Christmas customs around the world

2017-12-20 06:01

CHRISTMAS is celebrated in different ways, on different dates and with many different customs throughout the world as follows:

In Scandinavian countries St Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13. In these countries, the holiday is the start of the Christmas season and, as such, is sometimes referred to as “little Yule”.

Traditionally, the oldest daughter in each family rises early and, dressed in a long, white gown with a red sash, and wearing a crown made of twigs with nine lighted candles, wakes up the family.

Any shooting or fishing done on St Lucia Day was done by torchlight, and people brightly illuminated their homes. At night, men, women, and children would carry torches in a parade. The night would end when everyone threw their torches onto a large pile of straw, creating a huge bonfire. surrounded by torchbearers.

Light is a main theme of St Lucia Day, as her name, which is derived from the Latin word lux, means light. Her feast day is celebrated near the shortest day of the year, when the sun’s light again begins to strengthen. Lucia lived in Syracuse during the fourth century when persecution of Christians was common.

According to one common legend, Lucia lost her eyes while being tortured for her Christian beliefs. Others say she may have plucked her own eyes out to protest the poor treatment of Christians. Lucia is the patron saint of the blind.

Norway is the birthplace of the Yule log. The ancient Norse used the Yule log in their celebration of the return of the sun at winter solstice.

“Yule” came from the Norse word hweol, meaning wheel. The Norse believed that the sun was a great wheel of fire that rolled towards and then away from the earth .

The first “Christmas trees” explicitly decorated and named after the Christian holiday, appeared in Strasbourg in the beginning of the 17th century. After Germany’s Prince Albert married Queen Victoria, he introduced the Christmas tree tradition to England.

An Englishman named John Calcott Horsley helped to popularise the tradition of sending Christmas greeting cards when he began producing small cards featuring festive scenes and a pre-written holiday greeting in the late 1830s.

In the United States and England, children hang stockings on their bedpost or near a fireplace on Christmas Eve, hoping that it will be filled with treats while they sleep. In Scandinavia, similar-minded children leave their shoes on the hearth.

This tradition can be traced to legends about Saint Nicholas. One legend tells of three poor sisters who could not marry because they had no money for a dowry. To save them from being sold by their father, St Nick left each of the three sisters gifts of gold coins.

One went down the chimney and landed in a pair of shoes that had been left on the hearth. Another went into a window and into a pair of stockings left hanging by the fire to dry.

Most Canadian Christmas traditions are very similar to those practised in the United States. In the far north of the country, Eskimos celebrate a winter festival called sinck tuck, which features parties with dancing and the exchange of gifts.

In Greece, many people believe in kallikantzeri, goblins that appear to cause mischief during the 12 days of Christmas. Gifts are usually exchanged on January 1, St Basil’s Day.

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