Holidays Around the World

‘Tis finally the festive season, and as the holidays rapidly approach, we wanted to take a moment to think about our own traditions–whether cultural or personal–that have shaped our memories of Christmases and New Years past. 

Cultures around the world have had long-standing traditions when it comes to the celebration of the holidays, and these occasions certainly mean slightly different things to all of us as we wrap up yet another year. From Barcelona’s caganeros that symbolize fertility and prosperity to horned Santa’s helper, Krampus, who scares children into being good, there’s no shortage of interesting, peculiar, and downright fascinating glimpses into what the holiday signifies around the world. And as it turns out, we have quite a few differing traditions right here in our own office, so settle down, and go on a sleigh ride around the world with us! 

Our Graphic Designer, Ana Uribe, has shared what Christmas meant to her growing up in Colombia: To us, Christmas is the equivalent of Thanksgiving in the U.S. The celebrations begin with “Día de las velitas,” which translates to “Candle Day.” On this day, people enjoy lighting candles to ask for blessings for their homes and families. All the streets light up and families eat and celebrate that the Christmas season has begun. This is the first day you get to feel the Christmas season. We also have a nine-day celebration leading up to Christmas that focuses on celebrating with friends and loved ones, and it is during this time that many children dress up as characters from the nativity scene. And of course, when it comes to presents, it’s not Santa that delivers them — we wait for Baby Jesus to give the presents instead! 

Lars Furtwaengler, our very own VP of eCommerce & Merchandising, had this to share about a traditional German Christmas: In the weeks leading up to it, small markets pop up in the center of most German cities where you can warm up with freshly baked waffles, cookies, eggnog, and other seasonal delicacies. Growing up, the first and most important thing to do any given morning in December was to open a tiny door of my advent calendar for a chocolate treat. The advent Sundays are special celebrations punctuated by surprise visits from St. Nickolaus. We would also light a candle for each of the four advent Sundays leading up to actual Christmas day. 

According to our Email Marketing Specialist, Mila Pecherskaya, instead of Christmas, the Russians focus on the New Year. She says: We put up a decorated pine tree a few weeks before the new year, so in many ways the tree is symbolic itself. On New Year’s Eve, we spend the night saying goodbye to the old year and reminiscing about old memories. At midnight, that’s when the real celebration and the gift exchange begins. There is a popular saying in Russia, “The way you greet the new year is the way you’ll spend it.” So you could say that a lot of emphasis is placed on these first few hours.  
Dominican Republic 
Our Director of Emerging Channels, Liza Darnott, recalls Christmas as being one of her favorite and most revered occasions growing up and living in the Dominican Republic. She says, “The whole month of December is festive–employees get an extra paycheck at work, there are many celebrations all around, and the food is delicious! Our Christmas celebration takes place on the 24th, which is also known as Noche Buena.” Some of the dish staples include arroz con gandules (a rice dish), pastelitos (which are savory little treats), and ensalada rusa (which actually bears no relation to anything Russian). And there’s also a Dominican rum punch, which is their equivalent of eggnog. 
So now that you’ve heard of some of our favorite memories and ways to celebrate the holidays, share with us how you and your loved ones celebrate the end of the year!