According to Webster’s, a tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way. Traditions are so special and so unique to each family. There are traditions that many families do, and many traditions that only a few families do. My favorite of our family traditions is matching pajamas. When I was a little girl, probably around 5 or 6, my mom made matching night gowns for the two of us, and my teddy bear, Brownie. I can still see the royal blue paisley pattern and feel the weight between my fingers of the quilted fabric. Those jammies were my most prized possession, and years later got an honorary square on my t-shirt quilt. Every year since then, my mom and I have done matching pajamas for Christmas. Over the years we’ve added a couple sisters in law, kiddos, and my brothers to the tradition. It makes for silly pictures and a nice memory for the whole year whenever we pull the pajamas out of the drawer.
Here is a list and a little background of some favorite Holiday traditions from around the world:
1. Find the Pickle: Origins of this traditioned are thought to come from Germany but have also been said to come from the United States. Some families will hide a glass ornament pickle on the tree. The family member that finds the pickle on Christmas morning, receives an extra present.
2. Advent Calendars: Advent calendars start on December 1st and are a countdown to Christmas day. They come in many different forms from a small set of drawers with small trinkets, to pictures with chocolate inside. The first known Advent Calendar can be traced back to 1851.
3. Book Exchanges: This is sometimes seen in classroom parties but is also very common in Iceland where people will exchange books on Christmas Eve, then spend the evening reading and eating chocolate. The tradition is part of a season called Jolabokaflod, or “The Christmas Book Flood.”
4. Gifts: In many cultures, gifts are given to children from different ‘people.’ In my family, we receive socks from Frosty every year. “Syrian children receive gifts from one of the wise men’s camels, purported to be the youngest and smallest in the caravan, who fell down exhausted at the end of the long journey to Bethlehem.”
5. Special Foods: There are many traditional foods and sweets associated with the Holiday season. “The Spanish have a tradition called Roscón de Reyes celebrated on January 6, during celebrations of Día de reyes (Kings’ Day), to commemorate the arrival of the 3 Wise Men. This Christmas cake is usually topped with crushed almonds, candied fruits, and powdered sugar, and sometimes stuffed with whipped or almond cream. There’s usually a baby Jesus figurine (or a dry fava bean to represent him) stuffed inside the cake, and the lucky person who finds it gets to buy the following year’s roscón.”
6. The Yule Goat is a Swedish tradition. The goat is made of straw and believed to help guard the Christmas Tree. Straw is a typical Christmas decoration in Scandinavian homes, as it represents Jesus being more on the manger.
7. Christmas Lists: Writing wish lists for Santa is a common tradition in the United States. Children send them mail them, hand deliver them, give them to their elves, or have their parents send them to the North Pole. In Germany, it is traditional for children to decorate their Christmas lists with pictures and then leave them on the windowsill overnight.
8. Trimming the Tree: Christmas Trees are decorated differently from home to home, some with tinsel and garland, some with popcorn strings. In Finland, families decorate the holiday tree with geometric mobiles made from straw.
9. Parades: Parades are a tradition in many cultures with floats, music, and small prizes or candy given to children. In Jamaica an extravagant parade takes place called Jonkanoo also takes place after the traditional “Grand Market” celebration which is a festival and market that is filled with shopping, eating, and lots of dancing.
The beautiful and wonderful thing about traditions, is that they are unique to each family. They are ever changing and evolving and are for everyone. Here’s to wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and amazing memories from your family traditions, new old and ever changing!