Following my last post about Christmas in other cultures, I’ve been having a lot of fun doing plenty of research and finding out about how the festive season is celebrated elsewhere around the globe.
There certainly seems to be something about shoes when it comes to Christmas in Europe. I was reading up about Christmas in France and discovered that, yep, once again, children put their shoes out so that Father Christmas – or Père Noël – will fill them with gifts. Thinking about it, however, this is just a more hands-on version of what happens here in the UK with stockings – only over here you can go all out and buy a huge stocking in the hopes of extra presents. I know I’ve pulled that one before!
Depending on the region in France, Christmas starts on different dates. In eastern and northern France, Christmas ‘begins’ on December 6 or, in Lyon, on December 8. These dates are followed with periods of festivities, including the fulfilling of a law that was passed in 1962 – dictating that every letter written to Santa would get a response. So that must be what he does during the year when he’s not busy on Christmas Eve delivering presents.
Moving over to Poland, I found out some weird and wonderful facts about Polish Christmas traditions. In rural areas in Poland, it’s traditionally said that unmarried women who grind up poppy seeds on December 24 will get married quickly and if they go outside following dinner and hear a dog barking, their future husband will come from the direction the dog is facing. Another Christmassy superstition is that Christmas Eve is a time of magic, where animals can communicate with people in human voices – and that it’s possible to tell the future. I think I’ve found my next Christmas holiday destination – it’d be amazing to find out all about the Polish Christmas season firsthand.
In Norway, alongside the Norwegian Santa Clause – julenissen - is another Christmas character called the Fjøsnisse. Unlike our Santa who only shows up once a year, this ‘nisse’ – Norwegian for elf or gnome – lives in farm barns year round and helps out with the animals. That is, if you’re good. If the nisse feels he is being mistreated – like if you forget to leave him a bowl of porridge on Christmas Eve – he’ll play mean tricks on you like move around the animals, scare dogs and blow lights out in revenge.
It looks like lots of places have their different ways of doing Christmas – and now I’m definitely hankering after a Christmas break to experience some of the different customs and traditions.