Tag Archives: christmas

Santa in a helicopter – Part 1

A holiday roundup of funny and bizarre traditions from around the world from busuu, the largest online language learning community.

The British happily wear paper crowns to adorn themselves for the Christmas meal, the Spaniards hope to win millions in the Christmas lottery and, in Brazil, Santa Claus flies around in a helicopter. Busuu, the 35 million-strong online community for language learning has collected some quirky traditions from 12 countries whose languages are taught on our website: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Arabic, Japanese and Chinese. This will be presented to you in a two part blog post.  Check out our part 1 list below and see if some of these national customs surprise you.

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In the UK people like to wear Christmas Jumpers (which are sweaters) with holiday themes such as funny-faced reindeers or penguins with hats. Even the Christmas dinner in England is a bit like a carnival: Guests wear colourful paper hats and burst balloons at the dinner table. The British like to watch TV over the Christmas period, with the Queen’s annual Christmas speech particularly popular viewing. In Ireland, the children dress up on December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, as The Wrenboys and go out on the town to collect candy and money.


The Spaniards start Christmas with a giant lottery, the largest in the world, which is televised on December 22nd. Most Spaniards are glued to the TV in the morning, anxious to see if they have become millionaires. Lottery draws also take place on 24 December, the “Noche Buena”. After dinner with the family, small gifts, but also rivets, are drawn from an “Urn of Fate “. One of the main nativity figures in Catalonia is “el Caganer” the “pooper”, who handles his business on the nativity scene. In Mexico, the ‘Psadas’ processions where the story of Mary and Joseph is re-enacted, are celebrated with friends and family. For the children, lovingly decorated papier-mâché piñatas filled with fruits and sweets are hung on the ceilings, to be be smashed and broken by big sticks while blindfolded.


The height of French Christmas is – perhaps not too surprising – the Christmas Feast: La Reveillon with mussels, lobster, oysters, duck, vegetables, foie gras and all sorts of pies, as well as a spectacular dessert, “la Bûche de Noël”, a chocolate butter cream cake that comes in the shape of a tree trunk. The French Santa Claus is called Père Noël. He slips down the chimney and places gifts in the children’s polished shoes.


One of the most important holidays in Germany, Christmas is called Weihnachten. December 6th is Nikolaustag, St. Claus day. A shoe or boot is left outside the door on the 5th of December in the hope that the following morning you find presents, if you were good – or, unfortunately a rod if you have been bad. The Germans make beautiful gingerbread houses and cookies. The German Christmas tree pastry, Christbaumgebäck, is a white dough that can be molded into shapes and baked for tree decorations. The main day is the 24th, Christmas Eve when children will find presents under the tree.


In some parts of Italy the real Christmas day is celebrated on January 6th, The Three Kings Day. According to legend, the witch Befana has missed the star of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and is therefore searching for baby Jesus on the night of the 5th to the 6th of January. She flies on a broom from house to house, bringing gifts to good children and coal pieces to the naughty ones.


In Brazil, even Santa is an extrovert. Papa Noel lands a helicopter in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro and distributes gifts. Celebrations are loud, funny and complete with fireworks. As most Brazilians are Catholic, the traditional midnight mass on Christmas Eve is a must-do. Presents have to wait until after the midnight mass. In Portugal, nativity cribs are often placed in the living room with the popular Christmas tree. These are also found in Portuguese churches, where surrounding landscapes are recreated in detail with real places, people and figures.

Continue to part 2

How do you celebrate Christmas? Is there a special or funny tradition in your region? Tell us about it on Facebook –  or @busuu on Twitter.

Santa in a helicopter – Part 2

The busuu holiday roundup of funny and bizarre traditions from around the world continues.

Busuu, the 35 million-strong online community for language learning has collected some quirky traditions from 12 countries whose languages are taught on our website. In part 1 we covered English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese. Now we’ll look at Russian, Polish, Turkish, Arabic, Japanese and Chinese, and see if some of these national customs surprise you.

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The Christmas feast is consumed in Poland only when the first star shines in the sky. Fish and vegetables are mostly served instead of richer dishes such as roast meat or sausages. This custom serves to remind the largely Catholic Poland that in the period before the Reformation, the 24th of December was a day of fasting. One extra spot at the table is laid, in case an unexpected guest comes for Christmas dinner. After dinner, traditional Christmas wafers decorated with small pictures are broken and shared.


One of the most famous Christmas exports originates in Russia: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker” is about a girl named Masha who receives a nutcracker on Christmas Eve from her godfather Drosselmeyer and dreams about it during the night. It is often performed all over the world at Christmas time. The Russians celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January. According to the Julian and Gregorian calendars, this day corresponds to the 25th of December. “Jack Frost” delivers the gifts in Russia.


Although most Turks don’t celebrate Christmas as Islam is the main Turkish religion, Santa Claus is still an important figure. He is said to have lived in Anatolia in the 4th Century, as the Bishop of Myra. St. Nicholas is called “Noel Baba” or “Father Christmas” in Turkey.


