The Ultimate Christmas Tradition

Tradition – “A long-established custom or belief that has been passed on from one generation to another”

Hospitality – “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers

*Oxford Dictionary

 

Day to day life throughout the year is subject to so many unexpected variances and changes in both our personal and professional lives. Therefore, that is why there is something so reassuring and heart-warming about Christmas because no matter what else is going on throughout the rest of the year, you know that November and December are going to full of the aromatic smells of well-cooked home meals; the glittering reflections of illuminating lights and decorations and the pure sense of celebration which radiates from parties and gatherings aplenty. Subsequently, without fail we get so excited for Christmas because we know year in and year out what to expect when it comes to that jubilant time of year. Maybe circumstances in your life will have changed for the better or the worse, but ultimately you are safeguarded in the knowledge that at this time of year, the Christmas spirit will always prevail.

This leads us on to the point of Christmas traditions. Every year we get to revel in the joy of celebrating special days such as birthdays and anniversaries and each year we get to choose different ways to celebrate them. However, when it comes to Christmas, some things will never change and as it is a holiday we celebrate every year, it is undeniable that each and every one of us has some kind of long-established custom that we never fail to enact. This is because since birth, we have been raised to celebrate this wonderful time of the year and so it is irrefutable that rituals and beliefs will have been passed from one generation to the next regarding everything from gift-giving practises to the foods we eat to the order of the festivities to the specific way we decorate our trees and houses.

As we explored in our blog last year , there are traditions which are tied to certain countries. For instance, in Poland, Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia and on this day it is traditional to eat the main Christmas meal (consisting of 12 dishes to represent good luck for the 12 months ahead and the twelve disciples) but it is also only traditional to begin eating when the first star in the sky has been spotted! Alternatively, in the capital of Venezuela, Caracus, it is customary for people to roller-skate to the early morning church services held between 16th and 24th December with roads even closing to accommodate this. Finally, a slightly unusual tradition to us is one in Ukraine where due to the prevalence of the Eastern-European folk tale of the Christmas Spider, Christmas trees can be decorated with ‘cobwebs’ as it is considered good luck to find one.

Therefore, it is readily apparent how we all have our own ways of celebrating whether that is on a country level or purely just on an individual level. However, regardless of culture or geography, you can always count on one universal tradition at Christmas that can be found in any home and that is the indomitable spirit of hospitality. Around the world at this time of year, we may all have differing ways of decorating our trees or choosing when to present our meals, but one consistency is that we are always eager to open our homes to strangers, friends and family so that we can all share in the spirit of the season. Christmas is so beloved by everyone around the world because without doubt you know that this is the one time of the year that you will be reunited with those that you hold dearest to celebrate all the love and joy that this time of the year represents.

At Christmas, it is easy to think that the beauty and magic of the festivities purely radiates from the gifts and the decorations and the parties, however it really radiates from the spirit of unity it fosters. To us, there is nothing more wonderful than this unwavering spirit because as we are part of the hospitality industry, there is nothing more that we strive to achieve each day then providing a warm welcome to all our guests and even if they are staying with us for as short as one night, to make them feel on that one night like they are in a home away from home. This to us is what Christmas is all about – family, friends, love, celebrating and hospitality. No matter who you are and where you come from, this is what this holiday should always centre around. Therefore, it is undeniable that while the world will continue to evolve, subsequently altering our lives with it, we hope that if there is one tradition that will forever stand the test of time, it is that hospitality and the spirit of welcoming everyone and anyone will live on. At the very least, this is a tradition that here at The Spires, we will always practise whether it is Christmas time or not.

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We hope you are all beginning to get the Christmas traditions rolling and would love to hear if you have any unique ones that you would like to share. For instance, is there that one notorious festive jumper which Christmas is just not complete without or is there a certain decoration that can never be evicted from the tree? No matter what it is, we would love to hear it! #SharetheJoy

No Room at the Inn this Winter?

It is irrefutable that Christmas is one of the most universally beloved times of the year because what is there not to love about a holiday full of family, friends, celebrations, and of course, food? However, while undeniably it is a wonderful season of magic and wishes, it is equally undeniable that with all the planning and coming together of families, the opportunity for stress is definitely at an all-time high.  Factor in cousins, aunts/uncles, parents, grandparents, friends, in-laws and maybe even some pets, and it readily becomes apparent how not only do you have to cook for all these hungry mouths, but you also need quite a lot of room in order to accommodate everyone. This is no easy feat because when you consider that despite how much we love all our family members (well, most of the time!), having so many people under one roof is just a recipe for arguments and sleepless nights.  However, this Christmas at The Spires we want to give you the most desirable and magical gift of them all – the gift of peace and a good night’s sleep for all.

One thing that we particularly pride ourselves on when it comes to our serviced apartments is their home from home feel. Therefore, not wanting to overcrowd your home or are wanting to escape from staying at a rather populated house this Christmas? Well, you and your family members are invited to ours. With apartments that are capable of holding up to six persons, we welcome families of all shapes and sizes and they are perfect for whether your family members are staying for one night or for longer. What makes them even more ideal is that we charge per apartment, not per person. Therefore, this will help to keep the costs down of a group stay as we know how important it is to keep an eye on spending at this expensive time of year.

We all know it is difficult to travel with both young ones and those slightly older teenagers and this is where serviced apartments really come into their own. With bedrooms composed of double or twin beds, there is plenty of breathing space for everyone so that the kids do not have to be embarrassed by having to share with good ole mum and dad. Likewise, some of our deluxe apartments do not just have numerous bedrooms, but also numerous bathrooms which is perfect when you consider how everyone will be clambering over one another to get all dolled up in their finery for all the festive get-togethers. Then when it comes to the recovery period after all the family time, there is plenty of space to chill out in our comfortable lounges complete with modern TVs and sumptuously soft sofas. Whether you want to be engrossed by the latest addictive show or you want to connect to our very fast and reliable WiFi to snap up some of those festive bargains, it is the perfect environment in which to relax.

Whether you want family time or some quiet time, our spacious apartments provide the perfect environment in which to do it

It is undeniable that one of the hardest aspects of family trips away from home are what and where to eat. This is because the larger the family, the greater the likelihood for all different kinds of tastes and dietary requirements and often times this can lead to expensive dinners or takeaways. However, Christmas is the season all about staying in and roasting that turkey yourself, and our apartments greatly facilitate this. Complete with fully-equipped and modern kitchens composed of an oven, microwave, fridge, freezer and a whole array of basic kitchen utensils, there is no better place for you to get in the Masterchef swing of things and to cook up a salivating meal capable of feeding an army. You do not even have to worry about washing up afterwards as our dishwashers help do most of the work, it truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

Christmas dinner anyone?

While our conscientious housekeeping teams are on hand so that you are still able to relax when on holiday, the inclusion of an ironing board, washing machine and tumble-dryer are also undoubtedly welcomed. We all know that spills and messes will occur when there is so much glitter and wine on the go, however the inclusion of such handy appliances further reduces the potential for any stress as you can clean them up as soon as possible – also saving on expensive laundry bills and potentially meaning maybe you can forego that third or fourth suitcase…

Finally, one of the greatest things about our locations are their amazingly convenient and central locations. This means that while you have all the peace at night to hear Santa and his sleigh arrive on the 24th December, you are also equally never far from all the action. As it is December and there are Christmas Markets, carol concerts and pantomimes aplenty, there is plenty of exciting action going on! Therefore, whether you are staying over the festive period itself or just want to ease yourself into the Christmas spirit by having a mini festive city break, there is so much fun to be had whichever of our apartments you stay at. Make sure to read our latest blog (https://thespiressuites.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/welcome-to-a-winter-wonderland/) to discover just all the excitement and magic that awaits you with a stay at The Spires this December!

Therefore, whether you are on the nice or naughty list, we have the perfect gift that will make all your Christmas wishes come true. Enjoy this special time of the year with all of the joy and love of family and none of the stress and fights. What makes our apartments that much more of a wonderful Christmas gift is the fact that we have a very flexible cancellation policy with guests being able to cancel up to 24 hours in advance of their stay. This is because we understand that making plans at Christmas is not always the easiest and so this will allow you to have the ultimate flexibility and to make provisional plans with peace of mind.

Need any more convincing? Make sure to email The Spires at info@thespires.co.uk or phone 0345 270 0090 to talk to one of our dedicated reservation team members as top tip from Santa, if you want the best possible rate, this is the sure-fire way to get it.

Happy Holidays! 

Welcome to a Winter Wonderland

Not long ago the displays in shop windows were adorned with pumpkins, ghosts and cobwebs galore, however as soon as midnight chimed to signal the close of the spookiest day of the year, Halloween, Santa Claus officially rode into town on his wondrous sleigh. Yes, much debate will be ignited as to whether his grand arrival is just a little too early, however there is no denying the infectious excitement and anticipation that is garnered with the first sightings of Christmas trees, twinkling fairy lights and the revealing of festive coffee cups. It truly is one of the most magical times of the year and you would be hard pushed to find a city that is not caught up in all the festival fun. With locations in major UK destinations such as Aberdeen, Glasgow, Birmingham and Edinburgh, The Spires Serviced Apartments are particularly fortunate to be surrounded by some of the most wonderful celebrations in the country and we are so excited to share all this cheer with our guests. Of course, alongside bedazzling Christmas lights illuminating the streets in a warm festive glow, the heart of any city Christmas celebration has to be the much anticipated annual Christmas market which brings together local residents and tourists alike. Fortunately, none of our locations are shrimping on this tradition and so we thought we would deliver to you today some of the excitement you can experience when you visit The Spires this wonderful winter season:

Aberdeen

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Image: http://www.dinnerstories.co.uk/2015_12_01_archive.html

Aberdeen Christmas Village, 25th November – 8th January, Union Terrace

Why have a market, when you can have a whole village ablaze with Christmas cheer and wonder?! Last year was the inaugural year for the Aberdeen Christmas Village and it went down such a storm, it has come back even bigger and grander this year. That is right, while the open-air ice rink and festoon of market stalls are all making their anticipated return; they are coming back plus-size edition meaning there is all the more fun to be had.  There are even some extra surprises with a Christmas Tree Maze being introduced in the Union Terrace Gardens – can you conquer the mischievous journey to the elves workshop? Complete with market stalls selling all kinds of treasures to fill Christmas stockings around the city; live entertainment and nostalgic fairground style attractions, there is certainly no doubt that Christmas has arrived to make the Silver City that extra bit more sparkly and glittery.

Honourable Festive Highlights:

*Christmas Tree Switch-On – Castlegate – 24th November, 7pm

*Twelve Days of Christmas Wooden Carvings Trail – throughout city – 24th November – throughout December

*Christmas Lights Switch-On Parade – Union Street – 27th November, 5.30pm

*Nativity Scene – St Nicholas Kirkyard – 28th November – 6th January

*Panto – Dick McWhittington – His Majesty’s Theatre – 3rd December – 8th January

Birmingham

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Image: http://www.germanchristmasmarketbirmingham.com/history/

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market & Craft Fair, 17th November – 29th December, Victoria Square

Of course, there is no city that quite lays the ultimate Christmas Market gauntlet like Birmingham as its resident annual market is renowned all over the UK and is synonymous with the arrival of the festive period. The heart of Birmingham’s Christmas celebrations, the market is actually the largest German market outside of Germany and Austria and so there is no denying that a visit to this market is a definite must to really get in the Christmassy spirit. If you think you can attend this majestic city celebration without purchasing anything, then think again as with 180 stalls selling all kinds of tempting decorations, toys, jewellery and of course food (Bratwurst or mulled wine anyone?), you will be hard-pressed to keep your wallet ensconced in your bag. When you are finished having a magical ride on the carousel or joining in a carol or two, make sure to pop into the Craft Fair adjacent to the market where you can find even more unique and handcrafted Artisan pieces to complete any gift menagerie under the tree.

Honourable Festive Highlights:

The Jewellery Quarter Christmas Lights Switch-On – The Golden Square -18th November  – 5pm

Magical Lantern Festival – Birmingham Botanical Gardens – 23rd November – 2nd January –

*Panto – Dick Whittington – Birmingham Hippodrome- 19th December 2016 – 29th December 2017

Glasgow

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Image: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/glasgow-christmas-activities-pictures-glasgow-4769441

Christmas Market, 20th November – 22nd December, St Enoch Square

When you consider all the celebrations occurring across Glasgow this winter, there is no denying that the city itself could almost be considered one large Santa’s grotto – it is overflowing with that much Christmas cheer and spirit! This could not be better reflected by the fact that there is not just one traditional Christmas market but two. Therefore, whether you want warming culinary delights; beautifully ornate handcrafted decorations or an exhilarating fairground ride or two, you are bound to get it somewhere whether it is in St Enoch Square or in George Square (opening 26th November – 29th December). Likewise, with a retail reputation which has led to the development of a renowned ‘Style Mile’, there is no surprise that there are a few festive bargains to be found across the 1, 500 shops.

*Coco Cola Christmas Truck Tour – Silverburn – 18th November 2016

*Glasgow Christmas Light Switch-On – George Square – 20th November

*Style Mile Christmas Carnival – Glasgow City Centre – 27th November

*Panto – Aladdin – Clyde Auditorium – 10th December – 31st December

Edinburgh

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Image: https://www.list.co.uk/article/74953-edinburghs-christmas-2015-programme-revealed/

European Christmas Market, 19th November – 7th January, East Princes Street Gardens

It is no surprise that there is nowhere that does Christmas bigger and better than Scotland’s stunning capital itself. Beautiful whatever the season, Christmas just elevates Edinburgh’s scenic wonder to the level that it could fit in perfectly on any Christmas card. Right at the heart of this beauty and warmth is the European Christmas Market which resides in the hub of the city. It is full of all kinds of delicate artisan works, handcrafted decorations, unique jewellery, as well as tantalising festive sweet and savoury treats. Likewise, Edinburgh’s skyline is resplendent with the twinkling of thousands of lights bedazzling both the city streets and the myriad of fairground attractions including a Big Wheel and the renowned Star Flyer. Whether you prefer your fun in the air; down on the ground in the Christmas Tree Maze or on the ice in the ink-rink, it is undeniable that there all kinds of levels of fun to be had.

*Light Night – 20th November, 1pm – 5pm

*The Scottish Market – West George Street – 26th November – 24th December

*Street of Light – George Street – 21st November – 24th December

*Alice in Wonderland – The Lyceum – 2nd – 31st December

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.