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Language and culture experts at Busuu revealed some of the most unique ways that the festive season is celebrated around the world unveiling the most unusual and “surprising traditions” that take place at Christmas.
In France, traditional advent wreaths, also named couronnes de l’avent, feature in most houses, where one candle is lit each week throughout December.
Christmas Day in France consists of feasting on a late lunch, typically goose or capon, truffles and mashed potato.
In Germany, Christmas day or Weihnachten is celebrated on December 24 and on the evening of December 5, children polish their shoes and leave them on the street, to later find them filled with chocolates and sweets as a reward for good behaviour.
Christmas markets are a huge part of German festivities and Dresden’s Striezelmarkt is the longest-running Christmas market and one of the most special ones in the world.
In Japan, Christmas is not a public holiday but it is a big celebration. Children wake up to presents next to their bed and couples spend the day like Valentine’s Day, going on dates and exchanging small gifts together.
Christmas dinners, however, look “very different” as the Japanese typically eat a meal from KFC, the experts claimed. “Some pre-order their chicken meals months in advance and long queues are expected on December 25 outside KFC restaurants,” they explained.
In Venezuela, residents of the capital city “will be seen travelling to Christmas mass on roller skates”.
The experts explained why: “Supposedly an alternative to sledding, people all across Caracas will dust off their skates and travel through the city to gather together at an early-morning Christmas service. Skating is such a popular tradition that the streets are closed to cars to allow skaters to travel safely and enjoy this fun Christmas activity.”
The experts explained that in China they use a plastic tree featuring flowers and chains made out of paper to decorate their homes and their Christmas trees.
Christmas tends to be more of a commercial holiday with cities and department stores decorated with large Christmas trees, ornaments, and bright, colourful lights.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch watch films, play games and eat delicious meals with the family, such as Kerststol, a seasonal fruity bread loaf.
On December 5, Sinterklaas arrives with presents and kids leave a shoe by the fireplace, sing Dutch Christmas songs and wait until pakjesavond, or present evening, for their gifts to arrive.
Italian tradition goes that Christmas Eve must be a meat-free day, with many choosing to cook pasta, rice and seafood.
“Christmas Day is therefore all about feasting on grand roasted meat meals and finishing off with a slice of traditional Panettone Christmas cake,” the experts explained.
Christmas in Poland takes place on December 24 but carols aren’t first sung until Pasterka, the celebratory Polish midnight mass.
The experts said: “For many families, Christmas Eve is the first day of fasting and when the first star appears, Wigilia is held, a vigil dinner often serving fish.”
A spokesperson for Busuu commented: “Lots of countries around the world love to celebrate Christmas – whether that be on Saint Nicholas Day at the beginning of December, or on 24 or 25. It’s such a wonderful time to spend with family and friends, exchange gifts, decorate the house and eat lots of yummy food.
“Everyone will have their own traditions passed down from family members, but countries also have different ways they like to spend Christmas day.
“For example in Japan, Christmas is only celebrated by families with children and couples tend to see it more as Valentine’s Day.
“However you spend the festive season, and whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there is no denying the warm, fuzzy feeling the period brings to us all, and the time we get to spend with our nearest and dearest.”
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