The holidays are a beautiful time of year filled with laughter and cheer. When it comes to family traditions, you and yours probably have things you like to do together that make this time of year special. These practices are essential to the community, as they unify its members and gather them together to honor particular customs. They can provide comfort and allow one to connect with their family history and lineage. Traditions offer excellent opportunities to instill and discuss essential values. This year, try out a few new traditions from around the world to spruce up your seasonal festivities. There’s nothing like learning about new cultures and respectfully appreciating their customs and traditions. We have a few that we encourage you to try this holiday season.
With so many options for Christmas décor, why not check out some other traditions that will help decorate your tree? Honor the “Legend of the Christmas Spider” by placing a cobweb ornament on your tree. The spider symbolizes prosperity in many Eastern European countries like Poland, Germany, and Ukraine.
The legend goes that once upon a time, there was a widow who, despite working very hard, could not afford to decorate her tree. On Christmas morning, she discovered a spider had spun a web on her tree. When morning sunlight shone on that web, it became precious metal. It is from this story of good fortune that the spider has an honorable mention. And to think, we’ve considered spiderwebs as just a Halloween decoration. The tree will look all the more unique with a spider on it!
Another decorative tradition stems from Ireland, where folks decorate their home with cuttings of mistletoe, ivy, and holly. These natural decorations are considered “noble” wood and ward off evil spirits. Find these cuttings at tree lots or grocery stores, hang them on your wall, or place them in vases around the house. The home is now protected for the fun season ahead—positive vibes only.
Here’s another tradition that may surprise you. In Finland, it is common practice for family members to gather on the eve of Christmas and relax in the sauna. The tradition is called Christmas sauna or joulusauna and has been practiced for centuries. So pack your swimsuits and head for the closest sauna. Families will decorate the sauna with scented oils and lanterns; the calming and purifying effect of the sauna prepares the family for the festivities of Christmas.
Fresh, new bath towels and Christmas candles will make the experience all the more soothing. An essential aspect of the tradition involves leaving treats for the sauna elf or saunatonttu. This refreshing experience will undoubtedly prepare you and yours for the best Christmas yet.
After the group sauna, take part in another exciting European tradition. This one comes from Sweden. At 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Swedish families gather to watch From All of Us to All of You or Kalle Anka, a Christmas special featuring Donald Duck that first aired in 1958. This hour-long special has been a long-standing tradition for the better half a century. Why not make it a family tradition to cozy up in your matching family Christmas pajamas and curl up on the couch together to watch this Christmas special and others. Everyone will be comfy-cozy and oh so relaxed.
Classically, many folks already make gingerbread cookies and houses around this time of year. But where does the tradition originate? Nuremberg, Germany, is considered the ultimate source of gingerbread or Lebkuchen. Each bakery has its top-secret recipe that sets them apart from the others. This year, make gingerbread and add your unique twist to your secret family recipe. Make lots of gingerbread hearts with messages written in icing or lebkuchenherzen, per German tradition. These heartfelt messages are an excellent opportunity to remind your loved ones how much they mean to you or write about things you’re grateful for, like family members or pets. Carve out holes at the top of cookies you’ll want to hang on the tree and string them up as extra decorations.
Participate in another tasty dessert tradition if you need more sweets after the gingerbread cookies. The following tradition comes from Provence, a region in France where French families take part in the consumption of 13 desserts. The desserts represent the 12 apostles and Jesus. The tradition goes that after Christmas dinner, everyone must take part in all 13 desserts by at least having a bite. Your hearts will be full of love, and your bellies full of sweet treats. You will all sleep well on Christmas night, with dreams of sugarplum fairies dancing in your heads.
Family traditions are a beautiful part of the holiday season, so have a blast and pick a few new traditions to try this year. Or, make up some new family traditions that make everyone feel connected and supported. Whatever makes your Christmas special, we wish you a Merry Christmas.