Tuesday 25 October 2016

Discover Christmas: 7 traditions from around the world to try this year

Published 14/12/2015 | 10:43

We have our Christmas traditions in Ireland, plunging into the ice cold sea or hunting the wren on St. Stephen’s Day, but why not try something different?

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Here are seven Christmas traditions from around the world you might like to try in Ireland this year.

All year round we strive to incorporate foreign and worldly aspects of lifestyle into our daily lives, food, sport and travel are all unrecognisable from even a generation ago. We’ve teamed up with Tassimo who invite their customers to ‘Discover a World of Variety’. Christmas traditions tend to be the same old thing – try one of these Christmas traditions from around the world this year to mix things up a bit.

Going bananas in India

There are over 23 million Christians in India and, when Christmas rolls around, Indians who celebrate Christmas can’t get their hands on pine trees for love nor money. Instead they decorate banana trees and mango trees in the same way. They also make beautiful garlands out of banana leaves and hang decorations similar to those found in the western world. Midnight mass is a big event at Christmas for Indians. Family and friends walk together to the church, before returning home to feast on splendid Indian delicacies. Indian children don’t lose out on Christmas, as Santa Claus makes his way to the sub-continent on a horse and cart to dole out gifts. He is known as 'Christmas Baba' in Hindi and 'Baba Christmas' in Urdu. We don’t suggest that you ditch your fir Christmas tree in favour of a banana or mango tree, but Indian food could be a welcome break from the traditional turkey and ham on Christmas Day.

Roller Day

Christmas morning in Venezuela has one of the best and quirkiest Christmas traditions found anywhere. The roads in parts of Caracas are closed to cars so that the locals can roller skate to mass. Children also tie a piece of string to their big toe and dangle it out the window, so the skaters can give it a friendly tug on the way to mass. After mass people go out and eat tostados and drink coffee. Obviously roller skating to mass is unlikely to take off in Ireland, we doubt the country’s roads would be up to it but tostados, a deep fried maize pancake served with rice, beans and vegetables could be a great Christmas morning snack. Tassimo offers their customers a world of variety with over 40 different hot beverages at the push of a button. Coffee is a must this Christmas morning and with the Tassimo Suny it’s never been easier to try the Venezuelan Christmas tradition.

Czech your shoes

In the Czech Republic the unmarried women of the family carry out the tradition of shoe throwing in order to see if the coming year will see them wed or not. The women stand with their backs to the door and fling a shoe behind them. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing towards the door it means they will be married before the year is out. If the heel points to the door, they will have to wait until the following year. Shoe throwing could be carried out in Ireland this year – why not? Just be careful there’s no one standing behind you when you launch the shoe, and do it early in the day before the festivities take their toll.

Ukrainian spider webs

The Eastern European legend about the Christmas Spider goes that a poor peasant woman lived in a stone hut. One day a pine cone fell on the earthen floor and it took seed. Her children, delighted with the prospect of growing a Christmas tree, cared for the sapling and it grew in the house through the winter. When Christmas Eve arrived, the family couldn’t afford any decorations for the tree and went to bed disappointed. However, when they woke they were surprised to find the tree covered in spider webs and when the opened the window the first rays of the sun turned the cobwebs into gold and silver. The tradition of putting tinsel on the tree is generally attributed to this legend and the spider web decorations are still hung on trees in the Ukraine. Tinsel has taken a back seat in Ireland in recent years with people favouring more ‘tasteful’ decorations for their trees, but why not bling up the tree with some tinsel, or even better, dig out some Halloween spider web decorations and spray them gold and silver?

A whale of a time in Greenland

Christmas, as you would expect, is a big festival in Greenland. The feast is a big deal too and families enjoy barbequed caribou and sushi. Suaasat is a favourite; a stew made from reindeer meat, seal, whale or sea-bird meat. They also eat Mattak, which is raw whale skin with a little blubber. It is considered a festive delicacy, as it is kiviak, made by wrapping an auk (a small arctic bird) in seal skin, burying it for months and eating its decomposed flesh. We wouldn’t recommend digging up your garden to bury dead seal in this country, but many supermarkets and delicatessens now stock cured reindeer meat, which is very tasty if a little strong. Just don’t tell the kids you’re eating it.

Christmas Italian style

The Italians are big on Christmas and for them the main celebration comes on Christmas Eve or Vigilia di Natale. As Christmas Eve is technically still Advent, when traditionally the period of fasting or not eating meat is observed, the meal is always fish. Spaghetti all vongole (with clams) is very typical as a first course and can be followed with frittura misto (mixed fried fish including prawns and calamari) or whole sea bass and all of course paired with a crisp white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Vermentino. Christmas Day is it the time to get stuck into some meat and menus differ from region to region. Game is popular in the north with pheasant, venison and rabbit served with polenta and a delicious Borolo. Dinner is followed by Panatone, a slow baked high sponge cake and digetif of limoncello or grappa and of course Italian espresso. After dinner games include Tombola or Bingo. There are so many Italian delicacies available in Ireland, not try an Italian-themed Christmas celebration this year?

Christmas Down Under

Santa ditches the reindeers for Christmas Eve when he gets to Australia and swaps his red robes for red shorts. Of course it’s the middle of summer in Australia for Christmas and it’s hot. People get together on the beach or around the pool and barbeque. Steaks, sausages, burgers, fish and seafood are all thrown on the hot coals and washed down with beer and the best of Australian wines. We don’t have the weather here for an Australian-themed Christmas Day, but you could fire up the barbeque as long as it’s not raining. Surf n’ Turf, a mix of red meat and seafood along with typical summer dishes like potato salad could make a splendid Christmas lunch.

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