St. Lucia Day, Sweden
December 13th is dedicated to St. Lucy, who is the patron saint of blind people. She was an early follower of Christ at a time when Christianity was banned. She came from a well situated family, but she gave away all her dowry to poor people after she refused to marry the pagan aristocrat her family had arranged for her, preferring to devote herself to the Christian God. She performed miracles reflecting on the cruelty of her lovelorn suitor, who denounced her, for which she was tortured and eventually killed.
Traditionally the oldest daughter in a Swedish family wakes up early, dresses herself in a long white gown with a red sash and a crown made of twigs with nine lighted candles. Then she wakes up the members of her family and they eat breakfast together.
Decorating the Christmas Tree, a custom from Germany
This custom came from the long tradition of marking the Winter Solstice in Germany. The first Christmas tree was decorated in Strasbourg in the beginning of the 17th century, and the custom quickly spread to other countries. Today it is almost impossible to imagine Christmas without the lights on a Christmas tree.
Sending Christmas cards, a custom from England
The Englishman John Calcott Horsley popularized the tradition of sending Christmas cards, beginning in 1830. It caught on immediately and spread all over the world until today, when Christmas cards that come by mail are giving way to electronic greetings.
Mistletoe and magic power, from Celtic tradition, followed in many countries
Mistletoe traditionally had very powerful properties, including the ability to heal wounds and increase fertility, and it was also believed that mistletoe brought good luck and warded off evil spirits . In the Victorian era, mistletoe became the object of another tradition which continues to today. A person standing under a mistletoe branch, hanging above the door, was supposed to be kissed by someone else in the room. Quite a shocking sight in Victorian times, don’t you think?
Carols, began in England
It started with wandering musicians who visited churches and homes to play music for which they hoped to recieve a meal, or money.
Stockings hanging near the fireplace on Christmas Eve, typical in the USA and England, a similar custom also in Scandinavia
The tradition grew out of an old story about three sisters who didn’t have money for dowries, and Saint Nicholas provided for them.
Celebrating Christmas in January, Russia
The difference in the date of celebrating Christmas is due to the old Julian calendar, which is still used in the Russian Orthodox church. Advent is fixed, starting November 28th and continues to January 6th, lasting 40 days. There no presents for Christmas. Russians are getting presents from Ded Moroz (literally translated as Father Frost) on New Year’s Eve on January 1st. Ded Moroz is an adaptation of the old Slavic Wizard of Winter.