Christmas is celebrated on December 25th every year around the world
It is one of the most beautiful and important holidays, not only because people exchange gifts and eat typical desserts, but because it commemorates the birth of Jesus.
In the Italian tradition, Christmas is a magical holiday, it is a period rich in traditions and culture, which can last even more than a month from the feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th) to the Epiphany (January 6th).
Our homes are decorated with colored lights, decorations and candles.
The most important symbols of our tradition are: the Nativity scene, the Christmas Tree, Santa Claus, the Advent Wreath and the Panettone.
The Nativity is the representation of Jesus’s birth: Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus with the ox and the donkey are placed in a cave or hut.
The Christmas tree is a fir tree decorated with balls and colored lights. You can see it everywhere at Christmas time: in homes, out in the gardens and in all the squares of the cities. The tallest Christmas tree is in Rome, in St. Peter’s Square and every year it is a present from a different country.
Another symbol of Christmas is Santa Claus, that all children love. He is an elderly man dressed in red, with a long white beard and white mustache who gives presents to all children on a sleigh flown by reindeer and Christmas spirit.
The Advent Wreath is a wreath made of fir branches with four candles inside, each of them is lit every Sunday of Advent, symbolizing Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
During the Christmas Holidays many yummy dishes are prepared, centered around fish, meat, fresh pasta, desserts and fruit. But the main symbol of Christmas is the Panettone, a typical dessert from Milan.
Christmas ends with the feast of Epiphany, celebrated on January 6th. For the church it is the presentation of baby Jesus to the world with the arrival of the three Wise Men in Bethlehem. In popular traditions it is the feast of “Befana”, an old woman who flies on a broom and gives gifts to children: sweets and candies to good children and coal to bad ones, hiding them in stockings hanging from fireplaces or near windows.
In the Anglo-Saxon Tradition, Christmas is similar to ours, but with some differences. Even in Great Britain people make a Christmas Tree. Every year Norway gives The UK its tallest tree for the British help during World War 2. It stands tall in Trafalgar Square, in London.
But the most exciting moment for English children is Christmas Eve when, back from Midnight Mass, they hang traditional Christmas stockings for Santa Claus near the tree or fireplace. To thank him for the many gifts, they prepare a cup of milk and a sweet treat, mince pie and a carrot for Rudolph.
On Christmas morning, the gifts left under the tree in a black bag are opened. For lunch, the English all sit at the table with their relatives: the typical Christmas dish is roast turkey and the traditional dessert is Christmas pudding or Christmas cake. There is normally a Christmas Cracker, another typical English tradition, next to each plate. It is a paper tube in the shape of a candy wrapper with inside a surprise or a note to read. The diners cross their arms holding their cracker with the right and, pulling the end of the neighbor’s with the left, they are opened with great joy and laughter from the children.
After lunch everyone sits in front of the television to listen to the Queen’s speech at 3 p.m and at 5 p.m. they drink tea like every other day.
In The UK, Boxing Day is celebrated on December 26th. In the past it was the day when employers gave their gifts to employees. Today Boxing Day is just a mass Christmas shopping opportunity.
As Christmas approaches, especially in a complicated year like this one due to the pandemic, every little gesture of altruism can make a difference.
Volunteering at non-profit associations or supporting environmental protection, like adopting endangered animals, donating games to the poorest children, offering medical care where it is needed, creating a thoughtful lists of gifts… these are all initiatives which contribute to giving the magic of Christmas.
Beyond the difficulties, you can always do something beautiful together. A gesture of solidarity instills hope and warms the heart not only of those who receive it but also of those who do it.
Love, rebirth, collaboration, sharing and solidarity are the values to be spread among people, necessary to allow even those who need to live the holidays in serenity.
We should all restore value to Christmas, a festival full of traditions and magic, a symbol of rebirth, renewal, change and also of hope and trust.
Christmas is the right time to teach children the joy of waiting, the most authentic sense of giving, sharing, being together with people we love and the value of small things.
At Christmas you can…
Merry Christmas, everyone!