For our First Christmas together at the Institute, we wanted our members to describe a little bit their Traditions for Christmas. They may not be the same for everyone, but they help bring us together a little bit, and that's what the Institute is all about. So firstly from the Institute and the Youth Association for a Greater Europe, we wish you all a Merry Christmas!
Ana Popova - Ruse, Bulgaria
Celebrating Christmas in Bulgaria is all about a miraculous process of weight gain. The traditional Christmas’ Eve dinner is made of an odd number of dishes which should not contain meet. However, drinking 45% Mulled Rakia without the consumption of any animal would not meet the standards of a true Bulgarian. Your grandmother has at least put some effort into hiding the meat in pickled cabbage leaves and has created the wonder of Sarma.
The enjoyment of this dazzling array of tastes is followed by a heart-warming tradition called Koleduvane. Christmas Carolers visit the homes and sing songs wishing health and happiness, starting their rounds on Christmas Eve. The positive power of these wishes chases away the demons, which makes the visit of these young men an especially positive experience for Bulgarian households.
The whole evening in expectation of the Koledari singers is spent with the family around the fire, where a huge block of oak or cherry tree called Badnik keeps the house warm all night long. This embodies one of our oldest Christmas traditions which have been around since pagan times and is used to tell our fortune. If the stump burns heavily and bright, the year is going to be one of much health and fertility.
Lucia Nafziger - Cologne, Germany
In the morning of the 24th every child in Germany jumps out of bed to open the final door of their “Adventskalender”. The advent calendar plays a major role during the christmas festivities here. The excitement of receiving a small surprise everyday from the first day of December on, makes the waiting for christmas a tiny bit easier! The tradition can be traced back to the German Protestants who drew chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas. Next to the advent calendar we still light up candles to continue this tradition. On Christmas Eve the faces of everyone around the festively laid tables are illuminated by the four candles on the “Adventskranz”. Each one having been lit on one of the four preceding Sundays, on which we often sing carols. Not seldom however, the wreath fades into the background between enormous piles of “Plätzchen” (biscuits of various sorts) and different creations of “Lebkuchenhäuser”. The typical dinner on Christmas Eve varies between carp, mainly eaten in many Catholic families; potato salad with sausages or goose roast.
“Adventskranz” and “Plätzchen”
Abhivardhan - Allahabad, India
Allahabad, which these days, is known as Prayagraj, is popular for its Kumbh festival of Hindus and the Ganga-Jamuni culture, which an assortment of different religions and cultures. Different people from India in the North Belt live here and share a legacy since the British Raj after the Mughals and Nawabs in Lucknow. Allahabad is the centre of the North Indian Catholic Diocese and other religious institutions as well, which established a pro Indo-Western culture of Christmas here in a special way. We celebrate it no different, but we resemble it as pluralistic and one, which itself embarks a unity in diversity in our city. People here, whether Hindus, Muslims, Christians or Parsis, celebrate Christmas in their own Indian styles as they do with an International event like Kumbh at a city level like no other city in India. We have been that different and ironic over the relishing habit of regarding Christmas as a symbol of peace and diversity like Ramadan, Holi and other fests. Greetings for the same!
Adrian Waters - Rome, Italy
In Italy the Christmas festivities begin on 8th December when they celebrate the Immaculate Conception, i.e. the conception of Mary, as God absolved her of all sins when she was still in the womb according to the Roman Catholic tradition. On this day Italians put up their decorations and prepare the Christmas Tree. One notable aspect of Italian-style Christmas is the traditional model of the nativity scene, known as the presepe. It can be found in churches, in other public places and in family homes and often it depicts the town of Bethlehem in meticulous detail.
Most people associate Italy with good food. And as a matter of fact a lot of delicious food is consumed during this festivity. This includes panettone (a sweet bread with candied fruit inside), pandoro (which does not have the fruit, but it is shaped like a star and usually covered with icing sugar) and torrone (nougat). The most important meal of this festivity is on Christmas Eve when Italians cook a huge dinner, based mainly on seafood. Religious people often go to church for a mass after eating.
Diego Sánchez - Lima, Peru
Thanks to our cultural diversity, Peru hosts different traditions to receive and celebrate Christmas. Probably, the most common one shared by all cities in Peru consists of eating the famous “panetón”. Originally from Italy, this sweet and delicious bread found itself a place in most families’ tables within the capital city. Accompanied mostly with a cup of hot chocolate and butter, despite awareness of its impact on health, it represents a moment of joy to each family that reunites for Christmas’ Eve dinner (December 24th). However, apart from complementing the Eve’s dinner with a juicy and applauded turkey, including the champagne, many Limean families have started to prepare and bake a “lechón” (piglet), instead. Furthermore, a traditional Christmas in a Christian/Catholic family from Lima cannot exist without preparing a “pesebre” in their homes (Christmas Manger) that symbolises the birth of Christ. In spite of the strong religious influence of these practices, Limean families seek to have this dinner with joy and creativity, especially after the famous last hour rush on the 24th to buy presents and ingredients to make this dinner possible. Finally, this tradition cannot come to an end without the popular “recalentado” (to heat and cook all leftovers from Eve) that all families continue to share for the lunch on the 25th.
Elena Ruxandra Seniuc - Suceava, Romania
Christmas in Romania is all about visiting your relatives and eating as much as possible. These all-you-can-eat buffets are often compulsory and if you dare to engage in a never-ending food-denying process with your grandmother, I am telling you, she’ll win; no one refuses grandma’s food. Unlike Bulgaria, Romania’s Christmas food is mostly made out of pork (and sometimes there’s some rooster if you’re lucky). From Sarmale to Aspic or Cozonac (nutty sweet bread), these are all guilty of your latest weight gain. However, the star of the Christmas dinner is always the Russian/Romanian Boeuf (or Olivije) Salad. Made out of finely chopped boiled potatoes, carrots, parsnip, peas, gherkins and ham (or other meaty products), all mixed with industrial quantities of mayo, it represents the pièce de résistance of a good hospitable host. Late in the evening,