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Christmas across the globe

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Lilla Uszkay | December 21, 2022

6 Minutes Read

As Christmas is just around the corner, Aliz employees across the globe are getting into the holiday spirit with their own festive customs. They’ve let us have a peek into their traditions and childhood memories, so that we can see how Alizers celebrate.

Indonesia

Laras: “Though Christianity is not the majority religion here in Indonesia, as a Christian - I and other Indonesian Christians - have my own way to celebrate Christmas! 

Personally, I usually have two separate events. The first one would be with my friends. We usually plan an annual Christmas lunch or dinner, which we hold either a few days before or after Christmas Day. It’s sort of a semi-formal dining, and we would do Secret Santa or exchange presents with each other. This type of event is very common among the younger adults here. 

The second one is with family, and this is something every Christian family here normally does as a tradition. My family goes together to the church services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (fun fact: it’s very common here to go to the Christmas Day church service wearing red and green as our dress code). After we attend the Christmas Day church service, we go to one of our relatives’ houses (a different one every year) and celebrate Christmas there; the extended family members all gather there. The host cooks and prepares a lot of meals: the appetizer, the main course, and desserts. The menu is traditional Indonesian dishesTumpeng Nasi Kuning and Rendang are always there, and for dessert, Es CendolRujak, or Fruit pudding

After we fill our stomachs, we usually give out presents, but only for the children (me included, since my parents are still alive), my cousin, my nephew, and niece). Once in a while, not every year, we children also sing a Christmas song together for our parents and grandparents. And for the rest of the day we talk to each other until the evening! 

The celebration is rather simple. It’s always about getting together, having a meal together with our big family, and opening our Christmas presents together. Christmas means a lot to me. It’s the day I look forward to most in the whole year as I get to meet everyone in my big family. Since we don’t meet on a daily basis, there’s lots of laughter and catching up, good food, and most importantly: it always feels warm:-).”

Austria

Markus: “Personally, I’ve always loved Christmas. For me it means getting together with friends and letting life slow down for at least a couple of days in the year (obviously, this doesn’t apply to the pre-Christmas time when people are going crazy about shopping for the right presents). Like many Austrians, I like to visit the Christmas markets during Advent; they’re popping up all over the country in the weeks before and enjoy a cup of Glühwein and cheesy Christmas music.

Within my closest group of friends, we have started the tradition of a festive dinner in the week before Christmas. I love this occasion because we are all living in different parts of Austria now and therefore, we don’t have the chance to get together that often anymore.

The 24th of December is the most important day during Christmas (at least for my family). The day has looked more or less the same for as long as I can remember. During the day we prepare food for the evening, finish the last of the decorating, and visit our passed loved ones in the cemetery while taking a walk.

The evening starts with a nice feast with our closest family. Food choices in Austria differ from family to family, but many go for a specific fish (carp) or sausages. However, our family tradition demands Schnitzel, which became quite a challenge for me; I’ve been vegetarian for years now (it’s a good thing there are plant-based Schnitzel options). After the food, we slowly move to the highlight of the evening - the “Bescherung”. In Austria most families have this event at some time on the 24th when  the family gathers around the Christmas tree, sings songs together (“Silent Night” preferred), and then hands out the Christmas presents. A couple of years ago we stopped the “gift giving madness” and switched over to “Secret Santa” - less stress, more fun. Afterwards, the evening proceeds with long talks and probably quite a few shots of eggnog.”

Tunisia

Tahar: “Coming from a Muslim country and family, I only knew about Christmas from those typical American movies but had actually no idea what it is really about other than the tree and the gifts.

After relocating to Hungary, thanks to my Hungarian girlfriend, I had the chance to live the holiday for the first time when her mom invited us for my first-ever Christmas dinner... I didn't expect much but I was overwhelmed by the warmth of that December night and the amazing traditional food this lady cooked with love. I even received a Christmas gift that was beyond my wildest imagination that someday it would happen, but it did!

It really was like living in one of those movies I grew up with. Even in a strange country surrounded by Christians, I felt at home. Simple family dinner and gathering around a fireplace telling stories and unwrapping presents.”

Germany

Sascha: “Christmas is always a time for families to get together over the holidays. To cook, bake, and enjoy an eggnog or two. Christmas Eve is all about the presents. Then the first and second day of Christmas is to visit the grandparents and extended family to feastlaugh, and enjoy the time together with an endless number of Christmas songs.”

Steve: “For me, Christmas is a time spent with family. Growing up in Canada with German parents I ended up getting a bit of a mix between the two cultures. The four Sundays leading up to Christmas are known as the first, second, third, and fourth Advent. On each of the Advents, you light a candle, typically on these wooden towers with a fan on top (so the rising heat from the candle makes the fan spin). In addition to the four Advents, I would also get an Advent calendar, where each day I’d open up a door and there would be a chocolate behind it for me to eat. The Advent calendar has doors from the 1st of December up until Christmas Eve. 

On Christmas Eve my family would always open presents (in Canada they do it on the morning of the 25th). But in order for my parents to sneak the gifts under the tree they would take us to a street in the city where the houses all had very impressive light decorations. Right before we would leave the house, one of my parents would make an excuse to run back inside quickly and during that time would place the presents. Once we came back from this walk, we would run inside to check if Santa had come yet, and sure enough, he always had.

Celebrating Christmas eve in Germany

After opening presents we would all eat dinner together (a special potato salad). The next days were typically spent hanging out at home; going to visit other family members like my great grandma or my cousin; or playing ice hockey out on the frozen ponds. 

The 26th of December is Boxing Day, which means that all of the stores have big end of the year sales, so any money I might have gotten for Christmas from family members would usually be put to use on this day. Boxing Day in Canada is always crazy. People line up super early before the stores open so they can get the best deals before they sell out.”

Singapore

Yew Wah: “Christmas is the festival of giving to me. It is also a perfect excuse for friends and families to put aside their work and get together to celebrate. Christmas is usually a bunch of us going out for meals as well as playing Secret Santa. Gifts are usually capped at a nominal fee so no one is pressured to overcommit to a gift. Sometimes, we have log cakes with our meals as well since you don't get such cakes outside of Christmas.”

Italy

Fausto: “In Italy, Christmas is the most heartfelt holiday. Each region has its own traditions and from the markets of Bolzano to the nativity scenes of Naples, starting in November throughout the country you live a long Christmas period made up of very different habits that allow everyone to find their own way to celebrate.

In our house, the first sign that the holidays are approaching is given by the appearance of panettone (cake native to my city Milan, stuffed with raisins and candied fruit) and pandoro during meals.

Celebrating Christmas eve in Italy

After preparing the Christmas tree together, every day that is missing is marked by the Advent calendar that my children open as soon as they are awake to discover the little surprises that it contains. 

On the 25th, however, the opening of gifts is the moment that we carve out only for us, before all the relatives arrive to celebrate around a rich lunch prepared by me and my wife with the same menu that has been repeated for 15 years, made of dishes that we cook exclusively on that occasion to wish us a Buon Natale.”

Greece

Loukas: “Although I haven't really celebrated Christmas in the past 10 years or so, my country has several traditions connected to this holiday. 

Since Greece is a maritime country, its traditional symbol of Christmas is a Christmas boat called a “Karavaki”. This tradition remains today in some islands and seaside regions; elsewhere many families have also adopted the custom of decorating a Christmas tree instead.

Celebrating Christmas eve in Greece

Another important element of Greek Christmas traditions is sweets. The most common Greek Christmas sweets are melomakarona, kourabiedes, and diples.

Kourabiedes and Melomakarona (Greek honey cookies) have deep-rooted origins and are the two most traditional Christmas treats as almost every Greek household prepares and serves them throughout the Christmas holidays. Additionally, Diples (syrupy pastry) are another very popular dessert at Christmas time throughout Greece.

Lastly, it is very common throughout Greece to use pomegranate as a decoration, since this fruit is a symbol of fortune, fertility, and prosperity in the country and in Greek mythology. During the holiday season, people hang pomegranates on the doors of their houses.”

Hungary

Rebeka: “My Christmas preparation starts with the advent wreath and lighting the first candle on the first Sunday of Advent. Over the Advent period, there are more and more decorations in the house symbolizing that Christmas is coming. Christmas preparation is always family fun. We decorate our plants with lights in the garden, bake gingerbreads and make a lovely gingerbread house, choose a lucky pine, and hope for a white Christmas. 

On the 24th of December, we decorate the Christmas tree with small ornaments and cook dinner. I prefer a living pine as a Christmas tree because it’s going to be with us for a few Christmases, after that it has its place in the garden. Christmas Eve is my favorite holiday evening with the smell of pine and sparklers and on this evening you feel gratitude and love towards your family. 

Whether it snows or not, we always go for a short walk in the woods in the afternoon. After that, we dress up elegantly and everybody hides their presents under the tree. It’s always fun to find your presents and watch the others open the presents that you gave them and had been carefully hiding from them for weeks. 

We eat a delicious dinner. It’s not a Christmas Eve without biscuits and mulled wine. We play some board games and I love it if I get a book for Christmas because I can cozy up with it on Christmas Day.”

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