Christmas customs worldwide

Historical rituals for the Feast of Love

Christmas is an event of customs and rituals around the world. Hardly any other holiday is celebrated by so many people worldwide. Over the centuries there have been typical regional customs, which include both Christian and folk rites. Some of them will be presented here.

Christmas tree

The evergreen in the glittering light dress

In many regions worldwide, the decorated conifers are an important element of the Christmas season. The custom spread from Germany in the 19th century, where it was mentioned in literature for the first time. Writers of Romanticism were referring to the ancient customs of the tree decoration, which was already customary in previous cultures around the year to celebrate fertility and vitality. During winter times, the evergreen conifers represent strength, health and life – especially in the far North.

Santa Claus

Gift bringer with white beard and red robe

Without Santa Claus no Christmas party. The old fellow is responsible for placing gifts under Christmas trees in many cultures of the world. Santa finds his origins in the historical Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century Greek bishop and gift-giver of Myra. Also figures from other Western cultures influenced the modern Santa Claus image. The white-bearded gift bringer is said to make lists of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior and to deliver presents, including toys, and candy to all of the well-behaved children in the world.

Christmas decoration

Creative decoration for a colorful feast

In 18th century already, people started to decorate fir branches with apples, walnuts, and sweet pastries during pre-Christmas times. Soon silvered and gilded elements were added. The production of decoration, which was held in the circle of the family until the 20th century, was one of the important rituals. In the 19th century the first glass decoration followed. According to legend, a poor glassblower from Lauscha could not afford the expensive apples and nuts and therefore produced small glass spheres as a substitute.
Ever since, colors and lights are important elements for enlighten the dark season.

Christmas Pickle

It’s green in green in the evergreen

What does Christmas have to do with pickles? Well, a lot – at least in the USA. Traditionally, an ornamental pickle is placed on a Christmas tree. The first one to find the pickle on the tree would receive an extra present from Santa Claus or would be said to have a year of good fortune.
There are different origin stories about this tradition. One of them is placed during the American Civil War. The Bavarian-born Private John C. Lower was captured in April 1864 and taken to the prison camp. As the story is told, on Christmas Eve he begged a guard for a pickle while starving. The guard provided the pickle, which Lower later credited for saving his life. After returning to his family, he began a tradition of hiding a pickle on their Christmas tree each year.
From then on, the ritual has been spread around the world.