At Cezanne HR, we’re an international bunch. Our backgrounds stretch across the globe, from Europe to Africa; from Asia to America; it’s what gives us a global perspective and an unrivalled flexibility that enables us to collaborate and succeed.
With the festive season fast approaching, we asked some of the team to share insights into their own culture and winter (or for our friends south of the equator, summer) traditions, and how they celebrate the holidays.
Pedro Garcia, Customer Support – Catalonia
In Catalonia we have ‘Tío de Nadal’ instead of Santa. The Tío is essentially a foot-long log, with stick legs attached, and a painted smiling face, with a red barretina. The ceremonies begin as early as the 8th of December with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in which children feed the Tío and keep it warm with a blanket, so that it will expel presents on Christmas eve or Christmas day from the fireplace. A rather colloquial song accompanies the celebrations, named ‘Caga tió’, which very eloquently describes the image of a log defecating presents, but is perhaps too crude for this blog…
Hannah Mandapat, Marketing – Philippines & South Korea
I’ve experienced Christmas in two cultures – The Philippines and Korea. The Philippines is certainly the more festive of the two. We have no Halloween or Thanksgiving, and the Christmas season begins as soon as ‘ber’ months hit (the last four months of the year). You’re very likely to hear Christmas carols and jingles from September onwards.
As the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, on the last week before Christmas there’s a nightly Mass called ‘Simbang Gabi’, where we go to church every night until Christmas day. The actual Christmas day is often spent outside as a family outing and reuniting with extended family. Unlike in the UK, everything is open – malls, cinemas, theme parks. As my dad’s hometown is by the beach, we just picnic there.
For gift-giving ceremonies, children knock on their older relatives and godparents’ doors for ‘aguinaldo’ (gift), which is often money. You know you’ve reached adulthood when you’re the one giving ‘aguinaldo’ instead of receiving it…
Korea, by contrast, is more secular. So, while Christmas is celebrated there, it’s not really a public holiday. It’s considerably closer to Valentine’s day, and couples often go on dates and exchange gifts. Like the Philippines, everything is open, but you see more couples outside celebrating than families, so, if you’re single, Christmas might be a lonely time for you there.
Sarah Hawke, Technical Writer – Tanzania
My background is Tanzanian and being a country where a third of the population is Christian, Christmas is a big deal! While not necessarily as ‘commercialised’ as in the UK, it does revolve heavily around spending quality time with the family, and a lot of song-singing. Tanzania is a majority Muslim country, so it’s very common for Christians to invite Muslims round to the party to celebrate – a gesture which is reciprocated during Eid in the summer. As Tanzanian culture weaves the two together, it’s often ceremonial to share a party-sized goat or cow and have a Sheik kill it in halal fashion before dining on a large and hearty meal.
Shandel McAuliffe, Head of Content – Australia
I grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to the UK 6 years ago. The Christmas break is our long summer holiday, so I have fond memories of 6 weeks off school over December/January. We’d get a Christmas tree from the local fruit and veg shop – strange but true – a couple of weeks before Christmas. Any earlier and the tree might die before Christmas day from the heat!
Our main celebration is on Christmas day, but Australia is influenced by lots of different traditions, so it became more and more common to also exchange a gift on Christmas eve. We’d typically start Christmas day at the crack of dawn, opening presents. Our Christmas lunch is a mix of hot and cold food. We’d have cold prawns and ham from the fridge, alongside a traditional English-y lunch like turkey or pork with baked veg – not ideal for the poor cook stuck in a hot kitchen! When the weather is nice (sometimes it does rain!), we might go for a walk after lunch as a family or play games like cricket outside.
Mirela Gheorghita, Accountant – Romania
In Romania, Christmas kicks off for me right after St Andrew’s Day (30 November), and what follows is a very festive period, which includes Romania’s National Day (1 December) and Saint Nicholas Day (6 December), when the kids receive gifts.
In Romania, it’s common to fast in the 40 days leading up to Christmas. People abstain from consuming animal products (though fish is allowed on St. Ignatius). Mos Nicolae (Father Christmas) is celebrated with much enthusiasm. On Saint Nicholas’ Eve, the kids clean their boots and leave them by the door, anticipating Mos Nicolae to fill them with gifts in the night. And who can forget the carols – you can hear the singers from the capital to the countryside, as they bring the folklore to life.
An especially important tradition for us is on the Ignat Day with the pig slaughter, followed by the careful preparation of its meat. We make good use of the animal – feasting on its deliciously smoked ham, bacon, sausages, liver, trotters, and other parts. On Christmas Eve, we eat sarmale, which are pork balls wrapped in cabbage leaves served with polenta, pepper, and sour cream. We also have cozonaci, which is a rich sweet bread. Christmas day consists of a huge meal, comprising roast pork, boeuf salad, pickled vegetables, all washed down with a lot of wine.
Soukaina Tiken, Customer Support – Morocco, Italy, Holland
My situation is quite unique as I lived most of my life in Italy but was born in the Netherlands (and lived there until I was 7), and my background is Moroccan.
Being a Muslim country, Morocco doesn’t celebrate Christmas. However, my parents have always put on a small dinner and given us gifts just so that we wouldn’t feel different from our friends. An equivalent of Christmas in Morocco would be Eid where usually kids get toys, clothes and all the family gets together for a big meal.
In Italy, what we eat varies, but typically we’d have fish and lasagne on Christmas day and Pandoro, Panettone and Tiramisu for dessert. We’d usually go to the cinema in the late afternoon/evening (many people in Milan would do this on Christmas day) and we’d play games like Tombola and Uno.
When I was in the Netherlands, Christmas was a bit different. Celebrations focus more on the arrival of Santa Claus (Sinterklass) and his helpers Zwarte Pieten around the beginning of December. We would leave socks or shoes next to our home and school windows, which Sinterklass would fill with gifts and sweets.
Silvia Perisco, Director of Customer Services – Italy
In north Italy, you’d typically have a big lunch on the 25th, whereas in the south the main meal takes place on the evening of the 24th, which is then followed by midnight mass. We eat turkey too, but usually have ravioli as a starter and drink coffee in-between courses to keep us awake after eating too much!
Gifts are typically delivered by Babbo Natale, Italy’s version of Santa Claus, but in Bergamo the town along from where I went to school, St. Lucy would deliver the gifts on the 13 December instead, so traditions can vary depending on the region.
We wish all our readers a very festive and enjoyable break, however it’s spent.