The home comforts we receive at Christmas time are so familiar and warming; there is nothing quite like feeling cozy by crackling fires whilst it snows outside, spreading festive cheer to loved ones, and of course the copious amounts of delicious food you can justify feasting on. Whereas many families hold their own similar traditions across the US, lots of countries have unusual customs that are both interesting and special. Discover how this festive period is experienced and how people come together across the four corners of the world.
The Origins of Christmas Festivity
Most people are familiar with the traditional Christmas story; tales of Jesus’ miraculous birth and blessing are taught to us since childhood in the US. However, the origins of Christmas go back to before the time of Christ when many ancient cultures celebrated the changing of the seasons. For example, in northern Europe the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, occurs around December 25th and festivals celebrating the solstice were popular in many early pagan cultures. To this day, Christmas or a similar celebration is practiced in a large number of countries around the world and it is known everywhere as a time of joy and peace. As the holiday has spread throughout the world, each country has developed its own special traditions and lore.
- Lapland, the magical home to Santa Claus, is in Finland so the jolly, bearded gift-giver delivers his presents here first. Many people also visit the sauna on Christmas Eve to rewind before the big day.
- In the Ukraine, families celebrate with a traditional twelve-course meal. The youngest child in the family watches through the window for the evening star to appear – a sign that the feast can begin. Spider webs are also hidden in the Christmas tree, and whoever finds one will have a whole year of luck.
- In Australia there are often temperatures of around 80 °F on Christmas Day. To take advantage of this great weather, many families celebrate Christmas with a barbecue on the beach and surfing fun.
- In Japan, people will often visit KFC for a bucket of ‘Christmas Chicken’. The company reports its highest annual sales on Christmas Eve showing that a hankering for fried chicken has become an unusual Xmas tradition.
Santa Claus Across the Globe
The history and legends surrounding Santa Claus are also rich and varied. A monk named St. Nicholas was born around 280 A.D in Patera, Turkey. He was very pious and kind and spent his life traveling the country, visiting the sick and bestowing wealth upon the needy. The name Santa Claus comes from St. Nicholas’ Dutch name: Sinter Klaas. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore wrote the long poem ‘An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas’ which provides the foundation for much of today’s symbolism; describing St. Nicholas as a ‘jolly elf’ with flying reindeer and a sleigh. Cartoonist Thomas Nast provided today’s Santa image in 1881 – he created the rotund character with the red suit and cheeks, long white beard and fur trim. The cartoon also depicts Santa holding a sack full of gifts, the elves busily making toys in their workshop in Lapland, watched over by Mrs Claus. Although this is how we perceive Santa Claus, some countries believe in their own versions:
- In France, children look forward to a visit from Pere Noel, who fills their shoes with gifts.
- Scandinavians believe that the jolly elf Jultomten delivers gifts in a sleigh pulled by goats.
- Italians believe in La Befana – a kind witch who rides her broomstick down chimneys and delivers toys into the stockings of lucky children.
Whether you are enjoying a traditional Christmas at home with all the trimmings, or jetting off to somewhere new, Sixt rent a car have got you covered for all of your rental car needs. With plenty of locations in over 100 countries, you can expect our convenient services and excellent deals all across the Globe. Make sure your Xmas plans run smoothly with a top quality car rental no matter where you are in the world – find out more here. Happy Holidays from the Sixt rent a car team!