Christmas traditions around the world

With many wonderful Christmas traditions all around the world, we explore how The Philippines and Slovakia celebrate Christmas!

multiple writers
15th December 2021
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
Whilst many countries around the world celebrate Christmas, the traditions range drastically from place to place. We explore these festivities in Slovakia and The Philippines.

Slovakia

There is no doubt that Christmas is the favourite holiday of the majority of Slovaks. After all, the winter wonderland is enchanting. However, the traditions here are quite different.

Image Credit: instagram @thisisslovakia

Slovakia is predominantly Christian; therefore, our traditions give off religious vibes. It all begins on the evening of December 5, when Santa Claus or, as we call him, Mikuláš, puts sweets into cleaned children’s boots waiting on the window. He is usually accompanied by angels and devils (that usually traumatise children – definitely not speaking from personal experience).

The “real” Christmas is then celebrated on December 24 and it’s mostly about family and food. The carp in the bathtub waiting for its ordeal of becoming the dinner, everyone’s stomach growling so that we can see the golden piglet (if we manage to not eat until the dinner time), the smell of mushroom soup and Olivier salad and the warmth of candles and Christmas carols creating the perfect atmosphere.

When the first star in the sky appears, Christmas rituals can start. Sanctifying the house with the Holy water and the Peace light of Bethlehem, throwing walnuts into the corners of a room, putting fish scales under our plates for good luck. Then we usually go into one room to listen to more Christmas music and my dad conveniently disappears when we hear a bell hung on the Christmas tree ring. The presents magically appear and finally, it’s the time for what we have been waiting for all day long – the dinner

After the dinner we open our presents and the rest of the evening is spent watching all of the well-known Christmas films that by now everyone knows by heart. The best time of the year I will cherish forever.

Lenka Minarovicova

The Philippines

The festive season in The Philippines is one enjoyed by many, with The Philippines being one of the few countries in Asia where Christianity is the national religion (an estimated 92.5% of Filipinos are Christian). They enjoy a long season of traditional festive activities, drawn out from the beginning of September!

Shockingly, and probably disapprovingly for the many grinches about, the 1st of September marks the turning point into the Christmas season for Filipinos. Radio shows and televisions begin to play their Christmas carols and countdowns commence, shelves are stocked with festive delights and decorations are presented with pride – including Christmas trees. These decorations typically will stay up until January. 

Image Credit: instagram @christmasinthephilippines

The festivities are inspired by a combination of native Filipino traditions and Western traditions such as sending Christmas cards, singing carols, and enjoying stories about Santa Claus. Equally, to focus on the former, their most popular Christmas decoration is the Parol. The Parol is a bamboo pole/frame with a star lantern made from coloured Japanese paper. This represents the star that guides the Wise Men to Bethlehem the night Jesus Christ was born. These can be found everywhere in the Christmas season, from outside houses to shopping centres and offices. The city of San Fernando hosts its Giant Lantern Festival each December where parols and decorative lanterns compete to win the award for Best Lantern and are displayed around the city afterwards. 

Arguably the most exciting element of Christmas is the food, and in The Philippines this doesn’t disappoint. Traditional Christmas dishes include bibingka (a type of baked rice cake cooked in a terracotta oven lined with banana leaves) and puto bumbong (a purple steamed rice cake). These can be enjoyed at the Noche Buena, a celebration typically occurring at midnight on Christmas day following Misa de Gallo (the Christmas Eve mass). This is an entirely Filipino tradition and an opportunity for large families to come together and feast on a large variety of food.

Alice Holmes

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