How do they celebrate Christmas in France?

This is a guest post from Caroline Skudder who works as an English teacher at the Université Stendhal-Grenoble.

Christmas is a special and magical time of the year. Both adults and children look forward to it for different reasons: children for the tons of presents they get and adults for the fine food and chocolates they are going to eat. Both Christmas eve and Christmas day are celebrated. It is often the opportunity for couples and families to spend one of these days at one family’s and the other at the other family’s so everybody is happy. Father Christmas often comes two or three times: in the evening of Christmas eve (at one set of grandparents’) , in the morning of Christmas day (at home) and at lunch time of Christmas day (at the other set of grandparents’).

Christmas tree with star on topThe Christmas tree is often put up at the start of December and all the family set to work to decorate it. It often ends up being a little unbalanced but the children are proud of their work. Recently, there has been the fashion for outside electrical lights to decorate the house and neighbours often compete for the best decorated house.

Some families go to midnight mass and watch a nativity play played by children.

Tables are set up. Often several old tables are put next to each other to host everybody and we struggle to find a chair for everyone. We decorate them with Christmas table cloths and bits and pieces.

Christmas is about eating refined and delicious food you do not get to eat in the year. Several members of the family prepare a dish for the meal. The whole evening from 7 to past midnight is spent eating. There are several starters (there can be up to 3 or 4, for instance smoked salmon, prawns, snails or frog legs, foie gras), two main courses (for instance Turkey and Chestnuts or duck or poultry), the traditional cheeses and the Christmas logs. We often have enough food for the rest of the week!

Joyeux Noël (Happy Christmas)

If you want to learn French and you are based in Birmingham, you can contact me via my website for private French lessons.

Related posts: How do they celebrate Christmas in Germany?     How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece?    How do they celebrate Christmas in Denmark?

How do they celebrate Christmas in Germany?

advent wreath with holly leaves and 4 candles - 3 purple and one pink This is a guest post from Rainer Schlötterer of RS_Globalization Services.

In Germany almost all families decorate their homes with an “Adventskranz” (advent wreath). This is a wreath most often made from twigs (fir tree, spruces) with four candles and often also decorated. The candles are lit on every Sunday before Christmas starting with 1 candle in the first week up until all 4 candles are lit on the last Sunday before Christmas day (25 December).

In the weeks before Christmas most families bake a lot of Christmas cookies. The children may help in the kitchen and have a lot of fun cutting cookies in all sorts of different shapes or nibbling at the fresh pastry. All-time favourites are the vanilla crescents and the “Spitzbuben” (“rascal cookies”). If you are too lazy to bake them yourself you may also buy them on one of the numerous Christmas markets in every town and city where you can get all sorts of Christmas bits and pieces while enjoying a mug of mulled wine.

When finally the children have opened the last door of their advent calendar on 24 December, Christmas eve is only hours away. Families usually go to church in the afternoon to celebrate the “holy night” and then come back with the children to find that the “Christkind” (Christ child) was here and put presents under the Christmas tree. This is a magical moment for the children although usually they may be a bit disappointed to have missed the “Christkind” once again as in the years before.

Families then traditionally would play and sing Christmas songs and have a special Christmas eve dinner if the children are not too busy unwrapping presents and play with the new toys. There is no traditional dinner for Christmas eve. Some families have a fondue or raclette when the children are a bit older. But roast, trout, home-made pizza or any other special meal will also do.

On the first Christmas day (25 December) it is time for visits of relatives, grandparents, etc. Now the traditional Christmas meal is goose which is roasted and served with delicious dumplings, gravy and red cabbage. If you find goose a bit too much or if your family is smaller, then also duck will do.

Boxing day (26 December) is also celebrated and is another chance for visiting family and relatives. There is no special Christmas dinner for boxing day but why not have another roast in the oven.

Many thanks to Rainer for this guest post. Rainer is the owner of RS_Globalization Services, which provides multilingual translation and localization services to SMEs and corporate clients. RS_Globalization Services is EN15038 certified.

Related posts: How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece?    How do they celebrate Christmas in France?    How do they celebrate Christmas in Denmark?

How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece?

