Today (on the 24th of December) is my favourite day of the year - Christmas Eve. As you know (or not) I'm Polish and yes - we celebrate Christmas one day earlier than people do that in most other countries.
In Poland, Christmas Eve dinner (Wigilia) is the most important celebration of the year. One of the traditions says that people can't start eating dinner before first star is seen on the sky. When I was a kid I literally used to sit on the windowsill and wait for the first star. Before we start eating, everyone has to share a wafer and to give each other wishes. We have twelve dishes on the table which means good luck for the next twelve months and everyone has to try at least little piece of every meal. One of the place settings is left for someone who can knock the door and ask for help - no one should be alone or hungry that day. Then, after dinner is a time for opening gifts. Christmas Eve is finished by going to Church for a special Mass at midnight (pasterka). We celebrate Christmas two more days. Between 24th of December and 6th of January (Epiphany) kids dressed up and walk from house to house singing Polish Christmas carols to get money, candies or tangerines - something like Polish halloween ;).
Have you ever been interested how people celebrate Christmas in other countries? No worries, I found some interesting traditions for you and I wrote them below.
POLAND and GERMANY
6th of December is a Santa Claus Day. Kids get small gifts such as candies or small toys which are left in boots or under their pillow. I'm the lucky one who gets gifts twice in December ;).
One of the traditions is to leave a bottle of Guinness and mince pies outside for Santa Claus as a snack. I know that in USA people leave milk and cookies, but to be honest I've never heard of Irish tardition.
Every year during Christmas Eve morning, the roads of the Caracas, the capital, are closed to cars. People can head to the Mass using roller skates. Isn't it cool?
Many people eat Kentucky Fried Chicken from KFC as a traditional Christmas dinner meal, that's why sometimes all the restaurants are full that day and people have to make a reservation to get a table. Could you resign from traditional Christmas dinner just to eat some KFC chicken?
At the beginning of the Christmas Eve dinner, the head of the family takes a spoon of a traditional Christmas dish made from bread, water and poppy seed filling (LoKsa) and throws it up at the ceiling. Of course it has a symbolic meaning - the more mixture that remains glued on the ceiling, the richer his crops will be next year. Well, I'm not sure if my dad handled the dirty ceiling ;).
Every year single women want to find out if they will marry next year. They perform a ritual on Christmas Eve Day - they throw one of their shoes over their shoulders standing with their backs to the house. If the shoe lands with the heel towards the door, she will not be married yet.
One of the Norwegian belief says that witches would appear on Christmas Eve Day to steal brooms to ride the skies. All the brooms are hidden that day and men can use their shotguns outside their houses to scared all the witches away. Hm, that one is interesting!
RUSSIA and UKRAINE
Christmas is celebrated there on January 7th, because the Orthodox church uses the old Julian calendar for religious celebration days.
How do you celebrate Christmas in your country? Do you know any other interesting traditions?