Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Around the World

It’s that time of year, again.  Charlie Brown, Lucy and the others are on TV (last night 5 different channels carried A Charlie Brown Christmas.)  Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer colored lights and manger scenes are decorating row houses and suburban lawns.  Even the M&M candies get to meet Santa.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of Christmas traditions that fill our western culture.  But what about other cultures? 

Here at THE DARK SIRE, we are interested in how others celebrate the holidays. We found that Christmas traditions are almost as varied as the number of countries and can range from the hilarious to the sublime. 

In the Catalonian region of Spain, there is a Christmas character called Tio de Nadal  or Caga tio, loosely translated as “the pooping log”.  It is a small, hollow log propped up on two legs with a smiling face painted on one end.  From the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (around December 8th) Catalan families give the log a few morsels to eat and a blanket to keep warm.  Then on Christmas Day, people sing a special song and hit the log with sticks and low and behold, the log “poops” presents.

Caga Tio from Catalonia

In Argentina, Christmas is not a winter celebration.  After all, December is summertime in the south of the equator.  The main meal, eaten on Christmas Eve, consists of a full barbecue with roasted turkey, roasted pork, veal and lots of different sandwiches.  Then at midnight, people set off fireworks and open their presents, although many people wait until the 6th of January (Epiphany) to open their gifts.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Christmas Eve is an important musical evening with churches having as many as 5 or 6 choirs.  They also celebrate with nativity plays which traditionally begin with the creation and the Garden of Eden story and ends with Herod’s killing of the innocents.

In Ethiopia things are quite a bit different since the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church celebrates Christmas on January 7th, a tradition that came from the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church.  Many Ethiopians take part in a special Advent fast that lasts 43 days during which only on vegan meal is eaten each day.

Did you know that Santa lives in Finland? The Finnish believe that Santa Claus lives in the northern part of Finland, in the Arctic Circle, thus making Santa Claus their neighbor. Christmas, then, is a 3-day event that begins on Christmas eve, when Christmas trees are bought. However, decoration of the tree doesn’t start until Christmas day. And, with light waning in the early afternoon, visiting loved one’s in graveyards and hanging candlelit lanterns is a popular family outing. Even the animals have their own Christmas.  People leave fruit, nuts, suet and all kinds of goodies for the wild birds to eat.

Australia is another summer country, so Christmas can be celebrated at the beach or on camping trips. With the weather so hot, Santa changes clothes to cool down and sometimes changes reindeer for kangaroos. And, instead of milk and cookies, people leave out carrots and cold (usually non-alcoholic).  Christmas dinner consists of fresh fish, prawns, and lobsters with other traditional English foods, such as Christmas pudding. And don’t forget the delicious Christmas crackers!

Australian Christmas Dinner

On the Island of Malta, cribs are central to their Christmas celebration.  Cribs were first introduced to Malta by noblemen from Italy in the 1600s.  At first they were not popular and were more often burned than celebrated.  But then, a crib was built that the culture adopted as “theirs” and the Maltese crib was born.  People started making cribs with moving parts.  There is now a “Friends of the Crib” society that put on a yearly exhibition of hundreds of cribs in all shapes and sizes.

A Maltese Christmas Crib

Many Christmas traditions have evolved from the Colonial era and which dominant European country occupied that particular area of the world.  This also meant that various Christmas traditions devolved from which brand of Christianity was dominant in the region.  There was Roman Catholicism, Greek and Russian Orthodoxy, Coptic, etc.  You can quite literally throw a dart at the world map and discover something unique about the way people celebrate the holidays beneath the tip. 

Christmas around the world is a wonderful celebration of diversity. And we, here at the THE DARK SIRE, want to wish everyone, no matter how they celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas.

                                    *                                  *                                  *

Celebrate the holidays.  Give a subscription of THE DARK SIRE to someone you love. Digital, print, and subscription box subscriptions now available.

