DAY 39: “They’re doing what on Christmas?”

“He is Immanuel, (God with us), all the way from Brazil to America, and around the world.”

When we think of Christmas, we think of certain traditions. Some of those may include putting up a tree, having a meal together, baking Christmas cookies and exchanging gifts. Those are all pretty normal, but do you know there are some very unique traditions that are celebrated at Christmas in other parts of the world? We’re going to take a little trip and see what some of those are. Maybe these are some of your ancestors. Maybe you want to incorporate some of these for yourself. Whatever the case, these make for great conversation around the table or by the fire, and I hope that you will do just that!

  1. Roller Skating to Church in Caracas, Venezuela: The week leading up to Christmas, the people of Caracas attend daily early morning mass. Normal right? But, instead of walking to Mass, they strap on roller skates and skate to church! Why? No one really knows, but it’s a tradition! Many of the roads are closed until 8AM to make sure the worshippers are safe. Once they arrive back at home, they eat tamales.
  2. The Pooping Logs of Catalonia, Spain: This makes me laugh every time! Just the word “poop” is always funny! If you go to any Christmas market in Barcelona you will see short logs, (either made from wood or chocolate), with a Santa face, beard, and cap at one end and a blanket at the other. Under the blanket flows a stream of colorful sweets. Yum! They are called “Caga tios,” which translates to “pooping guys.” This is a favorite Christmas treat for kids! They are also placed under the Christmas tree. They shake the logs and a song is sung to encourage the log to “poop” out candy — no wonder kids love this!
  3. Throwing a Shoe in Czech Republic: On Christmas Eve, unmarried Czech women stand outside the door and toss a shoe over their shoulder. If it lands with the toe pointing toward the door, it means they will get married next year. If the shoe lands with the heel pointing to the door, they will remain single. Since I got married at 31, (32 the next day), this might have been helpful (haha)! Sean added: “You mean they are going to ‘czech it out’ and see if this is their year?”
  4. Kentucky for Christmas, Japan: About one percent of Japan’s population is Christian. They have a tradition that is interesting and delicious. Rather than gathering around the table for turkey or ham, they head out to Kentucky Fried Chicken. This tradition started in 1974 with a wildly popular marketing campaign called “Kentucky for Christmas!” This has become so popular that some people have had to order their boxes months in advance or stand in two-hour long lines to get their “finger lickin’ good” food.
  5. Christmas Eve in Brazil: My daughter-in-law Narel is from Southern Brazil. By the time you read or hear this, Ian, Narel, and baby Theo (six months) will be in Brazil for Christmas! This Christmas is special for a couple of reasons. Narel has not been home in over five years, Ian has never been to Brazil, and her parents are going to get the surprise of a lifetime! They are literally going to show up at the front door with the baby and say “Merry Christmas!” Her sisters are in on it, but her brother doesn’t know because, according to Narel, Thiago cannot keep a secret! I have requested lots of pictures and video of this to be sure! It is the height of summer in Brazil right now. Carnivale is on New Year’s Eve and the cities are already full of people. It can get up to 100 degrees! Narel grew up a few blocks from the beach, so Theo will see and experience the ocean for the first time! On Christmas Eve in Brazil, it is tradition to eat dinner from 10PM to midnight. Narel say some people wait until midnight, but most don’t. There is a late church service where friends, neighbors, and extended family meet up to wish each other well for the holiday season.  Turkey is the main dish with lots of sides much like we have at Thanksgiving. They have lots of fresh and dried fruits to go along with the turkey. The big thing in Brazil is the cakes! Lots of little cakes, coffee, and lots of chocolate! Chocolate ganache, cake, and chocolate mousses. Anything that you can imagine chocolate with, it goes on! When Ian and Narel got married, her mom made hundreds of hand-made chocolates and candies for the reception! They were so yummy!
  6. Christmas in Denmark: I am Danish, so I had to include this! Danes love to eat and celebrate. It is all about family, food, fun, and giving. On December 24, most Danish families gather to eat a meal and open presents. Many of them place their Christmas tree in the middle of the room. They hold hands, walk around the tree, and sing carols. Huge feasts full of fattening food are prepared, including the traditional Danish Christmas Dinner. I learned early that Danes like to sit at the table a long time because food is so important! The table must be beautifully set to get the full experience with tablecloths, ribbons, flowers, and candles. By the end of the Christmas meal, if you’re not in need of lying down, something has probably gone wrong! My grandma traditionally made roast pork, caramelized potatoes, red cabbage, different salads, pickled herring (her favorite), rice pudding, and lots of cookies! The rice pudding is usually served cold, and it’s made with vanilla and almonds. Along with the rice pudding we made marzipan, almond, and molasses cookies. This is where I got my love of sweets. I never went to grandma’s house without immediately walking in the door to the smell of fresh cookies!

It’s fun to see the different traditions as we celebrate the birth of Jesus! He is Immanuel, (God with us), all the way from Brazil to America, and around the world. As we give and receive gifts this Christmas, let us remember that Jesus is the greatest gift of all! His love transcends all time and space. May His love fill you this Christmas as you celebrate with old traditions and make new ones as well!

Shalom,

Mama Swan