Tagged: christmas

Christmas in Serbia

The Nativity Fast begins 40 days before Christmas Day and has two aspects: spiritual and physical. The spiritual aspect of fasting is the abstention from evil thoughts and deeds. The physical aspect entails the complete avoidance of fatty foods, which includes all animal-sourced food products (meat, milk, dairy products and eggs). Fish may be eaten on certain days.

On Christmas Eve, the owner of the house goes out early in the morning to collect an oak branch (badnjak) which is brought into the house at sunset that evening. Christmas Eve dinner is strictly in accordance with church rules on fasting and bread is not cut by knife, but broken by hand. Apart from yeast-free round-bread, fish, honey, wine and bean stew are consumed, as well as walnuts, apples, pears, prunes, dates, other dried fruit, almonds and hazelnuts.The Nativity Fast ends on Christmas Day which Serbs celebrate according to the old Julian calendar, meaning that it falls on 7th January by the modern calendar. The položajnik is the first person to enter the house on Christmas morning and it is believed that he brings well-being to the home. He greets the household members by saying, “Christ is born!” (Hristos se rodi!) to which the household replies, “He is born indeed!” (Vaistinu se rodi!)

Christmas dinner is formal and consists of certain ceremonial foods which are only prepared on this day: Christmas pečenica (roasted whole pig) and česnica – a cake of wheat flour in which a coin is hidden and which is only broken by hand. Whoever finds the coin in their portion of bread will have good fortune for the next year.


Glühwein and Lebkuchen – Germany

Glühwein – mulled wine

Served by most German families around Christmas time, Glühwein is the German version of mulled wine famous worldwide. There are many different varieties: ingredients range from from cinnamon sticks and vanilla pods to cloves and oranges. German Glühwein is normally mixed in with rum or brandy. So children don’t get left out, there are many recipes for a non-alcoholic type – apple juice is used as the base for this. Here’s a recipe that everyone can enjoy as a winter warmer during the Christmas season:

4 cups of apple juice (best not from concentrate)
2 cups of black tea
2 tablespoons of sugar
The peel and juice of 1 lemon
The peel and juice of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves

Heat the apple juice and black tea in a pan, then add the other ingredients slowly, stirring all the time.

Strain the Glühwein through a sieve, then pour into mugs for serving.

Lebkuchen – German gingerbread

Often in the shape of Lebkuchen Herzen – gingerbread hearts – you can find these German biscuits in many other countries around Christmas time. In London, they are sold at market stalls, hanging on colourful strings. The Lebkuchen usually feature Christmas messages written in icing writing, or winter-related pictures like Santa, reindeer or snowmen. You can also buy plain hearts to decorate yourself at home. Although in Germany Lebkucken are eaten all year round, the Christmas type is normally softer and sweeter, spiced with cinnamon.



Le réveillon and Bûches de Noël – France

Although the number gets smaller every year, some French people attend Midnight Mass on the night of Christmas Eve – December 24. When they get home – in the middle of the night! – they gather with their families for a big meal called le réveillon. This name comes from the French word réveil, which means “waking”. This is because participating in the feast involves staying awake not only until midnight, for the Mass, but into the small hours of the morning, for the meal.  They usually eat oysters, snails, seafood, smoked salmon, or caviar as a starter.  As the main course, people eat a roasted bird: this is normally goose. For dessert, each family has its own tradition, but  a Bûche de Noël (like a Yule Log) is commonly eaten. People try and make these look as log-like as possible,with chocolate buttercream textured to look like bark. The bûche is then decorated with powder sugar resembling snow, berries, leaves and moss, which are often made out of a meringue-like mixture.



A German Christmas

German Christmas does not start on Christmas Eve but starts at Advent. There are four Advent Sundays before Christmas when Germans light a candle on each Sunday on beautiful wreaths.  There are sometimes also small presents given on those evenings.  On 6th December it is St Nicholas day where the children put a plate under their beds in the night before and tradition says that St Nicholas comes and brings presents if the children have been good and sticks and coal if they were not.   However the biggest difference between an English and a German Christmas is that the Germans celebrate on Christmas Eve. The presents are opened then, followed by a family meal.  In Germany they do not have a single dominant Christmas meal like turkey, but instead eat goose or carp.  Often Father Christmas visits the family on Christmas Eve and children play their instruments or recite poems.  Christmas Day and Boxing Day mean further family meals but do not have any special traditions, unlike in other countries.

– Olli


Skating in London

It’s that time of year again – the run-up to Christmas and the start of the school holidays. London has loads of rinks to choose from if you want to go skating, but some are better than others… Here are our top three:

1. Somerset House

The best rink in the city… they get everything right. The ice isn’t too icy, the marshals are helpful if you’re a beginner, and it looks pretty. But best of all: the skates are comfy. The café is nice too, but it gets busy so it’s probably best to find one in Covent Garden when you’ve finished. The rink is open until 6 January 2013, and you can book tickets at http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/ice-rink



2. Natural History Museum

Best for spending time afterwards – not only is there the Natural History Museum, but you’re five minutes walk away from the V&A, the Science Museum, and South Kensington high street/tube. This is probably the best place to go if you’re a tourist, and it’s nice and Christmassy with a massive decorated tree in the middle of the rink. The one downside? The skates aren’t that comfy… but you’ll be fine if you take thick socks. Book at  http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/ice-rink



3. The Tower of London

Probably the most dramatic location for skating in London, it’s always fun to go to the Tower of London. “Located in the moat, the ice rink is set against the magnificent fortress battlements, providing a stunning setting for winter skating in the City”, says the website, and it’s true: it really is a cool thing to do. It gets busy, so book at http://www.toweroflondonicerink.com

A Polish Christmas

In Poland, we celebrate a very traditional Christmas. Usually, the day we celebrate on is December 24th, Christmas Eve. After that, there are two days of Christmas, which are also celebrated.

On Christmas Eve, the whole family usually cooks throughout the day. We have thirteen different dishes—like barszcz, a beet soup; pierogi, a type of dumpling, usually stuffed with mushrooms; and fish—but never meat. Christmas Eve is still technically a day of “fasting,” a part of Advent, the preparation time for Baby Jesus’ coming. We set an extra seat at the table, which symbolizes the place we set for Jesus in our hearts. Before we eat, we pray over our food and read the Gospel Christmas story according to Mark. We also share the Opłatek, which is a thin wafer we give to one another as we wish each other good luck in the coming year.

                                                                                                         Receita de Pierogi

My family unwraps presents after the meal, and then goes back to eat dessert. Once it gets late, we head out to Church for a midnight Mass.

For my family and many other Polish families, Christmas is a special time of faith, family, and celebration. It’s especially important to me as a Polish girl living in the US that we stick with our traditions when everyone else around us celebrates so differently.

I hope you enjoyed reading about a typical Polish Christmas, and I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas, no matter how you celebrate.

-Paulina Czarnecki

Paulina Czarnecki lives in Michigan with her brother and parents. She is in high school. She has been writing since second grade and telling stories since long before that. Paulina enjoys listening to music and spending time with her friends. She works hard to achieve her goals.

Check out her own blog at http://www.paulinaczarnecki.wordpress.com! She’d love to see you there!