December 2013

Christmas Customs Around The World

Dear Reader,

With Christmas fast approaching, in this
edition of our newsletter we look at how different countries around the world
celebrate at this time of the year. We turn the spotlight on the traditional,
the slightly unusual and, in some cases, the otherworldly customs that count as
festive celebrations.

Rather than spend money on cards and postage we’ve decided to spend the same amount on goats and chicken from Oxfam Unwrapped (http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-unwrappedfor a Third World family.   

So, this is to send our warmest seasonal greetings to our clients, partners, associates and suppliers, and to wish you and those you love a peaceful Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.


Best wishes,


Martin Holliss

e: martinh@research-insight.com
t: +44 1235 812 456
m: +44 7931 376501

Which Christmas Do You Celebrate?

Join us on a whistlestop tour around the world as we highlight some of the traditions and customs from other countries’ Christmas celebrations: 

  1. Australia – With Christmas at the beginning of the Australian summer, temperatures often hit 30°C or more. Many Christmas traditions therefore have a distinctly outdoorsy flavour. Shopping for that perfect festive gift is often done in shorts and T-shirts, and on Christmas Day itself, many people head for the beach to stoke up the barbie. It’s not unknown for Santa Claus to arrive by boat or surfboard… Merry Christmas!

  2. France – French children don’t hang up their stockings. Instead they put their shoes by the fireplace so Père (or Papa) Noël will fill them with gifts. Père Noël is often accompanied by his rather fierce assistant, Père Fouettard, whose job it is to bring naughty children into line… Joyeux Noël!

  3. Germany – With the arrival of Advent, celebrations really begin. Advent calendars are often handmade, having been in the family for generations. On each of the Advent Sundays, a candle is lit on the wreath, so that four are burning brightly and continually by the time Christmas Eve comes around. And to add further bonhomie, people gather on Christmas markets up and down the country to drink warming Glühwein and nibble on pretzels and doughnuts… Frohe Weihnachten!

  4. Greenland – If you’re feeling tired of turkey or goose, then how about a little mattak instead? This traditional delicacy (whaleskin with a strip of blubber inside!) is eaten by Greenlanders at Christmas. The same goes for kiviak, the raw flesh of the little auk, which is served after having been buried whole in sealskin for several months… Juullimi Ukiortaassamilu Pilluarit!

  5. Japan – Christmas itself is not that widely celebrated in Japan as Christians are in the minority. However, gift-giving at this time of the year has become commonplace, adopted from American traditions. A lot of fried food is eaten on Christmas Day, and fast-food restaurants such as KFC report it as their busiest time of the year! You can even place orders in advance… Meri Kurisumasu!

  6. Lebanon – A strong contender in the World’s Most Glamorous Christmas Tree stakes has to be Beirut, which each year sports a stylish 25-metre-high tree donated and decorated by international fashion designer Elie Saab… Mīlād Majīd!

  7. Mexico – Is a serial Christmas record-breaker, thanks to one man – Sergio Rodriguez Villareal – who holds several world records for the largest-ever festive ornaments. Sergio’s huge decorations include a 5.57-metre-high angel made of beer bottles, a 3.9-metre-high candle made of mirrors and bottles, and a 2.75-metre-high silver bauble made of sheet metal… Feliz Navidad!

  8. The Netherlands – Holland’s Sinterklaas, or St Nicholas, certainly knows how to make an entrance. He arrives in the country by steamboat in mid-November, dressed in his traditional garb of red bishop’s dress and imposing mitre. He hands out presents on 5th December, Sinterklaasavond, a more important festival than Christmas in the Netherlands… Prettige Kerstfeest!

  9. Norway – You may not know it, but every year Norway donates the large Christmas tree that stands in London’s Trafalgar Square. A ‘thank you’ gift from the Norwegians to the British for the help they were given during World War II, it has become a symbol for UK/Norway relations and adding to the Scandinavian country’s Christmas traditions… God Jul!

  10. The Philippines – If you can’t wait for the Christmas holiday to end you probably won’t want to go to the Philippines. The country is reputed to have the world’s longest Christmas season. Carols may be played in shops from as early as September, while the real festive season kicks off on 16th December with nine days of dawn masses. Celebrations continue until Epiphany on 6th January… Maligayang Pasko!

  11. Russia – An ancient tradition practiced in Russia and other Orthodox Christian countries is the Christmas Eve ‘Holy Supper’. This consists of 12 foods each symbolising one of the 12 Apostles. Typically, the foods served comprise: mushroom soup; Lenten bread orpagach, dipped first in honey, then garlic; baked cod; fresh fruits; nuts; kidney beans; peas; parsley potatoes; bobal’ki biscuits; and red wine… S Roždestvom Khristovym!

  12. Spain – As is common across Europe, the main Christmas celebrations fall on Christmas Eve with the festive meal being eaten before attending midnight mass. This is also called ‘La Misa Del Gallo’ (The Mass of the Rooster) because a rooster is supposed to have crowed the night that Jesus was born. Most children open their presents at Epiphany, on 6th January. On Boxing Day, they write to the Three Kings, asking for toys and presents and they  eave their shoes out on Epiphany Eve on windowsills or balconies for them to be filled with gifts… Feliz Navidad or Bon Nadal (in Catalan!)

  13. USA – A hotch-potch of many Christmas traditions from around the world due to its multi-cultural population, the USA does Christmas in a big way. Whether it’s small community competitions to see who can have the largest amount of Christmas decorations on and around your house (some, like the ones we’ve seen in Tampa, Florida, can probably be seen from space!) or visiting one of the year-round Christmas shops that can be found in nearly every town, you can’t forget Christmas in the States… Happy Christmas!

Christmas for the Research Insight team

Our Oxfordshire-based team enjoys all kinds
of traditions, some of which date back to childhood and beyond (like stockings
– or more likely rugby socks – filled with small gifts, opened early on
Christmas morning).

Most Christmas traditions, though, centre
around food! For Martin, it’s croissants and champagne for breakfast on
Christmas morning. Lunch is a foodie fest, with delicious smoked salmon (from the Swallowfish smokehouse in Seahouses, Northumberland) followed by roast turkey, then traditional Christmas pudding and fruit
jelly. And if there’s space for any more, there are “goodies” like
figs, dates, crystallised fruit, ginger, marrons glacés, turkish delight, nuts
and clementines… all capped off with a much-needed walk with the dogs!  A lovely relaxing time with the family.

Looking to our more local community
traditions, Christmas Eve sees Father Christmas visit the nearby village of
Blewbury. He arrives in style on a sleigh pulled by a herd of (human) reindeer.
Helped by a team of elves, presents are given to local children while villagers
sing carols accompanied by the local brass band.