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Holidays, especially the Christmas holidays, are filled with tradition. They are a way of letting the past move into the future Sometime they tell us a lot about the past and sometimes they are just silliness that’s was so endearing it was passed on from generation to generation. Our Christmas trees, our carols, our Santa Claus Call, and parades are like that. The Santa Clause calls are a relatively new one but is starting to find its way into the American Christmas. What about the rest of the world? What traditions have been passed on there?
One of the oddest ones is not really a Christmas thing at all, It was a tradition the natives had and missionaries saw the similarities between it and Christmas. It all happened in New Guinea when Canadian missionary arrived and tried to convert them (the natives) to Christianity. This did not go over very well but the missionaries did see a tradition the locals had. To establish peace between rival tribes, an infant was given to the other tribe (and vice versa). They would raise the child as one of their own. When the natives learned that in Christianity God gave his only son they were much more open to the teachings because of the similarities. Maybe not quite a Christmas tradition but a neat story none the less.
Christianity is also not too big in Viet Nam, but during French rule a number of Vietnamese did convert from Buddhism and Taoism. Slowly a little Christmas tradition slipped in. On Christmas Eve, children leave out their shoes to find them the next morning filled with little gifts. Oddly Scotland is not too big on Christmas either. There, tradition has it that little gnomes run around and try to scurry down chimneys and bring bad luck so to prevent this they keep fires in the fire place all night then eat Bannock cakes on Christmas Day. The Scot’s big holiday is New Years Eve, Hogmanay. And just as the Scot’s have their Bannock cakes, Norwegians have a traditional sweet. It’s called sand kager and it is similar to a sugar cookie. To make it you just mix a butter and sugar blend with flour and chopped almonds in the following ratio: 2 to 4 to 1, respectively. Then bake them until brown. Easy! And ever wonder about what a yule log was? That is from Scandinavia too. To keep the fire lit on Christmas Eve they would use a huge log so long it would not all fit into the fire place. As the log burned they would keep feeding it in. That’s why it is a yule log not yule firewood. Most of Scandinavia also begins with the celebration of Saint Lucia that starts with the children wearing white shirts and pointed red hats and waking their parents by serving them a special roll.
In the Czech Republic, Christmas celebrations start on Dec 6 with the celebration of Saint Nicholas. It is said that he descends from heaven that day on a golden rope with two companions, an angel and a devil. It ends on Christmas with the arrival of the 3 Kings. That part last three days.
That was just a few countries and a few traditions. The world is filled with hundreds more. Maybe you should try to start your own family Christmas tradition.