Christmas Celebrations

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Christmas Celebrations

Most of us are familiar with the American and English Christmas customs. But have you wondered how Christmas is celebrated in Greece or Iceland?

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Christmas Celebrations
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Czech Republic

There are a lot of fortune-telling tradtitions that are associated with Christmas. One of them involves a family member cutting a branch from a cherry tree and putting it inside water. If it blooms it is considered as good luck.

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Czech Republic
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Czech Republic

Also if a spinster picks the branch, it could mean that she will get married the following year.

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Czech Republic
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Czech Republic

On Christmas Eve, if a spinster can check if she can get married the next year by standing outside with her back to their front door, removing one of her shoes and throwing it over her shoulder. If the shoe lands with the toe facing the door, then she will marry in the next year. If not, she will have to wait at least another 12 months.

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Czech Republic
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Austria

Austrian children still get to celebrate the arrival of Ol’ Saint Nick, but they also have to brace themselves for the arrival of his evil counterpart, Krampus. Where Saint Nicholas rewards good behavior with treats and toys on December 6, the demonic Krampus arrives on December 5, looking to punish all the bad children. Local men actually dress up like Krampus (just like many men dress up as Santa in America) and terrorize the streets.

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Austria
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France

Le Pere Fouettard, which translates into “The Whipping Father,” accompanies Saint Nicolas in on December 6. While St. Nick gives good children presents, Le Pere Fouettard gives coal and whippings to the naughty children.

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France
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France

Aside from The Whipping Father, another popular French tradition involves making a cake that looks like a traditional Yule log, known as buche de Noel.Some of the buche de Nol can get fairly elaborate and even involve meringue mushrooms and edible flower decorations.

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France
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Finland

Finnish people honor their departed loved one's on Christmas Eve by visiting the cemetries and leaving candles on the graves of their family members.

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Finland
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Germany

Belsnickel is the German Santa’s dark enforcer, but he's not nearly as evil as Krumpus or The Whipping Father. Instead he just wears fur from head to toe and gives good girls and boys candy and bad children coal and switches.

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Germany
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Germany

Some houses are decorated with a wreath known as an "Adventskranz." These wreaths have four candles which serve as a sort of weekly advent calendar, as each Sunday marks the opportunity to light a new candle.

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Germany
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Germany

On December 21, St. Thomas Day is believed to be the shortest day of the year and anyone who arrives late to work is called a "Thomas Donkey" They are also given a cardboard donkey and made fun of throughout the rest of the day.

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Germany
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Germany

Like many other places in Europe, the Christmas tree is kept secret from the children until Christmas Eve. The parents bring the tree in, decorate it with candies, tinsel, lights and toys, put presents and plates of candy treats under the tree and then ring a bell signaling that the children can enter. The children then get to eat snacks and the whole family opens presents.

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Germany
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Iceland

In Iceland parents tell stories of an Ogre couple's children named the Jolasveinar, who are bad, but not nearly as evil as their parents. Jolasveinars were originally said to play tricks on people and steal food, but now they are responsible for giving gifts to children. Bad children don’t get presents though, they get potatoes or other items that remind them that they weren’t forgotten, but don’t deserve real presents.

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Iceland
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Italy

In Italy, there is no Santa, but instead there a woman called a Befana that performs the general duties of Saint Nick. The story is that the three wise men stopped during their travels and asked a woman for food and shelter. She said no, but later realized her mistake when it was too late. She now travels the earth looking for the baby Jesus and on Januaray 6th, she leaves kids a sock filled with candy or a lump of coal.

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Italy
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Japan

While most Japanese residents are not Christian, the majority of people still celebrate Christmas just for the fun of it. Unsurprisingly, the rituals are slightly different than those we are used to. Because KFC has marketed the idea that fried chicken is the traditional meal for the holidays, the restaurants are so busy on Christmas Day that reservations are required.

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Japan
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Japan

Children still have a Santa figure though, only in this case, he is a traditional Japanese god who is known for his generosity. Hoteiosho is a heavy-set Buddhist priest who carries a large sack of presents. Children know they have to be good because Hoteiosho has eyes in the back of his head.

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Japan
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Greece

Saint Nicholas is one of the most popular saints in Greece because he is the patron saint of sailors. For this reason, their Saint Nicholas is hardly the fur-wearing man celebrated by other cultures. Instead, he is depicted as being soaked with seawater and sweaty from working too hard to save ships.

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Greece
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Greece

Residents fill a shallow bowl with water and then tie wire with a wooden cross and a sprig of basil over the bowl. Once a day the cross and basil are dipped into holy water, which is then sprinkled through the house. This ceremony is used to keep out goblins, known as Killikantzaroi out of the house. Because they are said to enter the house through the fireplace, fires are left burning all day and night during this time of year.

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Greece
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Netherlands

Netherland's Santa, Sinterklaas, is accompanied by a one-time slave known as Black Peter. Black Peter’s cartoonish appearance is a result of his going down dirty chimneys all the time and he’s no longer referred to as a slave, but a "helper."

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Netherlands
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Netherlands

The naughty man in blackface is a mischievous character who may kidnap naughty children and whisk them away to his home in Spain.

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Netherlands
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Norway

Norwegian legend says that Christmas Eve is kind of like Halloween and brings about a number of evil spirits and witches. The brooms of the house are hidden to keep a number of evil spirits.

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Norway
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