Gently falling snow, colourful Christmas trees and choral carol singing are classic hallmarks of the yuletide season for many people, but despite the common cause for festivities, the nature of the actual celebrations vary wildly around the world. With offices in almost 40 countries, Engel & Völkers has a unique international perspective on world Christmas, so we’re sharing some of the most charming traditions around the world in a special two-part series.
Like many Europeans, the French place equal importance on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Many families still attend Midnight Mass at their local church or cathedral, and almost all will prepare the traditional Réveillon meal in the evening. The name is taken from the verb meaning ‘to awake’, and with oysters, foie gras and roast capon on the table, it would certainly be hard to sleep through this feast. A rich bûche de Noël serves as a delectable dessert for anyone who still has room. For children, Rudolph the reindeer is replaced by Gui the donkey, whose name means ‘mistletoe’. To make sure he doesn’t go hungry, children fill their shoes with carrots and leave them by the fireplace, hoping the favour will be returned by Père Noël in the form of lots of presents.
Since the late 19th century, British families have enthusiastically adopted many German traditions, including Christmas trees and sending cards. However, the culinary focus remains firmly on Christmas Day, with a late lunch of roast turkey (or goose) with all the trimmings: sage and onion stuffing, roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon. Before the meal begins it is customary to pull ‘crackers’, cardboard parcels filled with gifts, jokes, and paper crowns. At 3pm precisely, the Queen makes a televised speech that nearly a third of British families will tune into each year.
While Europe shivers in the depths of winter, 25th December in Australia is typically bright, sunny and pleasantly warm. Subsequently, roaring fires and glühwein are replaced by barbecues on the beach, while Santa makes do with kangaroos instead of reindeers. However, the contradictory weather doesn’t stop them from enjoying rousing renditions of See, Amid the Winter Snow or In the Bleak Midwinter, with Carols by Candlelight events held across the country.
Chinese New Year remains the biggest national winter festival in this predominantly Buddhist country; but for the several million Christians, Sheng Dan Jieh or ‘Holy Birth Festival’ is equally important. Children hope for a visit from Sheng Dan Lao Ren, literally translated as ‘Christmas Old Man’, while families decorate their homes with paper lanterns and Christmas trees, known to them as ‘trees of light’.
Observing the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar, the Christmas holiday in Ethiopia falls on 7th January. Known as Genna, religious observances form an integral part of the celebrations. Families dress in traditional shammas, cotton wraps with colourful stripes across the ends, and attend church. Twelve days later they honour the festival of Timkat, which celebrates Christ’s baptism.
To spend your next festive season exploring a whole new set of traditions, contact Engel & Völkers for expert assistance in finding a second home abroad. Our global network makes international property transactions straightforward and simple, with guidance every step of the way.