Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, a different religious festival or a more secular holiday, you’ll probably have your own traditions that make the season special to you. Here in the UK, the archetypal Christmas usually involves: dragging a tree into the house and decorating it with lights and tinsel, eating until your heart’s content, and eagerly waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney.
At Cezanne HR however, our staff hail from all over the globe, and it’s fascinating to hear how traditions and customs differ depending on country and culture. And seeing ‘tis the season for sharing, we thought we’d give you an insight into some of the ways our wonderful employees celebrate the festive season!
Hanna Liljedahl, Customer Support – Sweden
In Sweden we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, and the day starts with the children getting a present in their Christmas sock from ‘Tomte Nissarna’ (Santa’s helpers). Once everyone’s had breakfast, we go to our local church for the Christmas play to meet our neighbours and sing Heliga natt (Holy Night) together, which is then followed by a traditional ‘Dopp i grytan’ for lunch,
where the Christmas ham (which will be served later for dinner) broth is used as a kind of soup which you dip dark bread into.
At this point everyone will start getting excited because at 3pm everyone (except one person who ended up in charge of dinner) gathers in front of the TV to watch Donald Duck in the Swedish translated version of ‘From All of Us to All of You’. We then have an early dinner made up of lots of food, including; meatballs, boiled potatoes with dill, ham, oven baked salmon, cured salmon, pigs feet, leg of lamb, pickled herring etc. On Christmas Eve, Santa comes to your house and hands out the presents in person!
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.
Although they don’t celebrate Christmas in Morocco because it’s a Muslim country, my parents have always put on a small dinner and give us a gift 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.
Mirela Gheorghita, Accountant – Romania
In Romania, Christmas and mid-winter festivities last from 20th December to 7th January, but the celebrations really get going on Christmas Eve when we decorate the tree.
Carol singing (known as ‘Colindatul’) is also a popular part of Christmas in Romania. On Christmas Eve, children go out carol singing performing to the adults on their doorsteps, and they’d get sweets, fruit, traditional cakes called ‘cozonaci’ and sometimes money for singing well.
Traditional Romanian Christmas foods include Roast Gammon and Pork Chops, ‘Ciorba de perisoare’ which is a slightly sour vegetable soup made with fermented bran and pork meatballs; ‘Sarmale’ cabbage leaves stuffed with ground pork and served with polenta; ‘Cozonac’ a rich fruit bread; Romanian doughnuts called ‘gogosi’ and cheesecakes.
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 13th December instead, so traditions can vary depending on the region.
Declan McCarthy, Customer Support – Japan and Australia
I’ve spent several Christmases in both Australia and Japan, where things are done quite differently as you can imagine!
In Australia there are some similarities to the UK, (also celebrated on the 25th, presents exchanged in the morning), but seeing that it’s usually around 40 degrees, Christmas lunch is much lighter, usually consisting of fish and salad, or maybe a barbeque, which is then followed by a game of cricket. We still have mince pies, although we eat them cold.
Christmas is acknowledged in Japan, but not celebrated and treated like a normal working day. A staple cuisine for the day is surprisingly KFC, and usually a strawberry gateau for dessert. I spent most of my Christmases here shopping or watching the festive parade at Tokyo Disneyland.
Joanna Charalambous, Customer Support – Cyprus and Greece
In Greece and Cyprus, our equivalent of Santa Claus, ‘Saint Vasilis’ (a saint that helped the poor) will deliver presents on New Year’s Eve, and we also eat Vasilopita, a cake containing a coin/treat which is lucky if you get it in your slice!
We still celebrate Christmas on the 25th, but eat lamb instead of turkey, usually with potatoes, and it’s not unusual to bake homemade desserts such as Melomtarana or Kourabides to give away to friends and family. In Greece, Christmas trees are put up, but it’s also common to decorate boats on the shore/harbours with Christmas lights.
Sarah Hawke, Technical Writer – Tanzania
With one third of the country being Christian, Christmas in Tanzania is a big deal! It’s not as commercial as here in the UK, but it does follow the traditions of spending quality time with your family and singing lots of songs. Tanzania also has a large Muslim population, so it’s common for Christians to invite Muslims round to celebrate, and then the gesture is reciprocated during Eid in the summer.
How do you and your employees celebrate Christmas? How do your traditions differ to some of ours? Let us know in the comments!