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.
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.