What does the holiday season mean to you? Often it’s the wonderful smells, tastes, traditions and togetherness that remind us of this special time of year. Take a journey with us…
CHRISTMAS AT THE BEACH – PATRICK, SYDNEY
Christmas Day for our family unfolds in a typically casual Australian way. It begins very early as the kids are desperate to open their presents from Santa Claus! We walk to the beach nearby for a swim and some fun on the sand, then it’s back home to get dressed up for when the extended family arrives. We always play traditional Christmas carols while the kids hand out all the presents from under the tree. We then sit down to a long lunch of seafood and salads – each family member contributes a dish or two, so it’s a really fun joint effort. The afternoon is spent drinking, swimming in the pool and then back down to the beach at dusk for one more family swim to watch the sunset. The next day is called Boxing Day. It’s famous for two major sporting events – the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and the cricket test match in Melbourne. And then a week or so later, we get to watch the mega New Year’s Eve fireworks, which light up the sky over the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It’s a blast.
GINGERBREAD HOUSES – TANYA, BERLIN
The first Christmas I spent with my husband, Ole, I discovered I had married one of Santa’s elves. He loves Christmas, I think because his mother always made it so special. It was Ole who first suggested I make a gingerbread house. To make my elf happy, I thought sure, can’t be too hard. Let’s just say it has taken many years to perfect. We start building our house a few days before Christmas Eve. I make the gingerbread and the next day we assemble it. When the house is made, it’s a sign to us that yes, it’s Christmas! By the time our daughter came along, I had become very adept at making a gingerbread house. But by the age of three, there she was, at the bench, eager to help. While the houses haven’t been quite as ‘perfect’ ever since, they’re bursting at the seams with love… and candy. Come Christmas Eve dinner, the gingerbread house is presented for all to share.
CHRISTMAS EVE – MATTIAS, STOCKHOLM
Like most Swedes, we go out as a family on Christmas Eve and buy our fresh pine tree from a street stall. Then we haul it back to our apartment, and the children are sent out of the room while we decorate it. My father places a star on the top of the tree, and we all drink too much spiced wine as the evening progresses. Then we ring a bell to tell the kids it’s time to come in. They burst into the room, screaming and laughing and going crazy. I’ve been doing this since I was a child, and my children love it too! We also have a yearly ritual of watching a Walt Disney Christmas special on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. It’s called Kalle Anka, or Donald Duck and his friends wish you a merry Christmas, and it’s been going since the 1950s. Everyone takes it really seriously – adults, kids, and everyone in between. The funny thing is, it’s kind of comforting watching it together every year – it never changes, even though we do.
NEW YEAR TRADITIONS – EVELYN, KUALA LUMPUR
The first day of the Chinese New Year – which is the first day of the lunar calendar – falls between January 21 and February 20 each year. The night before New Year we hold a huge family banquet dinner, with lots of people flying in from interstate or overseas. The first day represents the year ahead, so we make a fresh start with new clothes – in red, for good luck, from head to toe! We give each other mandarins, as well as red envelopes filled with a little money, as a symbol of good fortune to come. There’s lots of socializing, laughter and of course, eating! Another tradition is to have a lion dance, and we set off noisy firecrackers at the entrance to our home to scare away bad spirits. It’s the best time of year for us!