Christmas All Over the World

Here at The Spires, we are fortunate enough to have a rather global customer base and so we have the joy of welcoming guests from all walks of life and countries – we even have a rather international selection of staff to match! Obviously at this time we speak a lot about Christmas and the festive period, however not everyone spends it in the same way (and we do not just mean who opens their presents in the morning vs the afternoon!) and so we thought we would take a look at the unique ways in which Christmas is celebrated all around the world.

  1. Sweden – Goats play a major role in the Swedish Christmas festivities with a massive ‘Straw Goat’ being configured in Gavle; a major Swedish City. The ‘Straw Goat’ is so infamous because every year it has to fend itself from arsonists and vandals with it only having survived till Christmas Day 13 times since the tradition began in 1966.

Merry Christmas – God Jul

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Image: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/christmas/9708830/Christmas-2012-The-Swedish-goat-that-takes-Christmas-by-the-horns.html

  1. India – ever thought about decorating a mango or banana tree with tinsel and baubles? Well, instead of the usual fir tree, mango and banana trees (or any tree in reach) are used and mango leaves are even used as a festive form of decoration to spruce up the house.

Śubh krisamas – शुभ क्रिसमस

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Image: https://onmogul.com/articles/strange-and-unique-christmas-traditions-around-the-world

  1. Norway – in Norway, gift exchanges happen on the 24th of December and underneath your tree you may receive gifts from Santa Claus or even more unusually from small gift-bearing gnomes known as Nisse who are an integral part of festive Scandinavian folklore. One of the most renowned elements of a Norwegian Christmas is how every Christmas they donate a tree to the UK as an expression of gratitude to the support that the UK people showed the Norwegians during WW2. You can find the tree in Trafalgar Square, London. Another interesting fact is that a national Christmas tune that has all the Norwegians dancing is called Musevisa – a song about a family of mice welcoming in Christmas! Likewise, on Christmas Eve, all the brooms are locked away so the witch cannot come and steal them.

 

Merry Christmas = God Jul

 

  1. Australia – We traditionally associate Christmas with the winter season however in the land Down Under, this is totally flipped around because Australians actually celebrate Christmas in the midst of the summer holidays. Anyone fancy a barbecue as Christmas dinner or Santa in a pair of shorts? It does happen! Something unique about the Australian means of festive decoration is that their houses are adorned with “Christmas Bush” – a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream flowers. There is even a famous Australian tune (“Six white boomers”) which details how Santa swaps his trusty team of reindeers for a rather unique assemble of kangaroos.
  1. Mexico – In Mexico, you can view the traditional nativity scene from a slightly different perspective on Noche de Los Rábanos in Oaxaca– the Night of the Radishes. On this special day on the 23rd, farmers carve special decorations out of radishes including nativity scenes and human figures with the aim of winning prizes.

 

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Image: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/156007574563811575/

  1. Poland – An interesting fact about the Polish way of spending Christmas is that on Christmas Eve when the main dinner is eaten (Wigilia), tradition goes that you should not start digging in till the first star in the sky has been seen – you better be hoping for a rather starry night! Likewise, we hope you are hungry because there are traditionally 12 dishes served to represent the bringing of luck for the following 12 months of the New Year and to represent the 12 Apostles.

Merry Christmas – Wesołych Świąt

  1. Japan – only in recent decades has Christmas really taken off in Japan but as opposed to being a predominant religious holiday, it is more about joy and happiness. As a result, it is not such a family holiday but actually one more for the lovers out there. Christmas Eve is the highlight of the season and it is a day which is almost akin to Valentine’s Day due to the feeling of romance in the air with couples getting together to exchange presents. Therefore, have fun trying to book a restaurant on the 24th! Of course, what is a meal without dessert and while Christmas cake is an equally traditional dish in Japan, it has a slightly different flavour as it is a sponge cake predominantly decorated with whipped cream and strawberries. Likewise, KFC tends to be the family favourite with sales for the famous fried chicken brand going through the roof on Christmas Eve due to Western advertising!

Merry Christmas – Meri Kurisumasu

  1. Russia – It is not the 24th, 25th or even the 26th on which Christmas is celebrated, but actually the 7th of January. This is in keeping with the Orthodox Church which uses the old ‘Julian’ calendar.

