It’s the Christmas season again, and before we get sick of the eggnog, fruitcake, and Christmas music played ad nauseum, we get to enjoy it for a couple weeks. But have you ever wondered where some of our weird Christmas traditions come from? I mean, we tell our kids that a fat man is coming into our house at night; we bring in trees in to shed all over the carpet; and we kiss under parasitic plants – all in the holiday spirit. How the heck are these even related to Jesus, whose birthday we’re supposed to be celebrating?
If you do a Startpage or Google search, you will find lots of sites that tell about strange traditions we all do at Christmas, around the globe. Here in the States, each of 50 American states has its own delicacies served at Christmas dinner. Let’s just mention two examples. In Louisiana and in other states of the American South people enjoy Gumbo. This delicious stew or soup includes one or more kinds of poultry, shellfish and smoked pork. It is usually served over rice. In the city of Baltimore locals prepare great Sauerkraut with Turkey. Apples, onions and carrots are part of the famous recipe. Most American families have the traditional stuffed turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, pumpkin pie, and more for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here are some more unique holiday treats:
- New England has Lumberjack Pie ( a mashed potato crust, filled with meats, onion and cinnamon.)
- Pennsylvania Dutch serve Sand Tarts (thing, crisp sugar cookies)
- North Carolina features Moravian Love-Feast Buns (faintly sweet bread of flour and mashed potatoes.)
- Baltimore serves Sauerkraut with their Turkey (which includes apples, onions and carrots.)
- Virginia gives us oyster and ham pie.
- Southern states have Hominy Grits Soufflé and Whiskey Cake (with one cup of 100-proof whiskey.)
- Louisiana’s treat is Creole Gumbo. It can include ham, veal, chicken, shrimp, oysters and crabmeat.
- New Mexico has the Empanaditas–little beef pies with applesauce pine nuts and raisins.
- Hawaii blesses us with Turkey Teriyaki marinated and cooked over an outdoor pit.
Whatever the region, Christmas is one of the most celebrated and enjoyed holidays in the nation.
In Czech Republic, the single women tossed their shoe on Christmas Eve, to know if they marry the following year. They turn their back at front door and tossed the shoe over their shoulders. If the shoe landed with heel towards the door, she stay single for the coming year; while the front of the shoe faces the door, it means she will marry this coming year, and move out from her parent’s home.
In Caracas, Venezuela a weird and unusual tradition of the Venezuelan go to the early Christmas Mass on a roller skate. The roads and streets are closed to cars to allow the skaters to go to the church to attend the mass. Instead the usual caroling at night, people just beat the drums, and at the strike of midnight, people shout “Jesus is born” and use firecrackers to light up the sky.
Weirdest tradition in Austria, where Saint Nicholas brings carrots with him, while his companion, Krampus, bring stick , the evil-anti Santa or said to be the evil twin of Santa. Krampus is celebrated every 5th of December each year, and the eve of Saint Nicholas day in Austria and other European countries. Krampus roam around the city looking for children he could whip with his stick.
The pickle ornament is the last thing to be hung in the Christmas tree by German families, which was passed from generation to generation. It should be hidden when hung, and the first child that can find it, will receive a special gift in the morning of Christmas Day. The odd thing in this traditions, only few Germans know this old traditions.
Zwarte Piet or Black Peter, is the helper of Sinterklaas (Santa Claus of Netherlands). At the eve of Saint Nicholas Day Sinterklaas arrive with his slaves, Zwarte Piet in a ‘steamship float’, in a procession around the cities and nearby towns. The Black Peter, take the kids who did not behave well this year, and bring them to Spain, where Sinterklaas lives. The Black Peter call themselves as “Chimney Sweep” not ‘slaves’.
In Singapore, the Christians celebrate Christmas Day by going to mass, visit friends and relatives and prepare food and meet Christmas eve with colorful firecrackers. Though in Singapore there are Hindus, Buddhist and Muslim community but still Christmas is celebrated the normal way.
It doesn’t matter how you say it, when you celebrate it, or how you enjoy it, Christmas festivities take place for millions of people all over the world and it is as joyous a time globally as it is here in North America. While Christmas trees, stockings, presents and leaving cookies for Santa may all seem typical to our traditional view on the Christmas season, you may be surprised to hear of some of the traditions that take place elsewhere and some of them are just straight up bizarre. Read more here, “Feliz Navidad”, “Joyeux Noel”, “Milad Majid” and “Merry Christmas”: strange Christmas traditions around the world, By: Celia Carr
Celia states, “While some of these traditions may seem completely bizarre, it’s important to consider that every country and culture has its own way of doing things and their own way of making the holiday season special. Despite these differences and how strange some of these customs might sound to someone living in North America, it’s neat to know that we’re not that different at all, and that millions of people around the world every year are celebrating Christmas with their families just like you and me.”
Whatever traditions we believed in, still Christmas brings joy to every family in the world.
Though one of the strangest traditions we Orthodox Christians celebrate at this time of the year is the Nativity — the Birth of Jesus Christ.
According to the Bible and to Holy Tradition, Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem in a cave, surrounded by farm animals and shepherds. The baby Jesus was born into a manger from the Virgin Mary, assisted by her husband St. Joseph. St. Joseph and the Theotokos were forced to travel due to a Roman census; the odd location of the birth was the result of the refusal of a nearby inn to accommodate the expecting couple (Luke 2:1-20).
“The Nativity of the God-Child Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, is hardly given any thought whatsoever. The kind, gentle image of Christ is supplanted by that of jolly old Santa Claus—a distressing, blasphemous caricature of one of God’s greatest saints—Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker of Mira, whom the Roman Catholics contrived to exclude from their order of saints some years ago.
The psychology of the masses is infectious. We, the zealots of religious piety, understand this and, in a fatherly way, for the sake of love, look askance, although not without sadness, at this chaotic tribute in the country which gave shelter to our flock. At the same time, we sincerely ask all members of our Russian Church Abroad: having given notice to the secular world, when the embers of the American festival have died, give some attention to your inner self—prepare yourself spiritually, in the Orthodox way, for our Orthodox Feast of the Nativity of Christ. First of all, for at least the remainder of Lent—fast. After all, there are not many fast days left. Whoever is able, prepare yourselves with fasting. On the holy eve of the feast, make certain that you come to church: the Nativity services are so beautiful! On the day of Nativity, try your best to get leave from work or school, even if you must lose a day’s wages. Give them to God!” from American Christmas and Orthodox Nativity, by Archbishop Seraphim of Chicago († 1987)
However, blessed are those who maintain their fasting and prayer throughout the whole period of the Nativity Fast, leaving aside all celebration until our Orthodox Nativity.