Christmas Gifts Around the World
Even though they say that this time of year is for being with family, eating turron and marzipan, let’s be honest: what we really enjoy the most is receiving the gifts that Santa Claus or the Three Wise Men have left for us! Well….for us and every child in the world. But, keep in mind that all Christmas presents aren’t delivered in the same way throughout the world. We have found some traditions that you might find amusing.
Let’s start at the beginning and look at the history of it all. Did you know that Roman children also received gifts around this time of year? Christmas at those times was known as “Saturnalia” (it was celebrated in honour of the God of the Sun, as Jesus had not yet been born), but it was also customary to give gifts in order to bring good luck.
Returning to the present day, how are Christmas presents given, for example, in Holland? In this European country Santa Claus doesn’t come down the chimney, but, like other civilized folk, he comes in through the front door. Sometimes, as he is in an awful hurry, he even leaves the presents at the front door, rings the bell and disappears off to another house.
In the countries that together once formed Yugoslavia, Mothers’ Day is celebrated two weeks before Christmas. What does this have to do with Christmas presents? Well, in this case the children ask for their presents directly from their mother, after they have tied her up. One week later, they do the same to their father. However, their Santa Claus (called Djed Mraz) doesn’t appear the following week, but waits until New Year’s Day.
Children in the well-disciplined Germany also have a curious custom that they must follow, which dictates that they cannot open their presents until they sung the traditional Christmas carol “Silent Night” to their parents. You shouldn’t take the power of this song lightly: in 1914, the First World War fighting paused when both the German and British soldiers began to sing it…but that is a story for another day.
In Hungary the children follow a custom very similar to the Spanish one: they leave their shoes on the windowsill in the hope that Santa Claus will leave the presents beside them. This is for the good children….for the bad ones there is something “special”, a gold coloured stick to remind them that they deserve a few lashes for not having behaved themselves.
Everybody knows that in the United States and in England they leave stockings on the fireplace, or at least this is what is represented in movies. Why do they do this? The story goes that there was once a man who had three daughters of marriageable age, but he was so poor that he didn’t have a dowry to offer – historically the father of the future bride had to give something to the family of the future groom – ; Saint Nicholas took pity on the poor man and, whilst the family were sleeping, climbed onto the chimney of the house and dropped some gold coins into the stockings of his daughters, that were drying by the fire. This tale, as you can see, has become a tradition.
In many parts people also give a small “gift” to Santa Claus in recognition of his efforts, such as a glass of milk or water. It has caught our attention that in England it is often customary to leave Santa a class of sherry (it seems that this is somewhat of a typical Christmas tipple there); Similarly in Ireland they leave a typical drink, but this time from their own country, what better than a pint of Guinness?
In Australia they also leave water for the animals that pull Santa’s sleigh. But if you are imagining that these animals are reindeers, you are mistaken. Think about it, what is a typical Australian animal? Exactly! There the sleigh is pulled by some handsome kangaroos that are, of course, as white as snow.
There are a lot more strange customs surrounding Christmas presents, but we would have to write a book instead of just a post, so we invite you to explore it a bit yourself. We are sure that it will occupy you for quite a while!
Do you like this post? Here’s the spanish version.