- Holidays and Celebrations
Christmas in Scandinavia
Most of the yule log traditions come from Scandinavia. The cold and dark winters started the development of traditions with light and warmth. The Yuletide is very important to Scandinavia. It is believed it is when fortunes are determined for next year. It is thought to be a time when the dead walked the earth.
At one time, people did not sleep alone on Christmas eve because it was thought to be dangerous. Families and servants would make a bed of straw and sleep together on it.
In the old days, the Yule log was a whole tree and was chosen very carefully. The tree would be brought into the house. The cut end would be put in the fireplace, and the rest of the tree was out in the room. When the fire went down more of the tree was pushed into the fireplace. You have to be very careful pushing the tree into the fireplace because it has to last through the Yule season.
Christmas in Brazil
The people that live in Brazil com from countries from all over the world. At one time, Brazil was a Portuguese colony. Many of Portugal's traditions are practiced in Brazil.
They always put up a nativity scene at Christmas. The nativity scene is called a Presepio. The Presepio is most common in northeastern Brazil. The Presepio came to Brazil in the 17th century. A Franciscan friar started the tradition of the Presepio. They would set them up in December in churches, homes, and even stores.
In Brazil, the gifts are brought by Father Noel. Brazilian legend says he makes his home in Greenland. It is so hot on Christmas in Brazil that Father Noel will usually wear silk clothes.
The very religious Catholics will go to Midnight mass. On Christmas day, they will usually go to church in the late afternoon after dinner.
The Brazilians will decorate with fresh flowers from their garden. They will also have fireworks displays. They will decorate trees with lights.
In Brazil, Christmas is a festive time with a lot of celebrations.
Christmas in Italy
The Nativity scene is very popular the world over. The Nativity scene is a special symbol of the holiday scene that started in Italy. Giovanni Valletta of Greccio was asked by St. Francis of Assisi to make a manger scene. When the Nativity scene was completed St. Francis would perform mass in front of it. The people that went to mass were amazed and loved the Nativity scene.
A cannon is fired from Castel St. Angelo in Rome on Christmas Eve to start off the holiday season. The people will have a great Christmas feast after a 24 hour fast. The people will take presents that are small from the Urn of Fate.
In Italy, January 6th is when the people exchange their gifts. January 6th is the day of the feast of Epiphany. This is a celebration to remember the Christ child’s visit from Magi.
The children of Italy will wait for a visit from La Befana, who brings gifts to the good children.
There is a legend that states that during their journey the three wise men stopped to get food and shelter from an old woman. She refused them food and shelter so they went on their way. After a few hours went by the old woman changed her mind but the Magi were nowhere to be found.
It is said La Befana still travels around the earth looking for the Christ child. La Befana is seen in different ways by different people. They are seen as a fairy queen, witch or a crone.
Christmas in Poland
A tradition called Wigilia is celebrated in Poland. They have a very strict fast that starts on Christmas Eve and lasts for 24 hours. The fast ends with a large Christmas dinner. Before anyone can start eating, they must see the first star of the evening in the sky because it is in honor of the star of Bethlehem.
Poland’s Christmas is called Bozz Narodzenie. Most of the time it is called Gwiazdka. Gwiazdka means little star. After the first star appears there will be a rice wafer the has been blessed by the parish priest broken into pieces and a piece will be given to each person. The rice wafer is called an oplatck.
There are 12 Apostles, and the feast will have 12 courses to represent each one of them. When this has all been done the Christmas feast will begin. There will always be one extra place set at the table for a stranger who might appear or if the Holy Spirit happens to come by to share the meal.
Christmas in Sweden
King Canute of Sweden declared Christmas would start on December 13th and last one month. The feast of St. Lucia would officially start on December 13th and last until January 13th.
Lucia was a 4th-century Sicilian saint, and no one knows why she became so special in Sweden. Many Swedish people think she visited Sweden. There are people that think the missionaries would tell stories about her life and the Swedish people fell in love with her from these stories.
One of her stories is that she took food to the Christians who would hide in the underground tunnels to avoid the Christian persecution. She would go at night and to see where she was going she would wear a wreath with candles on her head. Lucia was eventually caught and arrested. She became a martyr.
In Sweden, the eldest daughter of the family will dress in a white dress with a red sash and a wreath made of evergreens with 7 lighted candles on her head on the feast day. The eldest daughter will take buns and coffee to the family members.
Most schools, offices, and communities will have processions where they will sing carols. Everyone will join in giving thanks to the Queen of Light.
A Christmas gnome called the Tomte will come out Christmas Eve from under the floor of the house where he lives. He will leave gifts for everyone from his sack that is full of gifts.