Christmas is one of the most anticipated festivals of the year for those who celebrate it. They look forward to Christmas and prepare for it with great zeal and enthusiasm. While children keep themselves busy in preparing lists for Santa, the more grown up group of people have countless things to take care of, like food, decorations and of course, gifts.
Like every festival, Christmas has certain traditions and norms as well, which make Christmas, Christmas. Without these traditions, the essence of Christmas would be lost to some extent. While some of the traditions are mutual, there are some which differ from place to place. For example, the Irish have a few Christmas Eve traditions of their own, the Polish have their own Christmas eve traditions, so on, and so forth.
Christmas is all about happiness therefore creating and setting the right mood for the festival is highly necessary. And what better way of setting the mood with music! On Christmas Eve, music can be heard from almost every home, shop, restaurants etc The streets and almost all the buildings, including hospitals and offices, are brightly decorated with lights and garlands and bells. The point, as mentioned earlier, is to create an atmosphere so lively that even the grouchy people cannot resist being happy.
Christmas does not go without worship. Many churches throughout the world, schedule special services on Christmas Eve and the reason is simple: For the birth of Jesus, which is the very reason why Christmas is celebrated. During these services, the congregants thank God for blessing them with the everlasting gift of life from Jesus, to every human being on this earth. Some churches, even host plays and musicals, like ‘The Nativity.’
Food forms an important part of the perfect Christmas Eve. From starters, to main courses, sidelines to dessert and to drinks, everything is paid perfect attention to. Snacks like chips and dips, sodas, sausages etc are also kept on hand.
Since most people are off for the Christmas season, travelling plans are also made in abundance. And for precisely this reason, airports, train stations etc are quite busy as everybody wants to spend their Christmas with their family and friends. Those who are more organized, plan their trips ahead of time, to avoid last minute hassles and disappointments.
Christmas is just not about good food and great gifts, it is also about spreading smiles on the faces of those who are less fortunate than us, like the homeless, the poor, the sick or otherwise disadvantaged members of the society. Many people and some Churches make efforts to make these people feel included in the holiday season as well. Gifts are given to them, free meals are distributed. Some Churches even organize small choir groups which go and sing Christmas carols for the less fortunate people. Donating a bit of your time, during Christmas, to those who need it, will definitely make you feel better.
Christmas Eve Traditions for Kids:
Each family has their own certain Christmas Eve traditions which they hold dear to their hearts. They could be anything, from sharing a certain Christmas Eve meal or even listening to a certain CD. Others sit together and have hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows, while others listen to famous Christmas carols, like Jingle Bells and sing along, together.
The thing about traditions is that you get to do them only once a year, with respect to one particular event, they are exclusive to that event and that event only, so why not make the most of it? No matter what festival it is, the children of the family have the most amazing time. For starters, they are so energetic themselves that they seem to find the upbeat side in everything. Second, Christmas is almost every child’s favorite festival because it involves Santa Claus, gifts, sweets, songs and a whole lot of fun.
It is necessary for kids to have holiday traditions because as they grow older, these traditions will be the same things which mean the world to them. You may be having your very own Christmas eve traditions, already, but if you do not, here are some fun ideas for setting traditions which your kids will enjoy immensely.
Outdoor activities are great fun. You get some fresh air, soak up some rays and even get some exercise too. It is an easy way to feel recharged. On the last full weekend before Christmas, you can set aside one day and declare it as the ‘Annual Christmas Campout’. You will be needing to plan for it beforehand, but it is worth it.
Anything which has to do with gifts, is always fun. Start a new gift opening Christmas eve tradition by gathering all your children into the living room at 8 PM sharp, and you all can unwrap your Christmas gifts together. After that, you can sing songs, play games, bake cookies etc. To make things more fun you can even start some easy craft project and when everybody is tired, get everyone to change into their pajamas, bring their sleeping bags out on the floor and sleep under the sparkling Christmas tree. When everybody wakes up in the morning, serve them prepare an all traditional Christmas Eve breakfast, like Christmas tree shaped pancakes!
Christmas is not just about family, it is also about your friends and neighbors. You can get your children to play ‘Secret Santa’ by asking them to leave gifts on a neighbor’s step anonymously. Not only will children love this activity, but they will also realize the importance of looking out for others and caring for them.
When your children will become adults, they will reminisce about all the fun they had, carrying out these traditions with you. They might even pass on these traditions to their own kids in future. Throughout the year, everybody is so busy with their day to day activities that they have very little time to spend with each other. By having Christmas Eve traditions, which includes not only the kids, but rather the entire family, are great if you are wanting to spend some quality time with your family.
