December 18, 2015
Christmas and New Year are steadily approaching and MeetnGreetMe would like to share with you some more customs and traditions we’ve collected from our locals. The last time we talk with locals from Ukraine, Georgia, Sweden and France about their Christmas traditions.
In this post MeetnGreetMe collected Christmas and New Year traditions from local people in New Zealand, Turkey, Slovakia, and Vietnam and plunged into the atmosphere of these holidays!
New Zealand Christmas traditions with Shell
And the first country we would like to start our Christmas journey with you is New Zealand.
Unlike Christmas in many countries, with Santa, jingle bells and holly bushes, here it is all about summer, sun, beaches and fun. Tennis, volleyball, swimming and golf are popular activities at this time of year. New Zealand is the first place on the Earth to see the sun and there are maximum daylight hours to enjoy Christmas.
Many towns hold Santa parades with decorated floats and marching girls. These are usually organized from mid-November till the end of December onwards. Even though it is more of a commercial event, these parades are very enjoyed by New Zealanders.
A wonderful NZ Army nurse officer Shell shared with us some interesting bits and pieces about New Zealand traditions at Christmas.
“Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve with family followed by an evening church session and kids open presents with family on Christmas morning. Normally, you travel between two families’ houses, for example, Christmas at one set of grandparents then you go to the next set of grandparents.
In New Zealand it is summer on Christmas day so BBQ’S at the beach is a very normal tradition. Cray fish and seafood often replaces hot meals at Christmas here. Children get Santa sacks with small gifts and chocolate and, normally, each child gets a gift from each family member….it’s pretty modest really”.
As for New Zealand symbols, the magnificent pohutukawa is regarded as New Zealand’s iconic Christmas tree. However, many people still have a traditional Christmas tree in their homes and decorate it the way locals do it in the USA or the UK.
“This year we are giving all the kids and each other safety glasses….and nerf guns and Xmas day we will have a nerf war”.
Christmas in Slovakia with Marek
The next stop of our trip around the world is Slovakia.
Christmas celebrations here often begin with Advent as many Slovaks are Roman Catholics. Before Christmas the local people clean the house, cook traditional dinner, buy a Christmas tree and shop for presents.
Christmas Eve is the most important day for Slovaks, it’s called ‘Stedry den’ (Generous Day), while the actual evening is called ‘Stedry vecer’ (Generous Evening). Catholics are supposed to be fasting all day, or at the very least, not to eat meat.
A gifted Slovak student and already a young entrepreneur Marek was happy to share some Christmas traditions in the Slovak culture:
“In my county we celebrate Christmas usually at home, we decorate a Christmas tree and hold a Christmas Eve dinner. We put on festive smart clothes and usually we eat carp with potato salad.
Christmas eve dinner traditions are always connected here with some superstitions, but we don’t stick to all of them in our family. There is one we keep, though. We put a chain under the table in a circle. It means that we will keep everything stable like this for the whole year till next Christmas.
Then we put honey on our foreheads in shape of a cross. It means that we should be blessed all year till next Christmas. And there are some traditions which are connected with health and well-being. For example, we cut an apple into two parts. When you have a nice star with full seeds, you will be healthly all year long. And then we eat garlic with honey and wafers to be healthy.
After dinner we look under Christmas tree and everybody takes his or her gifts. We don’t give anything special, just some things we think could be funny or useful … I think like in every country”.
New Year in Vietnam with Kenny
In case you feel tired of Europe and you would like to move to some warmer and more exotic place, Vietnam would be the right choice. But maybe not at Christmas.
Christmas in Vietnam is more of a day-off, rather than a holiday. Not many people in Vietnam are Christians, but some people like going to midnight mass services. As Vietnam used to be a French colony, some influence is left here in the form of Christian traditions.
Kenny, now student at the University of Hong Kong, kindly told us some interesting facts about New Year in Vietnam.
“Chinese New Year, or Tet, is by far a bigger celebration compared to Christmas. People give each other “lucky money”. On New Year’s Even families gather together. This is a must-have for Vietnamese people (or at least my family). There are some other rules, such as not cleaning your house in the 1st week of New Year because that will clean your luck away. However, my family doesn’t follow that because we value cleanliness :)”
‘Li xi’ is the name for lucky money for Tet. This custom is popular not only in Vietnam but in other Asian countries as well. The tradition has its roots in the folklore about the ogre called Tuy. Li xi is a small amount of money that can bring good fortune to the upcoming year, usually this money is given to children in a tiny red envelope. As for the envelopes, they are needed to keep secrecy and privacy about the amount of the money received.
Different from the Gregorian calendar, the Lunar Calendar has a fixed number of twelve months with 30 days each. The day when Tet is celebrated varies from one year to another. The New Year of Lunar Calendar normally will start in late January or beginning of February according to Gregorian calendar.
“Our normal year is based on the Earth rotating around the Sun which takes 365 and 1/4 days. That’s why every 4th year we have an extra day. However, the Chinese calendar is about the cycle of the Moon. Every full moon marks a month. That’s why a Chinese month is usually 1 day shorter than a western month. And every 4th year we have an extra month because of the built-up differences”.
Christmas in Turkey with Kerem
If you are heading for Turkey to celebrate your Christmas or New Year there, then there is something you should know.
Although there are Catholic and Jewish minorities in Turkey, the majority of locals are Muslim. For them, December 24 is not a special day, as they do not have Jesus in Koran, which is Muslim Holy Book. At the same time, it must be noted that minorities leave in peace with one another, and there are many churches and sinagogues around.
So there is not really much to be said about Christmas traditions in Turkey, however, New Year is regarded as a big holiday here. This is the time when local people decorate trees and exchange presents with their relatives and loved ones. On New Year’s Eve Istanbul is at its full swing with restaurants, cafes, bars and night clubs fully booked.
A fantastic English teacher from Turkey, Kerem told us how locals celebrate Christmas and New Year here.
“In Turkey, you know, Christmas is not a religious holiday, but it is only a celebration of the coming of New Year. Generally, we come together with our friends, relatives or the people that we like and we eat and drink something. Alcohol is preferable. Maybe some people go out to have fun on the 31st of December. But conservaties don’t care about any of these winter fests and they continue their daily life.
There are no special traditions, except for the fact that at 00.00 on New Year’s day fireworks are thrown, songs are sang, and people wear smart nice clothes if they celebrate it out somewhere.
Generally, we give presents to each other that we like, but it depends on the finances of the people, sometimes small presents, sometimes big ones”.
Next week we will publish another post about Christmas and New Year traditions in some more countries. If you want to be one of the local people to share your story, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below.
Have a great time preparing for Christmas and New Year! There is still some time to buy presents ;)
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Have an amazing day!