Merry Christmas – С Рождество́м

  1. Czech Republic – The Czech Christmas is full of rather unusual superstitions. For instance, with their backs to a door, single ladies will throw a shoe over their shoulder and if the toe lands pointing towards the door, then this means they will be married within the year. Likewise, if you want to be doubly sure of your fate, on the 4th of December an unmarried lady will place a cherry tree twig in water and if it blooms before the 24th, this is another sign of a wedding on the horizon. There is also a superstition in regards to Christmas Dinner in that if someone manages to successfully fast the whole of the 24th, they will witness the “golden pig”.

Merry Christmas – Veselé Vánoce!

 

  1. Venezuela – There is a rather odd custom in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, whereby between December 16th and 24th, the roads are closed – in order to enable people to roller-skate to the daily mass.

Merry Christmas – Feliz Navidad

 

  1. Ukraine – fancy a Christmas tree with a Halloweeny twist? Well, in Ukraine, spider webs are used as a unique way of decorating the tree. Fear not, the webs are fake but the story behind the tradition is that it will help to garner good luck because there is the legend that a poor family went to bed full of sadness that they could not decorate the tree. However, the spiders in the household took pity on them by decorating the trees with their webs and so the next morning when the family woke up, the webs had turned into gold and silver – changing their fate forever.

Merry Christmas – z Rizdvom Khrystovym

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Image: https://onmogul.com/articles/strange-and-unique-christmas-traditions-around-the-world

  1. The Netherlands – The most important day of the holiday season is on December 6th, when Sinterklaas comes to town with his servant “Black Peter”. They arrive in style on a steamboat (as Sinterklaas does not live in the North Pole, but oddly in Spain) and when they land ashore, bells ring out in celebration.

Merry Christmas – Prettig Kerstfeest

  1. Estonia – A very historic and important Estonian Christmas tradition is how on the 24th, the main celebration day at Christmas, people go to a sauna as a family before the festive activities.

Merry Christmas – Häid Jõule

  1. Italy –January 6th, on Epiphany Eve, is also a special festive day in Italy where there is a slightly different kind of gift-giver. It is not Santa arriving on his sleigh, but an old lady on a broomstick who is considered as a good witch and who goes by the name of ‘Befana’. Like Santa however, if you have been a good child then you will get your candy but if you have been naughty, expect that rather depressing lump of clay!

Merry Christmas – Buon Natale

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 Image: http://www.quirkyguide.com/event/new-year-witch-italy

  1. Iceland – How many of us have asked for more than one Santa? Well, in Iceland, your hopes and wishes would be answered because they do not just have one Santa, but 13 and they go by the name of “Yule Lads”. However, there are still not 13 Santas roaming about the North Pole and flying in by sleigh, as the “Yule Lads” reside in the mountains and they traverse down the mountains one after the other to hand the children their gifts.

Merry Christmas – Gleðileg Jól

 

  1. Canada – What could be more magical than receiving a letter back from Santa once you send him that all-important list? Well, in Canada the magic comes true because if you write to SANTA CLAUS, NORTH POLE, H0H 0H0, CANADA, then you could receive a letter back! Santa can handwrite or type the letters in over 30 languages including braille.
  1. Greenland – Looking for an alternative Christmas dinner? Well Greenland has some rather unique culinary specialities including Kiviak, which is a small auk (a bird) which has been wrapped in a seal skin. It goes through a rather extensive preparation process with it being buried for approximately 7 months and it is then eaten once it has decomposed.

Merry Christmas – Juullimi Pilluarit

  1. Philippines – We have all said at some point that we wished Christmas was every day and while this is not a custom in any country, if you really want to make the most of the festive season, go to the Philippines. The Philippines are known as having the longest running Christmas celebration in the world with it not being uncommon for festive tunes and Christmas carols to have been heard since September and lasting till early January.

Merry Christmas – Maligayang Pasko

 

  1. Austria – Renowned as being a stunningly beautiful country, particularly in the winter season, Austria actually takes a rather scary turn in the Christmas season with men dressing up as “Krampus” – a devil/demon kind of creature who threatens to beat misbehaving children with branches. Their purpose? To scare poor unsuspecting kids and adults – it is Christmas with a dark side!

Merry Christmas – Frohe Weihnachten

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Image: http://checkhookboxing.com/showthread.php?28320-Happy-Krampus-Day-from-Austria!

