Christmas is one of the most favoured holidays that brings joy and happiness to millions of people around the world. This is a celebration with double meaning – the birth of Jesus Christ, and the joy of offering and receiving gifts. Christmas is celebrated by numerous peoples around the world. In every part the celebration is influenced by local customs and traditions. Thus in some countries Christmas has religious connotation, while in others it is only a symbolic holiday.
In Sweden, for instance, on Christmas morning the family have breakfast by candlelight, thus trying to feel the warmth and atmosphere of the holiday. Another Christmas tradition that started in 1966 is the Gävle Goat. It is a 13m tall yule goat made of straw, installed in the Slottstorget (Castle Square) to celebrate Christmas. On New Year’s Eve, the goat is burnt. Yule goats are considered brave keepers of the Christmas tree and remind of the place where Christ was born.
In Italy, Santa Claus actually isn’t the symbol of Christmas. On Epiphany Eve, children expect Befana – an old woman who flies on a broom and delivers gifts, leaving them in the „jar of destiny”. Just like in Sweden, a straw Befania figure is installed in the Italian cities, and at the end of the winter holidays the figure is burnt.
In Iceland, they have not one Santa Claus, nor two or three – there are thirteen! Starting on December 11, they come down from the hills, one by one, bringing gifts to all the children. So those who were nice get sweets, tangerines and lottery tickets but those who were naughty get a putrid potato.
In USA, on Christmas Eve children prepare a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa. It is said that during the year, Santa Claus makes a list of naughty and nice kids, then he delivers them gifts according to their behaviour. Nice kids receive gifts made by the North Pole elves, and the nasty ones don’t get anything.
În Japan, although the Christians community accounts for only 1% of the country’s population, Christmas is also celebrated. Thus, they usually install bright decorations of impressive sizes in cities and eat large quantities of fried chicken. A fast-food giant has even created a special Christmas menu for the Japanese.
In Hungary, on Christmas Eve, children go to visit their relatives, and while they are absent from home, it’s supposed that Jesus Christ brings in each house a fir tree decorated with sweets, candles and globes. On Christmas Day, after breakfast, children are allowed to eat candies from the fir tree.
Mexico is one of the countries where the authentic meaning of Christmas has been preserved. Here they call it „Las Posadas”, representing nine days of celebration in which the townspeople are divided into two groups. People from one group go on the streets with candles in hands, dressed as in Joseph and Mary, and looking for posada, meaning a place to be hosted. Those from the other group actually provide hosting.
In France, in some parts of the country, Yule Logs are often burned to symbolize plenty in the afteryears. Winter holidays are also related with light shows, which are carried out in major cities. One of the most spectacular places during Christmas holidays is Lyon, where around 70 light shows take place.
In UK, a mistletoe is present in every house on Christmas, because the English believe it has magical powers that wade off evil spirits and bring good luck. This tradition is also related to the mistletoe kiss. It is said that couples kissing under the mistletoe will have a lasting relationship because the mistletoe was also considered a treatment for infertility. Here Santa Claus delivers presents in a special sack that children hang to the edge of the bed on Christmas Night. „Boxing Day” is another tradition on the day after Christmas, which requires you to give small presents to postmen, newspaper vendors, and other people who have provided you some services over the years.
In the Republic of Moldova, Christmas traditions are piously respected. One of the most important Christmas customs is caroling. Initially, bands of carolers were formed only by lads. Over time, girls gradually became part of such bands. As for the present time, it’s mostly children who sing carols. This custom proclaims the birth of Jesus Christ. Carolers are offered gifts by the hosts as a symbol of plenty. Another tradition is related to baking – a pastry specialty called Crăciunel is baked for Christmas. The Craciunel has the form of a broken eight, or infinity. It will be hung on a wall, under the icon, and will be kept there until the householder starts ploughing.
One of the most recent traditions for the winter holidays in the Republic of Moldova is Maratonul de Crăciun. It is a costume family race organized on a charitable purpose.
Every year, hundreds of people participate in the 3-kilometer race, collecting as many gifts as possible on the route. This year Naturalis Maratonul de Crăciun will take place on December 17.
Participation is limited to one thousand people, so we are inviting you to wait no longer and register as soon as possible to take part in this new tradition.
Please find the registration form HERE.