You have learned some of your family’s ethnic and cultural background, why not add a touch of your family’s ethnic traditional customs in celebrating Christmas with the family this year? Traditional customs can vary tremulously and have also been modified over the decades. This is where you can enhance this Christmas season with some special customs that may have been done by your ancestors.
Starting with England, the a favorite traditional Christmas food is plum pudding; made of fruit, eggs, spice, meat and dried plums. It is a recipe worth checking out. Other favorite English foods include mince pies and a fruity pudding with brandy sauce.
In Ireland the celebration of Christmas runs from Christmas Eve to the feast of Epiphany on January 6th (known as Little Christmas). The Irish loved to place red candles in all the windows. A favorite food is a baked seed cake, one made for each person in the household.
The Dutch in Holland start celebrating the last Saturday in the month of November by greeting the arrival of St. Nicholas. The most important day is December 6th which is St. Nicholas’ Day. The day before is St. Nicholas’ Eve and is when gifts are exchanged, only they are referred to as ‘surprises.’ Each gift is like a treasure hunt with clues to the location of the gift in different packages. The clues are done in a verse form. During Christmas Eve and Day, December 24th and 25th there are special church services each day that everyone attends and a large feast in the evening in each family‘s home.
For Scotland there are two forms; one celebration for the citizens that are members of the Church of England with the traditional English method of celebrating. For those Scots who are members of the Church of Scotland Christmas is very quiet. The most entertainment might be the playing of bagpipes and eating of bannock cakes which are made of oatmeal. The bigger celebrations with music, gifts and parties come on New Year’s Day, known as ‘Hogmanay.’
For German children they loved to write letters beginning in early December for the ‘Christkind‘, an angel type figure who later hands out gifts to the children. A big German tradition is the making of gingerbread houses and cookies. Families also like to set up a wreath of holly with four red candles in the center. Each Sunday of December one candle is lit. The last one being lit on Christmas Eve.
In France Christmas is referred to as ‘Noel.’ The children place their shoes by the fireplace on Christmas Eve in hopes of receiving special treats such as candy and toys. Nearly all French homes have a Nativity scene set up in the house. Instead of a decorated tree, French families love a large long-burning Yule log known as a Christmas Log. There is even a special cake called a Christmas Log.
Future Genealogy Blogs will have additional ethnic Christmas customs.