With many of us now choosing to relocate to other countries to learn, work or explore, it is common for us to carry our culture with us to wherever we end up in the world. This is certainly often the case during the Christmas season, where family and home are at the forefront of our minds.
Here at VICTVS headquarters, we are lucky to work with a great team of amazing people from all over the world. So I sat down to talk to them about the festive traditions of their home countries, and to find out how they will incorporate them into their celebrations here in the UK.
“Of course being Italian, food is the main focus of many of our holiday celebrations! The main meal tends to differ from region to region but is always eaten on Christmas Eve, and involves getting the entire extended family together for an hours long feast! My favourite dish from my region, Emilia-Romagna, is Tortellini in Brodo (filled pasta in a rich broth) so I plan on making that for my partner and I on Christmas Eve this year, plus of course I have to have a Panettone to finish things off. In Italy, we also celebrate Epiphany on 6th January which marks the day that the three wise men visited the infant Jesus with gifts. On this date, children receive either white coal (made of confectionary) or real black coal depending if they have been good or bad, supposedly from the old witch, Le Bafana.”
“Although I am originally from Romania, I have lived in many places across the world including China, Italy and the UK, so I always like to try and adapt to the local celebrations over the holidays. It always amazes me how similar celebrations are across the world wherever you are. For example, it is very traditional in Romania around Christmas and New Years Eve for people to dress up in scary masks and walk the streets playing music and generally being as noisy as possible to ward away evil spirits. This of course is very similar to how the Chinese celebrate New Year, with lots of noisy fireworks and firecrackers!
Food-wise, I do try and eat some of the traditional Romanian festive foods around Christmas time like Sarmale, Boeuf Salad and Cozunac (a sweet bread filled with chocolate, nuts and Turkish delight) but I also like to try things from other places I have lived. This year for example I am going to add two Italian festive treats to my menu – Panettone for Christmas Day and Pandoro for New Year’s Eve for me and my partner to enjoy.”
“A big thing that I miss about Christmas in Slovakia is the snow, the British weather just does not compare to where I grew up, in a town called Michalovce. The Christmas season really starts on 6th December, St Nicholas’ Day. The evening before, children clean their boots and leave them on the windowsill at night for St Nicholas (or Svaty Mikuláš in Slovakian) to fill with either coal or potatoes if they are naughty or sweets if they are nice. In Slovakian towns, it is traditional on this day that someone will dress up as St Nicholas, accompanied by both an angel and a devil, and roam the streets giving small presents to children. On Christmas Day itself, it is customary to start the meal with a Christmas wafer topped with honey and garlic to ward away bad spirits and welcome good health for the coming year. I’ll be trying to keep this tradition before our meal in Leeds this year.”
“Carolling is a huge part of the Christmas season in Ukraine, with children traditionally going house to house after their Christmas Eve meal singing carols and receiving small gifts or money from neighbours in return. In fact, a very popular Christmas carol, Carol of the Bells, was composed by Ukranian composer Mykola Leontovych. It is actually based on a Ukrainian folk chant known as ‘Shchedryk’ and we are very proud of it! On Christmas Day itself, it is tradition to visit your godparents and take a dish called Kutya – which consists of grains, honey, poppy seeds, and raisins. However, the biggest celebration of the holiday season for Ukrainians is New Year’s Eve, where at midnight every family lets off fireworks, and children find gifts underneath their Christmas Tree. Now I am living in the UK, I can have both occasions with my family and have twice as many celebrations!”
We would love to hear about your festive traditions, so leave us a comment down below – and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of our friends, wherever you might be celebrating this year!