Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Are you celebrating Christmas Tuesday? Or are you celebrating tomorrow? Around the world, Christmas is celebrated in many different ways and at different times. I live in London, UK, and here, Christmas celebration takes place at 25th December, Christmas Day. I guess we all know the story why we have celebrated Christmas the last 1700 years or so, in one form or another, but it takes place in very different forms on different dates around the world. And in fact, Christmas as we know it is an amalgamation of many different celebrations which people in Europe have celebrated for thousands of years, long before the Bible was written.

My Christmas card for 2012 -
more cards free to download here on my website.

Since I come from Norway, our Christmas celebration takes place tomorow, or tomorrow  evening; Christmas starts at 5 pm to be precise.  To give you some background information for this difference between British/American tradition and traditions in large parts of Europe, I turned to Wikipedia as usual: “Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus that takes place on December 25. It is a culturally significant celebration for most of the Western world and is widely observed as a full or partial holiday in anticipation of Christmas Day. One reason celebrations occur on Christmas Eve is because the traditional Christian liturgical day starts at sunset, an inheritance from Jewish tradition, which in turn is based in the story of creation in Genesis: "And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day." This liturgical day is followed for all days in the Eastern rite and the custom of beginning Christmas celebration in the preceding evening is preserved in western churches that have altered the liturgical day to start at midnight, for example the Roman Catholic Church. Many churches still ring their church bells and hold prayers in the evening before holidays; for example the Nordic Lutheran churches.”

In Norwegian, Christmas Eve is called Julaften, which means directly translated Yule Evening, so nothing in the name referring to Jesus or Christ at all. Yule was originally an indigenous midwinter (winter solstice) festival celebrated by the pagan Scandinavian and other Germanic people until the Catholic Church decided to pick this time of year as a suitable time to celebrate the birth of Christ. Customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule. The fact that Yule is not etymologically tied to Christianity means Yule in the Nordic countries is also celebrated by many non-Christians and non-religious. The non-religious usually treat Yule as an entirely secular tradition.

To me, Christmas or Julaften is a day for the family to meet, as many family members as possible; to have a nice dinner in the evening and to exchange presents. We put our best clothes on and have a formal dinner, the best china comes out of the cupboards, the house is decorated and there are candles and lights everywhere. No silly hats or daft jokes around the table, and no-one gets drunk. Julaften is a formal occasion, even if you are together just as a family – it is supposed to be formal, this one evening a year. 

Living here in London, with most of my family in other countries around Europe it is difficult to meet like we used to for Christmas, so it has become a rather low-key celebration for me. My son is working tomorrow and the shop where he works doesn’t close until 9 pm, so no celebrating together in the evening, but he is coming over for dinner on the 25th. My best china is once again washed and ready to be used; it hasn’t been out since last Christmas :-) Whatever you are doing this Christmas, a religious celebration or a non-religious one, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or maybe you are celebrating nonstop from 24th until the 6th January as they do in many European countries – whatever you do I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year. My cat says Happy Christmas too!

24 comments:

  1. Hello Helene
    May you, your son and your pretty kitty-cat have a lovely Christmas and a wonderful 2013! We celebrate both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day here, having a European background but having been born in Canada. It usually equals out to many days of fun, family, laughter and way too much eating :)
    Merry Christmas!

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    1. Hello Astrid, sounds like your Christmas celebration is very much like ours used to be, when we all were living in the same country :-) Have a great celebration and all the best for the New Year.

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  2. We all celebrate this holiday differently depending on our nationality and circumstance. Thanks for the history you've shared in this post. Now that my children are young adults, I find the holiday is different due to their age. When they were younger their excitement at seeing the Christmas lights and the presents under the tree was palpable. I do miss feeling that energy. Now, their work and other commitments have to be juggled in order for us to all be together. I do enjoy taking out and appreciating those beautiful dishes that help us celebrate this special time of year :) Happy Holidays Helene!

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    1. And happy holidays to you too Rosemary! I also miss the excitement with the presents under the tree and the kids being allowed to stay up late and...oh, well – I suppose it means we are getting old! Just need to hang in there until the grandchildren arrives, and it starts all over again :-)

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  3. Helene
    Christmas Wishes to you and your son! Hope you have a great day together on the 25th. All the best for 2013.
    Having a quiet Christmas this year - just my immediate family getting together. Have a good one :)

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    1. Thank you Angie, a quiet Christmas here too, and all the best for 2013 to you too!

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  4. Hei Helene !
    Hyggelig med norsk utenlandsbesøk !
    Ønsker deg og dine ei riktig fin jul !!

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    1. Tusen takk, og det samme til deg, fikk bare tittet så vidt på bloggen din i dag, men skal komme tilbake og se litt mer når jeg får tid!

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  5. Very interesting to learn how it technically starts at 5pm on Christmas Eve! We are always traveling for the holidays, going to my family for quiet Christmas, usually celebrating Christmas Eve with a candlelight service at church and opening stockings and presents on Christmas morning. We then travel to my husband's family for partying on New Year's Eve. Now that we have kids, Christmas is a bigger deal, of course.

    I hope you and your son (and cat!) have a happy Christmas and New Years!

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    1. It is nice to hear all the different ways of celebrating Christmas or Julaften, in Norway we open our presents on Christmas Eve, usually before dinner, sometime between 5 and 7 pm. But since my son and I live here in UK, and he lives a couple of miles from me – and is going to work the whole Christmas Eve, we will open our presents together on Christmas Day – the British way :-)

      I wish you and your family a happy Christmas and all the best for 2013.

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  6. A wonderful post to read just before Christmas. I hope you have a great time and a joyful new year. Merry Christmas!

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    1. Thank you, and Merry Christmas to you too, Masha!

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  7. Helene

    MERRY CHRISTMAS

    Thanks for the card xxx

    Must catch up soon.

    Do you still have my email.

    Lane

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    1. You're welcome, Lane, and my email address is on the back of the card you got, if you feel like catching up.
      Take care,
      Helene

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  8. In order for my family to all get together, we always celebrate early, with smaller gatherings on Christmas and Christmas Eve. Interesting to know how others celebrate. I hope you and your son have a very Merry Christmas!

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    1. Thank you Holley, I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas!

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  9. Hope you enjoy your low-key Norwegian Christmas today and your family UK Christmas tomorrow. Merry Christmas, Helene.

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    1. Thank you, and have a lovely Christmas you too Crystal!

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  10. Merry Christmas from your Downunder gardening friend. Wishing you and yours all the very best for the festive season.

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    1. And Merry Christmas to you too from your gardening friend in Old Blighty :-)
      I am sooooo jealous of your summer right now, but we have just passed our shortest day, it’s going towards spring! All the best for 2013.

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  11. Merry Christmas! Christmas here is very mellow and casual - nothing formal at all. I hope your holiday is wonderful!

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    1. Thanks, Merry Christmas and have a wonderful holiday you too!

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  12. Helene I love all the different Christmas traditions and your explanations are wonderful..I never quite understood why many celebrated it on the 24th....wishing you a most wonderful Christmas and New year with your family!!

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    1. Thank you Donna, have a great Christmas celebration and a Happy New Year to you and yours too!

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