This is a guest post from Andrea Michael of Olive Translations.

If there’s one thing the Greeks know how to do it’s celebrate an event in style and Christmas is no exception.

The festivities begin before Christmas on 6th December (St Nicolas’ Day ) when children roam the streets with drums and triangles singing carols or ‘kalanda’ as they’re called in Greek. These carols have been handed down from generation to generation from Byzantine times.

Going from door to door, it’s a nice way to sing carols and children earn a few Euros (which in this economic climate is no bad thing!)

Greece being a Christian country, tradition and religion dictate many of the events that take place and Christmas is no exception. There is no doubt that Christmas is about celebrating Jesus.

On Christmas Eve, a bread called ‘Christopsomo’, literally ‘Christ Bread’ is homemade and a sign of the cross is imprinted before it goes in the oven. On Christmas Day, the bread is sliced and each piece is given to a family member.

Christmas Day itself is usually spent in church in the morning then home for lunch with the family. Whilst turkey can be bought at supermarkets due to the influx of tourists, most families will have a leg of lamb or pork roasting on a barbeque spit cooking for hours. This is usually served with a traditional ‘spanakopita’ or spinach-cheese pie and lots of vegetables and rice.

For dessert there are two varieties of cakes ‘melomakarouna’ and ‘kourapiedes’ which are normally baked in large quantities. ‘Melomakarouna’  are semolina, cinnamon biscuits covered in honey, and ‘kourapiedes’ are rosewater and butter cookies coated with powdered sugar that are normally served on New Year’s but are often eaten earlier as they are too good to resist!

All this good food makes for partying and it’s not uncommon for music to be blaring all night long whilst everybody dances around their houses and into the street with neighbours joining in just for fun.

Gifts are not actually exchanged on Christmas Day, but are given on 1st January. Things then wind down but not before the Epiphany on 6th January. This is the date the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Jesus’ baptism when he was a man.

The Epiphany is also known as ‘The Blessing of the Waters’. All over Greece, priests throw a cross which he has blessed into the sea ( or lake or river) and the male members of the family will dive into the freezing waters to be the first to get the cross. Whoever comes out first holding the cross is said to have good luck in the coming year.

If you happen to be in Greece and want to wish someone a ‘Merry Christmas’ it’s ‘Kala Christouyenna!’.

Related posts: Tuesday 13th   How do they celebrate Christmas in Germany    How do they celebrate Christmas in France?

Many thanks again to Andrea for this guest post.  Olive Translations, based in Birmingham, is a translation company with a difference. Certified to the highest European Translation Standard, EN 15038 and with an ISO 9001:2008 Certified Quality Management System in place, when we say Quality; we mean it. Let us be your Partner for the provision of serious, quality translations and we can work together to tailor make a service and price that’s right for you. For a quote please email: info@olivetranslations.com

Tuesday November 13th

If you live in Spain or Greece you’re probably being extra careful today.  Tuesday 13th – that unlucky day when things are bound to go wrong…

Tuesday? Not Friday? No. Although for UK, USA and most other countries in the western hemisphere Friday 13th is considered the unluckiest day in the world, people in Greece and Spanish-speaking countries people fear Tuesdays.

The reason is not known for sure, but it has been suggested that it has something to do with the fact that Tuesday is named after the god of war (martes in Spanish after Mars and  ἡμέρα Ἄρεως (hemera Areos) in Ancient Greek after Aries) and so trouble was expected on this day.

Another suggestion put forward is that the day is considered unlucky because Constantinople fell on a Tuesday (Tuesday May 29th 1453), causing many Greeks to flee their homes.

At least we all agree that it’s the number 13 that’s unlucky though, don’t we?  Err…..no! In Italy it’s the number 17 that is considered unlucky. The reason is a bit convoluted, but bear with me…

  •  In Roman numerals 17 is written as XVII
  • If you rearrange these four characters you get VIXI
  • VIXI means “I have lived” in Latin, and it is found on many graves in Italy

During the middle ages, uneducated people found it difficult to distinguish between XVII and VIXI and so the number 17 came to be associated with death.

Here endeth the culture lesson for today!

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Related post: How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece?