Christmas traditions around the World

Christmas is coming in only five weeks time. I brush aside my thoughts regarding the pre festive stressfulness and instead am completely looking forward to the contemplative season with the family. I especially look forward to the annual Christmas traditions, such as Christmas meal and singing. I hereby ask myself, how other regions and countries celebrate Christmas? It is time to have a look at the various habits in the pre- and festive season, and believe me: there are fascinating traditions around the world. A peculiar custom is for example celebrated in Norway, where people hide their brooms on Christmas eve from witches and bad ghosts. I have put together some other highlights in the following:


Maledives: Christmas in Paradise 


When thinking about the paradisiacal Maldives with tropical temperatures and view over the sea and white sandy beaches, I couldn’t quite imagine to really get into the Christmas spirit. However, I had a burning interest on how Christmas is celebrated in the dream destination. Reethi Beach Resort for example offers on the afternoon of December 24th activities for children, such as games and artworks. At Sunset, Santa comes onto the island and after giving out Christmas presents, the night will be celebrated with a grand buffet followed by live music.


Austria: Christmas trees and fumigation 

©Tirol Werbung
©Tirol Werbung

In Tyrol, the Thomas Day on December 21st 2016, is according to old beliefs the day when all preparations for Christmas are being taken care of. It is for example the day to get the Christmas tree. Especially in farmer families, one will find living trees only, that will later be recycled as fuel. On Christmas Eve, children will go to church service, which gives the family some time to decorate the tree and prepare the presents. When it gets dark, the farmhouses are “smoked out”. This mystic time of the „Rauhnächte” (from nights to fumigate) is based on a popular Austrian belief, that ghosts haunt all stables and living rooms. By fumigating the house and yard on Christmas Eve, New Years Eve and Epiphany, the ghosts are meant to be restrained. The smoky scent in combination with the smell of freshly baked cookies, is that makes christmas in Tyrol so special. Who does not only want to cast out a ghost but instead his everyday stress, experiences the Austrian Christmas tradition best at the sustainable nature hotel Outside in Matrei, Eastern Tyrol.


Switzerland: What is a “Chlausezüüg”? 


Who spends Christmas in Switzerland, will probably get to know “Chlausezüüg”, the ancestor of today’s Christmas tree. By tradition, in pre-Christmas time, relatives and parents give colorful “Chlausebickli” as a present to children of the family. Bickli are made of gingerbread and are hand-decorated by confectioners with diverse pictures, which show illustrations of the farmers’ daily life and Christmas season. Out of the gathered Bicklis, the Chlausezüüg is built, placed in a wooden bowl with pears and nuts, and decorated with apples. Normally, a little Christmas tree adorns the top of the Züüg. Originally, the Züüg was completely edible, as the pyramidal inner room was made of “Philebrot” (a typical pastry of the Appenzeller region) and “Biberfladen” (ginger bread specialty from the region). Today, the penta- or hexagonal construction is professionally designed with wood. Who would like to see the Swiss tradition with own eyes should visit the beautiful Schloss Wartegg. Embedded in the astoundingly beautiful nature of Lake Constance, the Christmas season at the sustainable castle hotel is something really special. 


Germany: From Kramperln, Buttnmandln and Advent markets


A special tradition at the Berchtesgadener Land is celebrated at St. Claus: Wild looking creatures with masks made of fur and straw, so called „Kramperl“ and „Buttnmandl“, move through the valley. Originally because of the „Buttn“ (shaking) of big bells,  the winter should be displaced. At Berchtesgadener Land, the Christian St. Claus is wearing the dress of a bishop. Mostly he is accompanied from the “Nikoloweibl”, a boy dressed in a girls costume. Who would like to experience this tradition first hand, visits Berghotel Rehlegg. In the beautiful mountain retreat, sustainability, tradition and hospitality are cultivated and passed from generation to generation since 1640.


Directly behind the city boundaries of the beautiful city of Berlin (my home region :-)) lies the historic Landgut Stober. Here, you can be in dialogue with nature during the winter and Christmas season, when taking reflective walks through nature, enjoying energetic sleigh rides or trying ice skating on the neighboring lake. As every year, Landgut Stober hosts the traditional Advent market. On December 3rd and 4th 2016, exhibitors delight guests of the Landgut with treats from the manor kitchen, handicrafts and regional products. Additionally, theater plays, crafting, face painting, and much more is offered for the little ones. Worth a visit every year!


Italy with Klöckl singers 


During the Christmas season, the „Klöckl-Singen“ takes place in the Italian part of South Tyrol. Dressed with loden cape and hat as well as stab and lantern, men are supposed to walk from yard to yard. The „Klöckl-Singer“ have been welcome guests at earlier times. A real highlight, singing their Christmas songs in the dark corridors. The singers are rewarded with apples, nuts and cookies as well as with a glas of good Schnaps. To those, who would like to witness this tradition, a holiday at the emission free Leitlhof is recommended. The beautiful hotel is located at the Dolomites, to specify at the Pustertaler mountains. Regional specialities and a natural Spa- and wellness area provide relaxation at the end of the year. And during a ride on a sleigh, St. Claus is not too far away.


Peru: handicrafts and old rituals 


Christmas cribs are very important in South America. In regions with a high percentage of indigenous population, such as Peru, crib figurines are graved in a hundred years old pattern in handcraft. In Cusco city, there is a great tradition: The Santirantikuy – on Xmas Eve, large numbers of country people coming from surrounding Andean communities gather on Cusco Main Square “Plaza de Armas” to offer many products from their communities that have to do with Xmas celebrations, such as niños manuelitos, Baby Jesus, Virgin Mary, Joseph, the Three Kings, shepherds, animals, ceramics, souvenirs etc., all lovingly handcrafted. The event attracts the Cusco population and surroundings, travelers and tourists from all over the world. The National institute of Culture declared the event a National Cultural Heritage.

At  Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, there is an interesting Christmas ritual: the Pay Back To Earth ceremony. An offering to Earth is an ancient ancestral custom of indigenous Andean cultures. At the ceremony, led by a local Shaman, small amounts of native Andean cereals, grains and fruits together with coca leaf are offered to the Apus, who are the sacred mountain deities, and the four elements. The offering is complemented by a ritual toast with chicha de jora, the native corn beer. The ceremony ends with the ritual burning of the offerings, so the ashes spread into the air and spread over the earth to complete the cycle.


And how are you celebrating Christmas?