Traditions from the world: the five most particular Christmas celebrations
Christmas in Sweden
Christmas in Sweden is a party deeply felt and loved by all the people. How can you describe the atmosphere of Swedish Christmas? Everything is characterized by the white snow, the sparkling air and the lights that shine, making the landscapes “magical”. Everywhere you can find Christmas markets and smell the sweet spices spiced with cinnamon and ginger. If you look around, you begin to notice the windows lit from inside with the traditional candlestick with seven candles or lights.
The beauty is that these candlesticks are everywhere, from houses to shops and even in offices and medical clinics. This is certainly one of the most special traditions of the Swedish Christmas period, but there is a rather extravagant, that is to make a bonfire with the goat Yule.
The goat Yule is an object that depicts a goat in fact, but made by hand with straw and red ropes. During the period of the advent, some local volunteers built this bizarre object more than ten meters tall, exposing it to the center of the famous Gäule Castle Square.
From now on, everyone is waiting for Christmas Eve, when the goat Yule will be burned and transformed into a huge bright bonfire that heats everyone! This particular tradition represents a great fun for the Swedes, which springs from the spectacle of the event, but above all it is a moment of conviviality in which it is basically warming up with the fire, admiring the snowy but somewhat dark landscape, which is so illuminated and heated.
It is a true community experience in which fire is certainly not a threat but rather light, the heat that refreshes and cheers the city community.
Christmas in Russia
The Russian Orthodox culture celebrates Christmas by deeply observing the spiritual values and in some cases “spiritual”. Yes, because the charm of Russian Christmas derives from ancient esoteric traditions, which in part are linked to Christmas, as a Christian holiday.
The Orthodox Russians are preparing for Christmas by observing a period of purification that consists above all of strictly avoiding the consumption of meat and alcohol.
According to Russian tradition, this abstinence ends on a specific date, that is January 7, in which a star appears in the sky that signals the birth of Jesus and therefore Christmas.
The eve of the Russian Christmas is therefore January 6th and includes a very special evening, as we celebrate at the same time an ancient party called Svyatki, based on a ritual with an esoteric and spiritual character.
Here then young women decorate a kind of altar with candles and mirrors, reciting a verbal formula that serves to invoke the image of their future life partner. The evening can continue by reading tea or coffee grounds.
The divination aspect makes the context of Christmas very special. It is a real Christmas ritual linked to the chiromancy and the ancient culture of divination. In this sense, the Christmas evening still has a “magical” value, not only in terms of atmosphere and decorations …
The peculiarity of Russian Christmas is therefore linked to spiritual value, and the sense of mystery loads the Christmas atmosphere of charm and esoteric meaning.
During the eve dinner, some codified rituals are held and a meal is strictly consumed without meat, fish or alcohol. There must be 12 different dishes on the table to symbolize the number of the apostles. This serves to remind us that a Christian dinner is taking place, and the guests are “observing the word of God” and honoring the memory of the apostles.
The dinner begins with a Christmas prayer, which traditionally must be made by the head of the family (man). Immediately after the prayer, the mother has the task of blessing all the diners by marking a cross on their forehead, after having dipped their fingers in honey.
Another peculiarity is linked to the great symbolic value of the Russian Christmas, is given by the importance that honey assumes as a basic food for Christmas: it is used to sweeten all the dishes, even the salty ones. Honey symbolizes the joy of life, the birth, the abundance and the sweetness of life as a gift.
Christmas in the Philippines
The Christmas period in the Philippines is characterized by special lights and colors, thanks to the festival of giant lanterns, based on the experience of the communities that participate together with the craft activities and then the festivities.
Lanterns are built entirely by hand using paper and other materials.
Their shape is discoidal with a diameter that exceeds even seven to eight meters, but the visual impact is accentuated by the fact that they are very colorful and characterized by very colorful and articulated geometric patterns.
The festival of giant lanterns, in the Filipino language Parul Sampernandu, is therefore a typical Christmas festivity very special and scenic that involves various villages, creating a playful and exciting competition between groups competing to build the most beautiful lantern … the result is assured, because the competitive spirit allows the various village teams to give their best.
The giant lanterns are then backlit with light bulbs, however, candles were once used. In any case, the symbolic and spiritual meaning is very clear: Christian Christmas is welcomed with joy and happiness is celebrated with a cheerful homage to life. Colors are the symbol of celebration and birth, and the symbolic light of Christ and of life itself that illuminates and contrasts with darkness.
All this creates an atmosphere full of Christmas joy and spiritual value.
Christmas in Colombia
The advent period in Colombia begins with the Day of Candles. In Christian culture, the date of 8 December celebrates the feast of the Madonna and the Immaculate Conception. This festival has great spiritual value and marks the beginning of the Christmas season. On the day of the candles, the Colombian cities and towns light up with candles and colored lanterns arranged in long lines, or to form various very decorative and scenographic figures.
These candles can be perfumed or shaped like a “rose without thorns” which is the Marian flower-symbol, but they also represent light and life, evoking the holiness and joy of Christmas shared by Christians. Some communities and neighborhoods come together to create gigantic decorations with colored lanterns that will last throughout the Christmas period.
Christmas in Northern Italy, Austria and Germany
In the German-speaking countries and in some regions of Northern Italy such as Friuli Venezia-Giulia and Trentino Alto Adige, Christmas is celebrated in the family with the traditional Christmas tree. However, the period of advent is characterized by a very ancient and particular tradition, that is linked, to the figure of Krampus.
This is a malicious character who is opposed to Santa Claus and Santa Claus.
In fact, Krampus represents a devil with the appearance of a terrifying billy goat. The story tells that he was defeated and subdued by Santa Claus, thus becoming his servant.
All this is remembered during a noisy and spectacular parade, in which Santa Claus parades along with one or more boys dressed as Krampus, giving the children that they behaved well the candy. But at sunset, Santa Claus “disappears” and the Krampus begins to unleash frightening everyone, only to suddenly disappear after a few hours of noise.
The figure of this evil and spiteful billy goat is contextualized in a fun show, but at the same time leads to reflect on the existence of evil, as a reality with which man has always had to deal.
The ancients attributed to Krampus a series of dramatic events related to crops and diseases. The goat therefore, represents evil since pre-Christian times, yet in the context of the Christmas party reminds us that evil exists, but can be exorcised and rejected by the power of good, represented by Santa Claus, who triumphs becoming a protector figure.
The fact of involving children serves as a teaching and warning on the meaning of Christmas: to commit oneself to putting into practice all positive values such as honesty, generosity, sincerity and love for others.