  1. Portugal – The traditional Christmas feast in Portugal is known as “consoda” and what makes it so unique is that an extra place is set at the dinner table; normally to represent a deceased relative. This is seen as a way of generating good luck and fortune for the family in the following year.

Merry Christmas – Feliz Natal

Wherever you celebrate Christmas and however you celebrate it, we hope you have a magical one with friends and family.

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland

The velvety warming taste of hot chocolate; the wondrous glow of streets bathed in an array of vibrant lights that sparkle in the dark and the snowflakes falling gracefully from the sky; it can only be winter. Factor in the cheerful buzz of everyone’s favourite Christmas tunes on repeat and the streets brimming  with people in varying levels of stress as they run manically from store to store and you know Christmas has arrived in full force. While we all know there is nothing quite as exciting as seeing our houses all decorated head-to-toe to match our fetching winter ensembles consisting predominantly of the uber-trendy Christmas jumpers, nothing beats the sight of a whole CITY ablaze with the festive spirit. It is irrefutable that you will never witness a city quite as stunning and as lit up as it is during Christmas and with locations in some of the UK’s most popular cities from Birmingham to Edinburgh, you know that when you stay with us you can witness some of the greatest shows and festivities put on at this time of year. Therefore, sit back with a mug of hot cocoa and discover all of the fun and cheer you can have when you visit some of our locations this December:

Aberdeen

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Image Source: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/aberdeen-world-record-bid-people-2846533

It is known as the Silver City, but at this time of the year Aberdeen diversifies and allows all hues of effervescent greens, reds, golds, purples and more to colour the skyline. There could not be a better time to visit Aberdeen than this year as it is the inaugural year of its own largest Winter Festival. With an open-air ice rink; thrilling fairground rides; an entertainment marquee and the scintillating smells of fresh delicious food emanating from the German inspired stalls; it combines to create an idyllic scene which is not to be missed. While you are not busy stuffing your face with all the finest festive delicacies at the Christmas market, you can get further into the Christmas spirit by belting out all your favourite Christmas carols with full gusto at the traditional Christmas Carol Concert at Duthie Park or you can take a moment to reflect on what Christmas is all about by witnessing the Christmas nativity scene at the St. Nicholas Kirkyard right in the centre of the city. If you are still needing to engage in some Christmas present shopping while visiting, you are in the right place with the Trinity Centre, Bon Accord Centre and Union Square offering beloved brands to satisfy all kinds of wallets from designer to department stores. However, if you are looking for something a bit more authentic and unique, make sure not to miss “The Arts of Gifts” Christmas Market which is brimming with gorgeous handmade jewellery; ceramics; Christmas cards and artworks. Of course, while you are in town make sure not to miss Aberdeen’s pantomime extravaganza production of Peter Pan!

To unearth all the Aberdonian Christmas magic, go to:

http://www.visitaberdeen.com/whats-on/calendar/

Birmingham

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Image: http://www.edgemagazine.org/guide-christmas-markets.html

There is no image quite as synonymous with Birmingham and Christmas like its nationally renowned Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Fair. If you cannot make it to Germany this year than this festival is no poor man’s second as it is the second LARGEST German market outside of Germany and Austria and is just as authentic. With over 180 stalls selling everything from jewellery to gifts to the finest German cuisine specialities; it is almost like being in Germany but at a much lower cost! However, it is not just its German market that is the prime attraction, but its attached craft fair where you can buy all kinds of charming and beguiling crafted goods as designed by local artisans. However, there is a whole other host of ultra-festive activities to engage in from festive plays to Christmas carol concerts to Christmas markets to even candlelit tours happening all over the city. If you fancy a day trip, then make sure to consider Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Warwick Castle which are both getting into the spirit. At Shakespeare’s Birthplace, you can partake in more traditional festivities which are typical to the Tudor time period or alternatively you can meet with the Big Man himself (Santa, not Shakespeare!) at Warwick Castle.  If you have time for some giggles and cheesiness, make sure to swing by Birmingham’s 2015 pantomime of choice, Aladdin, or there is the equally enchanting production of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to be seen at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre! Similarly, for something more historical but equally breath-taking, make sure to take in the majesty of the Royal Shakespeare’s Company production of Wendy and Peter Pan. Of course if you are in Birmingham then you are in prime position to complete that Christmas list because between the designer temptations of the Mailbox to the brand new shiny floors of Grand Central to the unique handcrafted works in the Jewellery Quarter, there are no shortages of places to find the perfect gift.

