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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Traditions: Part Two

Buche de Noel
Yesterday we looked at the origins of some of our Christmas traditions. Today we look at how our European neighbours celebrate. Christmas Eve is often the big day.

In Finland, Christmas Eve is the traditional time to set up the Christmas tree and it's also traditional to visit the sauna and for families to listen to a broadcast of the national 'Peace of Christmas' on the radio. Christmas Dinner generally consists of a main dish of boiled codfish that is snowy and fluffy in appearance, served with cream sauce and boiled potatoes.

Christmas in France is called Noel, from the phrase 'les bonnes nouvelles,' or 'the good news,' which refers to the gospel. On Christmas Eve, cathedrals and churches are beautifully lit and filled with the sounds of Christmas carols, ringing church bells and carillons. The tradition among children is to put their shoes by the fireplace for Pere Noel or le petit Jesus to fill them with gifts. In northern France, as I mentioned yesterday, St Nicholas brings presents on December 6.

Most French homes will have a Nativity scene on display during the season. In Southern France, some people will burn a log in their home from Christmas Eve until New Years Day, which comes out of a farming tradition of using the log for good luck in the coming harvest.

The French also make a traditional cake called the buche de Noel, or Christmas Log, shaped like a Yule log. It is part of a late supper called le reveillon held after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
In Germany everything gets going on December 6. It's often the day when spiced cakes and cookies are baked - "Lebkuchen", and gifts and decorations made. Little dolls of fruit are traditional Christmas toys. Germans also make beautiful gingerbread houses.

December 6 is Nikolaustag, St. Claus day. A shoe or boot is left outside the door on Dec.5 and the next morning you find presents (if you were a good) or a rod (if you were bad). (Does anyone ever get given a rod?!).

The Christmas Eve dinner menu in Germany traditionally comprises of dishes such as suckling pig, white sausage, macaroni salad, "reisbrei" (a sweet cinnamon) and many regional dishes. Some people will feast on carp. The Christmas Eve is popularly called here as "Dickbauch" (meaning "fat stomach") because of the myth that those who do not eat well on Christmas Eve will be haunted by demons during the night. So everyone tries to stuff their belly to the fullest on this day.

The feasting continues on Christmas Day with a banquet being held on this day. Traditional Christmas dishes consist of plump roast goose, "Christstollen" (long bread loaves stuffed with nuts, raisins, citron and dried fruit), "Lebkuchen" (spice bars), marzipan, and "Dresden Stollen" ( a moist, heavy bread filled with fruit). And, strange but true: it's a German tradition to watch a short subtitled British film called "Dinner for Two." It's hardly known over here. But the Germans find it hilarious.
Frankfurt Christnmas market

Here in the UK, it's traditional to go to church at midnight on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, presents are opened around the tree either in the morning, or, if you're the royal family, at supper time. Lunch is roast turkey with all the trimmings followed by Christmas pudding with rum butter or clotted cream. Family games are played in the afternoon, or maybe a bracing walk taken. A few hours later the feasting resumes with cold turkey sandwiches, cheeses, pork pie, mince pies and trifle.


Trevor said...

Two great Christmas posts Gail....

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Maggie May said...

My mouth is watering in anticipation!
Diet starts in the New Year!

Happy Christmas to you and your family.
Maggie X

Nuts in May