Christmas Customs

Christmas Customs

Ryan Birchfield, Photojournalist

In the Ancient Roman Empire, a child was born in late December.  He would grow up and become one of the most influential people in the world, inspiring a new religion that is very popular today, Christianity.  The baby’s name was Jesus Christ.

Two thousand years later, give or take, his birthday has inspired a variety of customs and traditions around the world, especially countries in Europe, such as France, Germany, and Spain.   These countries each have a different traditions regarding the holidays.

Ms. Yakzan, the French teacher, said that French people “celebrate the epiphany, or the Day of the Kings.  On the first Sunday in January, they eat a cake called “La Galeble des Rois”.  There is a ceramic object in the cake and whoever gets it becomes the king or queen and wears the crown.”  Similarly, the Spanish teacher, Ms. Nunez, said that the Spanish also celebrate Three Kings Day, and have a similar bread-cutting ceremony, although for the Spanish, whoever gets the figurine has to host a party on February 2nd.

Ms. Nunez also said that the Spanish, “write to the Three Wise Men, since, to the Spanish, they are the ones giving gifts.  Kids write to the men, and attach the note to a balloon so it will get to the Wise Men.  They also celebrate “Las Posadas”, which are nine days of festivals and parades leading up to December 24th that recreate Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage.”  Ms. Gigliotti, the other Spanish teacher, said that the poinsettia is Spanish as well, and that on Three Kings Day, kids leave their shoes outside, so that they wake up with their shoes full of presents.

Germany has a similar tradition of putting shoes out, although they put them out on December 6th, Saint Nikolaus Day.   Just like the Spanish, kids wake up the next morning and find presents in their shoes, normally small things, like candy.  The rest of the gifts come on Christmas.  According to Mrs. Mueller, Germans also have “advent calendars, Christmas trees, and wreaths, although they place their wreaths on the table with four candles.  They light one candle every Sunday leading up to Christmas.  They decorate Christmas trees because it symbolizes spring.”

Who could have guessed that all of these great traditions could have sprung from one baby’s birth over a thousand years ago?