The holidays can be celebrated in many ways, everyone has their own traditions and activities. For example, a beautiful winter walk in the forest or preparing food together with your family. In this blog, we share the traditions of six colleagues from SUITSUIT. Each of them has their own culture, beliefs, and customs, and they are happy to share how they spent the holidays.
BIRGA - GERMANY
"On Christmas Day, we eat a lot, drink glühwein,
unwrap gifts,and enjoy being together."
In Germany, December is all about the holidays. It begins on the first Sunday of the month. Birga says: "That's when Advent starts. This is the preparation time for Christmas and takes place every Sunday in December until the holidays. Every Sunday, my family comes to visit and adults drink coffee while the children play. We play games together and decorate the house. There is a cosy atmosphere, giving us a taste of Christmas."
On Christmas Eve, December 24, they prepare the food with the whole family. Birga explains, "Initially, my grandma did most of it and we helped her. But now, we take more responsibility, and it becomes an activity in which each family member has its own share. On Christmas Day, we all eat the things we made together with a delicious glühwein. We unwrap gifts and enjoy being together."
What specifically reminds her of the holidays is not necessarily a tradition in Germany, but in her family: "We usually pick out a Christmas tree with the whole family. The smell of the pines immediately puts me in the mood for the cosy holidays. Just like the Christmas cookies we bake – the smell gives a nostalgic feeling that takes me back to beautiful memories."
BEN - CHINA
"It is a tradition to visit families' and relatives' homes one by one,
to send gifts and greetings. Juniors, such as I, then receive 'Red Pocket Money'
from their elders as a blessing."
The holidays in Chinese culture are all about being together and enjoying good food. One of the big holidays is the Lunar New Year. Ben says, "This holiday falls on a different date every year because it follows the lunar calendar. Usually, we visit families' homes such as our uncles and aunts. Juniors send greetings to elders and get ‘Red Pocket Money’ in return as a blessing. Everyone brings gifts and food, making it a beautiful and enjoyable day."
Throughout the holidays, the best food is bought and served. "During the Lunar New Year, you will see delicacies on the table. For example, expensive seafood like abalone and sea cucumber will be served", Ben explains. "We have many songs specifically made for this holiday. You'll hear it everywhere, just like Christmas songs."
They also celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong. "In tradition people celebrate the harvest of the year. The story behind this holiday is about a woman who stood up to her evil tyrant husband. She then became a fairy and flew to the moon. That's why, during this festival, we always go outside to enjoy the moon and eat mooncakes."
BIANCA - SOUTH AFRICA
"When the sun sets and it's dark outside, we turn on the lights and open the gifts."
In South Africa, the holidays are sunny and warm. For Bianca, it's very normal to be outside during this time. Bianca says, "On Christmas Eve, we have a family dinner, and our grandparents come to visit. When the sun sets and it's dark enough outside, we turn on the lights and open the gifts. My mother always says that we shouldn't open the gifts before it's dark outside."
On Christmas Day, it's a tradition to have a barbecue with the whole family, called the Braai. Bianca says, "You don't need to send invitations for this; it just happens. We often drove to my grandmother, which was about a twelve-hour drive. For us, that's not that far, but for a lot of people it's a great distance." Bianca always enjoyed going to her grandmother; she has a cottage by the sea. "We would always swim there during the Braai. It's actually an afternoon full of fun, games, dancing, eating, and swimming."
For Bianca, it truly feels like Christmas when her father says, 'nou gaan ons braai' (now we will braai) for the first time. "He repeats this every time there is a silence or when he goes to serve new food. Even when it's done, and no one is hungry anymore, he says it. Time after time, it makes me laugh. For me, that's the real holiday feeling."
SUSAN - THE NETHERLANDS
"I'm part of a big family, and we don't see each other often,
so Christmas is very important for us."
After Sinterklaas leaves the country in the beginning of December, the Christmas trees are being decorated. Before you know it, you're all sitting at the dining table. A great time to spend with family and appreciate what you have. Susan says, "I'm part of a big family, and we don't see each other very often. That's why Christmas is very important for us to come together again. My mother prepares all the food in the kitchen and doesn't want any help. She really enjoys preparing everything."
This is the last year that Susan will join the family with just her husband. "Next year, we'll be a family of three, and I feel something in me changing. Sometimes I see that my parents sit quietly at the head of the table, enjoying all the generations they have started. I think it's very beautiful that I am part of this and that I will experience this too in a couple of months. Next year, I can celebrate Christmas with my own family."
One of the traditions in Susan's family is writing down wishes. "This can be anything," Susan explains. "For example, last year, I could have written that I wanted to start a family. We write down all the wishes and put them in a glass jar. The next year, we open this jar again and reflect on them. It's fun to see if your wish has come true or if your wish no longer suits you because you've taken a different path."
BEATRICE - ROMANIA
"The year we had lights for the Christmas tree for the first time felt very special."
In Romania, Christmas Eve is the festive night. Beatrice says, "We spend the whole day preparing food and the rest of the house, which ends up looking cosy and festive. The children sing Romanian Christmas songs, and everyone goes from door to door visiting neighbours, family, and friends." Sometimes visits are arranged beforehand, but usually, the door is open to everyone. "The table is full of food and will stay that way for the whole night. People can take food whenever they want," Beatrice explains.
When she thinks back to these evenings, she can only recall beautiful memories. "As a child, you can do anything on that evening; adults pay a little less attention to you. That makes it incredibly fun – as if the world is full of possibilities." She also remembers the moment she decorates the Christmas tree, an important tradition in Romania. "The Christmas tree is only decorated on Christmas Eve itself. This is the day when Jesus was born, so that's why we wait with decorating it until that very moment."
She remembers the first time she put lights in the Christmas tree. "I grew up in communism, so you didn't have certain things at home, like the lights for the Christmas tree. The year we had this for the first time, it felt very special. To this day, putting the lights on the Christmas tree is the most beautiful thing during the holidays."
MERVE - TURKEY
"My favourite way to show love is by giving a beautiful gift."
In Turkey, the focus is mainly on the last day of the year during the December month. Merve says, "Then we come together with the whole family and drink a lot of Raki, a strong alcoholic drink from Turkey. The whole table is full of food, but it's mainly about being together with family and loved ones. It's usually a celebration that lasts for several days, even if it's only about the last day of the year."
A major holiday in Turkey is Eid Al Fitr, or Ramazan Bayramı. "This falls in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, not necessarily in December, although it can be," Merve explains. "We celebrate the end of Ramadan and have a big feast that lasts for days. People come together, and a lot of delicious food is made."
However, Merve and her husband also participate in exchanging gifts during the Christmas period. "My favourite way to show love is by giving a beautiful gift. Last year, for example, my husband gave me a beautiful necklace during Christmas. Not because we celebrate Christmas, but because he wanted to give it to me, and this festive holiday was a good reason."