International Christmas Traditions
Fun facts about the celebration of Christmas around the world!
Germany and Austria:
Many of our present day traditions, including spruce Christmas trees, Father Christmas and glass ornament trace their origins to Germany and Austria. Other German traditions which have made their way to America include the Advent Calendar (calendars with little windows which are opened each day of Advent to reveal a picture or a treat) and the Advent wreath (a wreath with 5 candles, one of which is lit each of the 4 Sundays during Advent and the final one which is lit Christmas Eve).
In parts of Austria, on "Knocking Night" (the last Thursday before Christmas), people dressed in "monster" costumes go from door to door, knocking on doors, ringing cowbells and making more commotion in order to drive away evil spirits.
The Italian Ceppo was the Italian version of the early Christmas tree. A Ceppo was a structure in the shape of a pyramid with three or four levels of shelves. Candles were lit along the sides of the Ceppo. The lowest shelf housed a small nativity scene with a figure of the baby Jesus surrounded by angels and shepherds. Higher shelves held fruit, candy and small gifts.
The tradition of the Yule log dates back to France. On Christmas Eve, wine is poured over the yule log before lighting it. In earlier days the log was used to cook a late dinner, which was eaten after the family returned from Christmas eve midnight Mass.