Ahhh Christmas. That time of year when we try to exercise a modicum of restraint, only to buckle under the pressure at the first sight of a sweet cloaked in red, white and green.
For many of us the festive period is focused around a large man and his attempts to descend down every chimney in the land, delivering presents to those that are naughty and nice. But there are some parts of the world that interpret the birth of Jesus Christ a little differently.
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In Catalonia, the semi-autonomous region of Spain they commemorate the occasion with the Caga tió or Tió de Nadal (or “defecating log” in English). Families create a log-shaped character, feed it, pet it and on Christmas eve beat it with sticks to ‘extract’ the gifts within. There’s nothing quite like a bit of casual violence this time of year.
In Austria, land of snowy peaks and fire-lit grottos, Santa’s sidekick isn’t a group of elves, it’s Krampus, a demonic being that punishes children who haven’t been good this year in a classic Yuletide good cop bad cop scenario.
In fact, most places appear to have their own little twist to the big day. From rollerskating to mass in Venezuela, to eating fried chicken in Japan to a friendly witch in Italy. You can check out most of Christmas traditions in Google’s Santa Tracker website.
Christmas can change a lot from country to country. At The Next Web we are a multicultural team spread from all around the world. We have around 20 nationalities hanging out on a daily basis and we figured it would be nice to share our favourite traditions and holiday moments.
I’ve been in Amsterdam for four months now and it was a big surprise to me to see how they celebrate Christmas (I even made a post on Facebook about it). I was expecting it to be like what I had in Brazil with a lot of American influences – Santa Claus (Papai Noel) with the red clothes, black boots, the reindeers, elves and (fake) snow.
Our Christmas happens in the summer, but that doesn’t stop the shopping malls from wheeling out heavily clothed Santas and plonking them in epic Christmas dioramas. Each year the malls exceed all my expectations. From building ice rinks to erecting ferris wheels, even Disney gets a nod with a range of themed decorations.
We asked some of the team to share their favorite things about the holidays.
“Candiiiieeeeeees everywhere!!!! Literally, parlour candy (szaloncukor in hungarian) is made of fondant or jelly, covered with chocolate and wrapped in shiny paper. We either hang it on christmas trees as decoration or just throw them on the tree before giving presents.” – Blanka, Events Intern, Hungary.
“Secret Santa! It is a fun and easy way to make everyone happy. Everybody gets a gift and you have the thrill of trying to work out who picked you. It brings the family closer together.” – Renata, PPC Specialist, Brazil.
“In December there are a lot of concerts happening inside churches. I especially like the performances with choirs. The acoustics of the churches makes everything sound and feel very magical.” – Merilin, TNW Academy Manager, Estonia.
“Growing up, my family hunted down our own trees from our property. I usually demanded the saddest looking one so it could “fulfill its Christmas tree destiny”. And with Christmas tunes blaring, my dad made eggnog while my sisters, mom and I turned popcorn into garland and hung ornaments. My favorites were these ornate, hand-beaded ones my grandmother made in the 60s. When she died, each grandkid inherited enough to fill their own trees. To this day, I still get excited hanging those satin balls.” – Lauren, Commissioning Editor, USA
“Nobody in my family lives at home anymore, we’re spread out all over the world so the best part of Christmas is getting to have the whole family together in Ireland and seeing how happy that makes my parents. We all switch off (no phones, iPads, etc allowed) and just enjoy the short amount of time we get together until the following year. ” – Amanda, Reporter, Ireland
“London is a massive, busy city. But at Christmas all the non-natives disappear leaving those born and raised (like me) to have this massive playground to explore. Sure, it may sound a little curmudgeonly, but when you get to do it with friends and loved ones it’s the perfect way to end a year in one of the world’s busiest, greatest cities.” – Matt, Editor-in-Chief, London.
“My favorite part is buying the tree. Not even decorating it. We go out with the whole family, in the evening and pick one out. It takes ages and it’s usually very cold. We then drag a tree that’s too big and expensive all the way home. The needles hurt, the tree is too heavy, and you wonder what the hell you are doing. And then two weeks later we all get together in Amsterdam in a big square and burn all the trees. That’s our revenge” – Boris, CEO, Netherlands.
“I moved to London almost five years ago so I cherish making the journey back ‘up north’ to the unchanging familiarity of my hometown, Warrington. When you’re going at a million miles-per-hour in the big city, it’s nice to know your mum is there, as always, when you get back for Christmas. And the nightclub you frequented as a teen is still standing, waiting for you to throw some shapes like it’s 2005.” – Kirsty, Reporter, England
“My favourite part of Christmas is dinner time on the 24th of December, specially the special bread we make, which is part of the odd number of vegetarian dishes that are served. When making the bread, small “fortunes” are stuffed inside the raw dough – like papers with wishes, a small coin and small branch representing health. They signify the luck this person will have throughout the year and as far as I remember mine came true!” – Pamela, Online Marketing Intern, Bulgaria
“In Latvia, one of our unique traditions (hopefully not only in my family) is how you receive your gift. To get your present, you actually have to deserve it, either by singing a song or dancing. It’s hilarious as not all of our family members are natural talents, but we still all have to do it, and it is one more thing that brings us closer together!” – Madara, Online Marketing Intern, Latvia
“Growing up in Bangkok, Thailand, Christmas was not a big part of my upbringing, so when I came to America, the idea of gifting resonated with me the most. Shopping for presents, frantic and stressful as it is, is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. I know the holiday isn’t supposed to be about the material things (I sometimes hand-make presents) but I enjoy the opportunity to be extra thoughtful about the people I care about and give them things I know will mean something to them. The same is true on the flip side. Let’s admit it – presents can be pretty great, and it’s another way to carry the spirit of the people you love around” – Natt, US Editor, NYC
“My favorite part about Christmas is getting to spend it with new friends and family here in Mexico. We have some amazing friends that took us in and make sure we’re included in all of their family traditions at Christmas time. Since my mom moved to Mexico in the recent past to be with us, they’ve extended the same courtesy to her. My family has always been my mom and me, and with her having advanced lung cancer, this could very well be the last one we spend together. It means so much to me knowing that our friends are providing us with a loving adopted family to spend it with.”- Bryan Clark, Reporter, Mexico.
This is just a taste of the typical Christmas by staff here at The Next Web. We’d love to hear from you about some of your Christmas traditions. If it even comes close to Catalonia’s defecating log we may even write about it.