Fir Trees
European pagans originally brought fir trees indoors during the winter solstice, adorning them with candles and ornaments to symbolize celestial bodies on the Tree of Life. In Scandinavia, greenery was used to decorate homes and barns to fend off evil spirits, symbolizing eternal life and the anticipation of spring. The exact time when Christians began using fir trees to celebrate Christmas is unclear, but Tallinn, Estonia, and Riga, Latvia, both claim to have been the first to publicly display a Christmas tree.
Colombia's Night of Little Candles: Lighting Up the Festive Season
In Colombia, the Christmas Events season starts with the Noche de las Velitas (Night of Little Candles) on December 7th, honouring Mary and the Immaculate Conception. Streets and homes are illuminated with candles and lanterns, marking the beginning of the holidays. This tradition, once a modest family event, now involves public celebrations with music, fireworks, and Festive Activities. A similar tradition can be observed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk.
Celebrating Christmas in Ethiopia: A Unique Date and Tradition
In Ethiopia, Christmas, or Ganna, is celebrated on January 7th, according to the Julian calendar. Ethiopians dress in white traditional netelas, symbolizing the wise men from the East, some of whom are believed to have been Ethiopian. This celebration involves a majestic display, reminiscent of the kingly origins of the holiday.
Mexico's Poinsettias: A Symbol of Christmas
The poinsettia, native to Mexico and blooming in winter, is central to a Mexican Christmas legend about a girl's humble offering to Jesus transforming into bright red flowers. These flowers, resembling the Star of Bethlehem, are now integral to Christmas Decorations in Mexico and are known as Flores de Noche Buena.
Guatemala's Unique Ritual: The Burning of the Devil
Guatemala's unique Christmas tradition, La Quema del Diablo, takes place on December 7th. Originating in the 17th century, this ritual involves burning effigies of the devil to cleanse homes of evil. Modern celebrations include community bonfires, devil-themed disguises, and traditional foods.
Midnight Mass in Rome: A Time-Honored Tradition
The tradition of midnight mass is believed to have started with 4th-century pilgrims in Bethlehem. This was later institutionalized by Pope Sixtus III in the 5th century at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, becoming a worldwide Christian tradition.
Réveillon de Noël: A Québécois Celebration
In Québec, families celebrate Christmas on December 24th with a late-night feast called Réveillon de Noël, a tradition that includes attending midnight mass and opening gifts from Santa Claus. The feast typically includes tourtière, mashed potatoes, turkey, and bûche de Noël, continuing well into the morning.
Incorporating these global traditions into our holiday celebrations can enrich our understanding and enjoyment of the Winter Holiday season. Whether it's through Christmas Gifts, Holiday Recipes, or Holiday Travel, exploring different customs can add a new dimension to our festive experiences.
The myriad of Christmas traditions that span the globe offer a fascinating glimpse into how diverse cultures celebrate this cherished holiday. From the candle-lit streets of Colombia during Noche de las Velitas to the unique celebration of Ganna in Ethiopia, each custom enriches the tapestry of global Christmas celebrations. The humble origins of the poinsettia in Mexico and the historical significance of midnight mass in Rome remind us of the deep-rooted traditions that shape our modern festivities. Whether it's through exchanging Christmas Gifts, preparing Holiday Recipes, or engaging in Festive Activities, these customs not only add to the magic of the season but also foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world's cultural richness. As we embrace these diverse traditions, we are reminded of the universal joy and spirit of unity that the Winter Holiday season brings.
Test your General Knowledge! Visit: