The Villages Voice - December 2019

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The Villages Way: A Glimpse at Christmas Around The World

by Carol Lynn Nelson


We all have our own family traditions for Christmas.  Whether it is when and how we decorate our tree or where we spend the special day.  It is about the baking of holiday treats, getting in touch with loved ones and giving gifts.  It’s not just about the traditions, but about our faith as well.  It is about hope, renewal and kindness.  Above my desk hangs a post-a-note with these words: “The happiest people are not those getting more, but the ones giving more.”  Let’s explore some of the traditions and myths that are popular in other countries: GERMANY On December 5th, German children leave a shoe outside the house to be filled with sweets overnight. Kids who have been a little less-than-perfect get a branch instead. On Christmas Eve Germans hide a pickle in the Christmas tree. The first child to find it in the morning gets a special gift. GREAT BRITAIN Families gather to help stir the Christmas pudding. Each one takes a turn stirring in a clockwise direction, making a wish as they go. GREECE During the 12 days of Christmas, the Kallikantzaroi, a race of evil goblins who live underground, come to the surface and cause trouble. ICELAND:  In Iceland, if you don’t receive new clothes before Christmas you will be stalked and eaten up by the mythical and beastly Yule Cat. ITALY:  Instead of Santa, Befana is a friendly witch who brings toys and sweets to children on January 5th. NEW ZEALAND:  Kiwis decorate a Pōhutukawa tree instead of a pine tree.  It’s a member of the myrtle family which blooms festive red flowers.  NORWAY:  Brooms are locked away safe and sound so they cannot be stolen and ridden by evil spirits.  It’s a tradition that dates back centuries to when people believed that witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve looking for brooms to ride on. To this day, many people still hide their brooms in the safest place in the house to keep them from being stolen. JAPAN (This is funny!):  Christmas has never been a big deal in Japan. Aside from a few small, secular traditions such as gift-giving and light displays, Christmas remains largely a novelty in the country. However, a new, quirky “tradition” has emerged in recent years – a Christmas Day feast of the Colonel’s very own Kentucky Fried Chicken. AUSTRIA:  In Austria, St. Nicholas rewards nice little boys and girls, while Krampus (a beast-like demon creature that roams city streets frightening kids and punishing the bad ones) is said to capture the naughtiest children and whisk them away in his sack. In the first week of December, young men dress up as the Krampus (especially on the eve of St. Nicholas Day) frightening children with clattering chains and bells. SOUTH AFRICA:  South Africans consider deep fried caterpillars of the Emperor Moth a special festive delicacy. UKRAINE:  Ukrainians decorate their Christmas trees with artificial spider webs and spiders after the Legend of the Christmas Spider, an arachnid who decorated a Christmas tree in gold and silver webs to bring joy to a poor widow and her children. VENEZUELA:  Every Christmas Eve, in Caracas, Venezuela the residents head to church in the early morning – but, for reasons known only to them, they do so on roller skates. This unique tradition is so popular that roads across the city are closed to cars so that people can skate to church in safety, before heading home for the less-than-traditional Christmas dinner of tamales. Makes you thankful for our own traditions in America, doesn’t it?  However you celebrate Christmas and whatever your traditions are, may your Christmas be special and heartwarming, filled with family, love, and laughter.   Merry Christmas, and God Bless You Carol Lynn Nelson Information from   A note from the editor:  Our deepest appreciation to Carol Lynn Nelson for writing The Villages Way for The Voice for many years now.   She is retiring.  We wish her all the best, and hope she will continue to share her gift for writing fun and insightful articles with us occasionally.