Christmas crackers (UK)
London sweet-maker Tom Smith invented Christmas crackers in the late 1840s, inspired by traditional, paper-wrapped French bonbons. Even though he included mottos or riddles inside each, it was not until he found a way to make them “crack” when pulled apart that sales took off. His sons Tom, Walter and Henry later added hats and novelty gifts.
Noche Vieja (Spain)
Noche Vieja (Old Night) or New Year’s Eve, is a night to have dinner with the family and eat the “grapes of luck” with family and friends. After dinner, they would all sit in front of the TV for the “campanadas”. The tradition is to eat 12 grapes, one at a time to the beat of the clock chimes that indicate midnight, ¡Harder than you think and really funny! Of course, this is followed by a glass (or a few) of Champagne. The grape tradition started 1909 due to a surplus of the harvest and it is celebrated ever since.
La calza della Befana (Italy)
As part of Christmas festivity, Italy celebrates la Befana, an old lady that flying on a broomstick, and brings gifts to children. According to the tradition, during the night between the 5th and the 6th of January, la Befana, flying over the skies, and through the chimney, to put gifts in the socking left by the kids the night before. Sweets and candies for the good one, and coal for the ‘rascals’. For the previous generations, the stocking was a knitted sock (calza), and the gifts were only a few candied fruits, a tangerine or a lump of coal, nowadays chocolate and other goodies together with tasty candy coal made with caramel are filling up colourful and fancy Christmas stocking. La Befana, marking the end of the 12 days of Christmas and the Christmas festivity, is as well the representation of the old year just passed ready to give place to the new one.
Christmas Wreath (Germany)
In the four weeks leading up to Christmas, the Christmas wreath will be used to get into the Christmas spirit. Many families sit together and build their very own Christmas wreath. It´s a round metal frame covered with evergreen branches. On top of that, the wreath can be decorated with different holiday items like cinnamon sticks, pinecones, dried fruit and bows. Most important are the four candles. On the 4th Sunday before Christmas, the first candle gets lit and the family sits together. On that day the Germans will wish each other a “Happy 1st advent” and accordingly with the following Sundays. The following three Sundays another candle will be lit until on the 4th Sunday all the candles burn. This year “Heiligabend”, Chrismas Eve the day the presents will be exchanged, is on the 4th Sunday.
December 24th (France)
In France, its tradition to celebrate Christmas on the evening of the 24th rather than the morning of the 25th. So in France, all the family members would put their shoes at the foot of the Christmas tree and wait for Santa to come. Once he has come, kids will go and play with their toys and parents will feast on their delicious Christmas meal.