A Victorian Christmas

The Christmas we celebrate is uniquely Victorian.  Prior to Queen Victoria assuming the throne in 1837, Christmas was a regional affair. Pre-industrial transportation and communication made things difficult for the general population to get around.  But then Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and the industrial revolution arrived on the scene and Christmas took on a whole new meaning with Christmas trees, Christmas dinner, the Yule log, Wassailing and Father Christmas, who was given a new persona.  The wealth and technologies of the industrial revolution changed the face of Christmas into the one we recognize today.

Prior to Queen Victoria’s influence, people knew about a real man named St. Nicholas and a cobbler who gave presents to the local children, but they didn’t know about the modern-day Santa Claus.  Christmas cards were not sent.  Work kept families from gathering together, with some unable to celebrate holidays.  Queen Victoria, who represented the epitome of family to her subjects, changed all of that.  Newspapers and influential magazines began illustrating the Royal family interacting and celebrating things like Christmas and naturally, her subjects wanted to follow suit.

The new found wealth generated by the industrial revolution found its way into the middle class.  Suddenly, these families found that they could take two days off: Christmas and Boxing day, the day when the working people opened the boxes in which they had collected gifts of money from their employers.   The new railways allowed the country folk who had moved into the cities in search of employment to return home to celebrate Christmas with their families.

Mass production allowed the price of toys to drop into the affordable range of this new middle class.  Games, dolls, books and automated toys were no longer the sole property of the upper classes.  Authors began writing Christmas stories, like Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol (1843), which actually encouraged rich Victorians to redistribute their wealth by giving money and gifts to the poor.

Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens

In the Victorian period, Santa Claus, as we know him, made his first appearance.  He was an amalgamation of two midwinter characters: the British Father Christmas and the Dutch Sinter Klass.  Father Christmas was originally part of an old English midwinter festival that heralded the return of Spring.  Sinter Klass was the gift giver.  And he wasn’t fat… that is, until Washington Irving of Sleepy Hollow fame described him as “portly” in one of his other stories and from them on, illustrators and cartoonists kept adding to the Claus’ girth.

The Christmas Tree idea was brought to England by Prince Albert.  The Christmas Tree was popular in the Prince’s native Germany, so he displayed one in Windsor Castle in 1841. The Royal family allowed the London Illustrated Times illustrate the tree. When the common people saw it, they, too, wanted to join in on the festivities… and the rest is history, as they say.

Wassailing, carolers who went from house to house singing and playing popular carols of the day, became popular. Classic Christmas music that we know today was born: O Come All Ye Faithful (1843), Once in Royal David’s City (1848), See Amid the Winter Snow (1851), O Little Town of Bethlehem (1868), and Away in a Manger (1883) just to name a few.

And let’s not forget Christmas dinner.  People in the north of England preferred roast beef.  People in the south, goose.  You might remember it was a goose that Scrooge had Tiny Tim run down to the butcher to fetch or that it was a goose that ate the blue carbuncle that Sherlock Holmes was hired to find.  The Royal diner that the Illustrated Times chronicled in Windsor Palace included both roast beef and a roasted royal swan or two.  Later, turkeys became the bird of Christmas choice.

Christmas cards made their appearance in the Victorian era, as well.  In 1840 Rowland Hill introduced the idea of a “Penny Post”.  The idea was revolutionary.  For a penny stamp, a letter or card could be sent anywhere in Britain thanks to the newfangled contraptions called Trains.  The cards were so ornate and artistic that many Victorians collected them and proudly displayed them.

If you celebrate Christmas, in some way, you might consider yourself a Neo-Victorian.  You may not dress in the Victorian style, but as you sit around the Christmas tree on Christmas morning opening presents, you are definitely enjoying the traditions handed down to you from the Victorian Era. And with dark tales intertwined into the holidays, it’s perfect for any lover of Christmas joy and the supernatural, as we all can learn a thing or two from the ghosts of Christmas and Tiny Tim. To those who celebrate, Merry Christmas!

What are some of your Christmas traditions? Leave a comment and share with us.

*                      *                      *

Be sure to visit the TDS Holiday Store to gift your loved ones the best in gothic, horror, fantasy, and psychological fiction, poetry, and art. Order by 12/14 for delivery by Christmas and use coupon code HOLIDAYS2020 for 10% OFF entire order.