With Christmas finally here, our traditions are in full swing. The children prepare for the arrival of Santa Claus. The lights on the house and yard must be lit for Santa to find the house. Milk, cookies, and carrots are left for Santa Claus and his reindeer. A Christmas tree is in the house decorated with care. The Nativity is found beneath with a manger and Jesus. While these might seem like regular traditions for us in America, in other countries it’s a bit different.
In Spain, on January 6th, children leave shoes outside filled with hay and food for camels. The Wise men come through the city and replace the hay and food with toys.
In Yugoslavia, a cake called the Chestnisa is filled with silver and gold coins. It is said that whoever receives a coin in his/her slice will have good luck for the next year.
For France, a Christmas tree is not popular to use. On Christmas Eve, shoes are left by the fireplace for Pere Noel to fill with toys. On Christmas evening, before retiring to bed, families keep the fire glowing, and leave food and drink on the table in case the Virgin Mary arrives.
Poland’s Christmas Eve consists of pouring bees wax or plain wax over water. Fortunes are told from the shape of the wax. The Polish also bake bread and press it with a holy picture on the surface. As each person shares the bread, they must do two things: forgive any hurts that have occurred over the past year; to wish the person all the happiness in the upcoming year.
The tradition in Italy is for an old witch named La Befana to arrive on her broomstick to bring children presents. She arrives on January 5th through the chimney. Wine and food are left for her in lieu of milk and cookies.
This time of year calls for many celebrations no matter how they are performed. It is a season of families, and the long held traditions we continue to pass on to future generations. So joyeux noel, buone feste natalizie, boze narodzenie, and Merry Christmas.