In China, Christmas is not celebrated due to Laoist tradition. But a more commercialized holiday based on Western traditions, with lush Christmas decorations and lights, is very popular here. The fact that the Christmas color “red” also stands for happiness in China, helps the Chinese feel joyous while decorating for the holiday.


In Japan, the commercial version of Christmas is also very popular. Department stores have Christmas decorations, mistletoes and artificial Christmas trees – real ones would be too expensive. The “Hoteiosho” is the Japanese Santa Claus, who brings Christmas gifts to many non-Christian Japanese children.


Even in Arab countries Christian people celebrate Christmas. In Iraq, Christians light bonfires made ​​of dried thorns in front of their homes during Christmas Eve. If they burn down completely, it is meant to bring happiness to the family. In Lebanon, self-grown plants are used to decorate the nativity cribs. For this custom, Lebanese Christians plant pea, bean, lentil or wheat seeds in cotton buds around two weeks before Christmas.

How do you celebrate Christmas? Is there a special or funny tradition in your region? Tell us about it on Facebook –  or @busuu on Twitter.

busuu.com wishes you a merry Christmas

From everyone at busuu.com, we want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays! We hope that wherever you are in the world, you get to enjoy your winter holiday and have time to relax!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas, Navidad, Weihnachten, Natale, Noël, Boże Narodzenie!  Over 2.2 billion people worldwide are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ every year! Give your Christmas holidays an extra note! With our busuu.com Christmas special learning unit you can celebrate Christmas in a different language and you will learn how to order a mullet wine and make your Christmas wishes in the language you are learning. Check out our Christmas vocabulary now!

Looking beyond presents, Santa Claus and Christmas trees, do you know the origin of these traditions and the different ways people all over the world celebrate Christmas?

Christmas PresentThe Christmas Eve on the 24th of December commemorates the evening before Christ’s birth, which is said to be December 25th, however the precise day is unknown. Most of us can’t imagine a Christmas without giving and receiving presents. Billions of people exchange gifts over Christmas, but in different countries there are different days for this ceremony.

Christmas PresentsIn Germany, where the Santa Claus is called Weihnachtsmann, traditionally presents are exchanged on the evening of the 24th of December. In the USA, the big moment is on the morning of Christmas day itself. In other countries like Spain people have to wait two weeks longer for their presents, until the 6th of January, also called the Twelfth Day. If you are still looking for a present, remember that we are offering a special 20% Christmas discount on our six-month vouchers. Only until the 31st of December 2011!

You want to congratulate your friends from different countries in their own language? Use our busuu.com dictionary! Just select the language and put in ‘Merry Christmas’ to see the translation with sound and picture. This way you improve your pronunciation and will easily remember the word! By clicking on the different flags on the bottom of the page, you can see the translation for all the languages we offer on busuu.com.

busuu.com dictionary

The Christmas Unit includes all our usual exercises and if you’re a Premium MemberPremium Member, you can of course download the vocabulary in PDF and MP3 format. We wish you lots of fun learning with busuu.com about Christmas!

We are curious to learn more about the different celebrations all around the world. Tell us how you celebrate Christmas and how you say “Merry Christmas” in your language.

Merry Christmas everybody!

20% Christmas discount on our gift vouchers

Are you looking for a special Christmas present? Share your busuu.com learning experience and give family or friends the gift of language with a voucher for our Premium Membership. What’s more, you can get a 20% discount if you buy before 31 December 2011!

With a Premium MembershipPremium Membership you will stick to your New Year’s resolution and learn a new language! Share your fun and efficient language learning experience with your dearest ones. No more old and dusty grammar books in our online community! Premium Members can have their pronunciation corrected by native speakers of the language they are learning.

This direct interaction gives our community members constant feedback on their learning progress and keeps the motivation up and going. It is the perfect way to make these New Year’s resolution reality.

Further advantages of the Premium MembershipPremium Membership are:

You can buy the voucher now or later, just go to your friends section in your menu and click on ‘Gift Voucher’. With our special 20% Christmas discount, you can buy the voucher for only 47.94 EUR! Upon purchasing the voucher on busuu.com, you will receive a voucher code with further instructions via email. The person receiving the gift can then choose when to activate their Premium MembershipPremium Membership! They just have to redeem the voucher in the Course menu.

Take advantage of our voucher discount today!

Are you still looking for the perfect Christmas present?

Christmas is coming soon and you are still searching for the perfect Christmas present?

For sure some of your friends are currently learning a new language and would also love to improve their skills with busuu.com!

Why don´t you surprise them with a 3 months premium language course as a Christmas present?

Christmas garden

You just have to go to our Christmas voucher page and purchase the gift online. Then your friends will receive an email (on the day you decide) and you can even print out a Christmas Gift Card to put it under the Christmas tree! As soon as they log on to busuu.com, they will automatically become a Premium Member for 3 months!

We are sure that your friends will love this very special Christmas presentso get your Christmas gift here!

We wish you all a Merry Christmas in advance, and enjoy language learning with busuu.com!

PS: Of course, you can also give this Christmas present to yourself! ;-)