For full details of all the festive excitement and entertainment, go to:

http://visitbirmingham.com/christmas-in-birmingham/

Glasgow

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Image: http://getaroundglasgow.co.uk/photos/georgesquare/

There is no city that embodies the Christmas spirit quite like Glasgow with their self-proclaimed “Glasgow Loves Christmas” campaign. However, once you witness all that it has to offer, you will not be surprised why! Within the rustic wooden cabins that align St. Enoch Square, you will find all kinds of tempting festive goods from exquisite cuisines of all nationalities to intricate crafts and stunning decorations – perfect for a browse when armed with a succulent German Bratwurst and a warming mug of hot cocoa. Surrounded by the Buchanan Galleries, Ingram Street and Princes Square, it is the perfect place to visit when you are in the midst of a Christmas shopping break. However, if you want to get to the heart of the festive cheer that emanates from the city; then make sure to stop by George Square. With its iconic ice rink as well as the big wheel and the entertainment offered at the Winter Cabin, there will be no better place to celebrate this winter season. When in Glasgow, make sure to take the time to find gifts for yourself or for your significant others in some of Glasgow’s 1500 plus stores such as at the Argyll Arcade, Merchant City or the West End. Alternatively, make sure to sit back and enjoy a few laughs at Scotland’s biggest pantomime extravaganza of Peter Pan.

Discover all the festive cheer happening in the city at:

http://www.glasgowloveschristmas.com/Pages/Home.aspx

Edinburgh

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Image: http://www.neweuropetours.eu/blog/edinburgh/51-edinburghs-christmas-markets-and-events

There is nowhere better to spend the most magical time of the year than in Edinburgh whose sparkling skyline is iconic when it comes to the festive period due to its adornment of lights. Not just in one area, Christmas spreads itself all around from The Royal Mile to St. Andrews Square to Princes Street Gardens. While there are the traditional star attractions of the Big Wheel, Star Flyer, Santa Land and the iconic ice rinks which never fail to thrill, extra magic is also brought in the form of the Virgin Money ‘Street of Lights’ which has transformed the Royal Mile into the most glittering, sparkling and animated sight ever as well as an abundance of all kinds of new exhilarating attractions. Therefore, even if you have experienced an Edinburgh Christmas once, there are still plenty of brand new reasons to do it again! There are a whole host of Christmas markets ranging from large European marketplace affairs to slightly more intimate and local gatherings. The two headlining festivals are undoubtedly the European Christmas Market and Scottish Market which can be found in Princes Street Gardens and St. Andrew’s Square respectively and offer tantalising foods; charming handcrafted goods; exquisite jewellery and stunning gifts that are steeped in both national and international culture – perfect for a wander on a cold winter’s day with a warming cup of mulled wine in your gloved hand. Alternatively, the Virgin Money Street of Light is definitely one not to be missed which illuminates the Royal Mile in full festive glow due to the magnificent line-up of 16 spell-binding lit up arches each reaching 19m high. It is a spectacular kaleidoscope production of colour and light like nothing else! Of course amongst all the markets and fairground rides, you cannot miss the entertainment central of Paradiso Spiegeltent which will play host to a vibrant array of fantastic shows to entertain all ages. Edinburgh’s chosen panto for the year is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the King’s Theatre but if you are looking for something a bit more delicate and elegant, make sure to not miss out on the beauty of Cinderella as performed by the Scottish Ballet. If you are coming to Edinburgh, then there could not be a more opportune time to complete that Christmas list with a flourish. From the traditional treasures of the Royal Mile to the beloved brands of George Street and Princes Street and then the unique independents of the Grassmarket, you are guaranteed to find something for everyone.

To discover all the fantastic festive fun, make sure to check out: http://thisisedinburgh.com/things-to-do/christmas-in-edinburgh/

Therefore, you know where all the fun and festivities are to be had this season and so make sure to discover them all. Whether you come by yourself, with your friends or with your family, we have apartments to cater to all sizes and there could not be a better place to relax after all the magic and joy. Visit www.thespires.co.uk to book your visit to a Winter Wonderland.