Italian Christmas Eve Traditions:
Like mentioned in the beginning of the article, that though Christmas is a Christian holiday which is celebrated throughout the world, but each part of the world has certain Christmas eve traditions which are exclusively theirs. Some countries lay more stress on traditions with religious tones, while others focus more on carrying out Christmas eve traditions which are fun for the entire family.
If we specifically talk about Italy and how the Italians celebrate their Christmas eve, then the very first Christmas eve tradition that comes to mind, is that of the ‘Seven Fishes Feast’. It is celebrated on Christmas eve, and it quite a big affair. What happens in this tradition is that friends and family get together to devour a festive meal of several different form of fish. At this event, you are more than likely to find almost every kind of fish which is available on the Mediterranean region. From Anchovies to eel, all sorts of fish are present at this event.
Though eel is not technically a fish, but it has its due importance in the Seven Fish Feast which is celebrated by the Italians, every Christmas eve. This eel is cooked in delicious sauce and another interesting thing related to this eel dish is that the guests cannot bring this dish; it is the job of the host to serve the eel dish to his or her guests, as a sign of prosperity.
But what is the significance of this event? Well, when it comes to the significance of the seven fish feast, different Italians have different views. Some feel that the feast is set in the memory of the seven days that it too God to create the Universe. Other Italians are of the opinion that each of the seven fish which is made part of this event, actually represents each of the seven sins. And eating each of the seven fish, is a way of escaping each of the seven sins. Whatever may be the true reason of celebrating this event, one thing is for sure that it is appreciated as well as celebrated by most Italians, irrespective of the fact that if they are living in Italy or elsewhere.
Polish Christmas Eve Traditions:
In Poland, too, Christmas Eve is celebrated with quite a lot of enthusiasm. At Christmas Eve, a family gathering is called for and a grand dinner is prepared for this event. This grand dinner of sorts is called Wigilia (the vigil), during which the Polish symbolize awaiting the birth of Jesus Christ. This tradition of Wigilia alone brings more importance to the Christmas Eve, more than Christmas itself.
The Polish are very traditional people and even their decorations have a lot of traditions in them. They decorate their homes with lights, nuts, candles, apples etc. A traditional decoration of Poland is the ‘Pajaki’ which looks like a spider web and is hung from the ceiling. Another traditional decoration if ‘Dozynki’ which are colorful wreaths.
But the most important tradition of Christmas in Poland is that of the table preparation. They place hay underneath a white table linen, they make it look like Jesus’ bed in the manger. If the grandmother of a Polish family is alive, she places ‘Oplatki’ on the table, to symbolize the communion. The oplatki are wafers and are placed on best piece of China.
While setting the table, an extra setting is laid, just in case a hungry person happens to pass by, on Christmas Eve. This serving food to a hungry person tradition is inspired by the story of Joseph. The mother in a Polish family lights candles in the windows to celebrate the welcoming of Baby Jesus.
When dinner is done, the Star Man is accompanied by his joyful, singing Star Boys pay a visit to the children. The Star man does not come empty handed, he brings presents from Star Land, for those kids who were on their very best behavior, and scolds those who misbehaved. The Star Man is the Polish version of Santa Claus.
Traditional Christmas Eve Dinner Menu:
A lot of preparations are made for preparing the perfect Christmas Eve dinner. A traditional Christmas eve dinner menu consists of turkey with all the trimmings. The turkey is followed by traditional plum pudding, as dessert. You need time to marinate the turkey and cook it, so it is best advised that if you plan on throwing a traditional Christmas eve dinner, then you had better get a head start in the kitchen with the turkey, it is time consuming.
Also, make sure that you have all the ingredients you need for cooking beforehand. If you are going to invite friends and relatives over for dinner as well, on Christmas Eve, then you should prepare proper amount of food. If serving turkey and pudding does not really seem your cup of tea, then you can organize an informal buffet of sorts, where you can serve finger foods, which are easier to prepare and easier to serve as well. An informal buffet would allow the host, as well, to spend more time interacting with the guests and less time glued to the kitchen.
Another option for a perfect Christmas Eve dinner is to dine out. There are many restaurants which serve great traditional meals on Christmas Eve. However, if you plan on dining out, always make your reservations in advance because most great venues get booked out very fast, during Christmas season.
Whatever traditions you carry out or whatever you serve on Christmas, just remember not to stress out and have fun. Enjoy spending some quality time with your dear and near ones. Spread happiness and warmth, everywhere. Do not forget to include the less fortunate people in the society, whether it is your time, concern, love, money, or food, donate something to them as well.