Christmas Around the World

Mercatini di Natale in Alto Adige:

Una tipica tradizione di una regione del nord Italia, l’Alto Adige, è quella dei mercatini di Natale. Ogni anno a partire dalla prima settimana dell’avvento fino al venerdì dell’Epifania, piccole casette in legno illuminano le piazze di cinque città appartenenti a questa regione. Passeggiando tra queste ordinate e addobbate casette è possibile assaggiare prodotti tipici di pasticceria quali lo Zelten, una torta tipica, lo strudel di Mele, la torta Sacher e i fragranti biscotti prodotti artigianalmente.
Ogni casetta espone un proprio prodotto locale, quali giochi per i più piccoli in legno, addobbi natalizi, indumenti lavorati a mano. La piazza brulica ogni anno di migliaia di curiosi turisti provenienti da tutta Italia e che tra una bancarella e l’altra possono fermarsi a ripararsi dal freddo con il tipico vin brulè associato alle castagne cucinate al momento.
Per l’evento vengono messe a disposizione attrazioni per grandi e piccoli quali il tipico giro in carrozza a cavallo, i pony per i bambini e a Merano, città altoatesina, il mercatino è situato accanto alle terme, per poter associare la visita a momenti di grande relax.
I diversi mercatini inoltre non sono tutti uguali, ma ognuno di questi è caratterizzato dalla presenza di casette con prodotti totalmente differenti e addobbi natalizi dai più vari.
Per esempio in alcuni è possibile trovare presepi finemente decorati e costruiti nei minimi dettagli, in altri piste da pattinaggio per grandi e piccini.


“Von ‘draus vom Walde komm ich her, ich muss euch sagen, es weihnachtet sehr!” Ein Hoehepunkt der Vorweihnachtszeit wird in Deutschland oftmals mit dem Nikolaustag am 6. Dezember gefeiert. Bereits am Vorabend stellen Kinder dabei ihre leeren Schuhe oder Stiefel vor die Haustuer und warten sehnsuechtig darauf, am Nikolausmorgen moeglichst frueh nachzusehen, welche Gaben ihnen der Nikolaus gebracht hat. Ueber die Jahre hinweg sind dabei nicht nur allerlei Suessigkeiten, sondern ebenso kleine Geschenke im Stiefel gelandet, sodass der Nikolaustag mehr und mehr im Konsum und Kommerz untergeht.
Der heilige Nikolaus lebte dabei ca. im 4 Jahrhundert in Myra in der heutigen Tuerkei. Der Legende nach verbrachte er zahlreiche Wunder, bewarte viele Menschen vor Katastrophen und beschenkte die Armen. Seit dem fruehen Mittelalter wird er dafuer von Anhaengern der griechisch-orthodoxen und ebenso der katholischen Kirche verehrt.
Schokolade und Suessigkeiten bekommen die Kinder am Nikolaustag dabei nur, wenn sie im vorangegangen Jahr auch “brav” gewesen sind. Der Begleiter des Nikolaus, “Knecht Ruprecht”, soll mittels seiner dunklen, teils furchteinfloessenden Gestalt die Kinder zum besseren Benehmen anregen.
Zum Nikolaustag werden nicht nur passende Weihnachtslieder angestimmt, das gemuetliche Beisammensein bei Tee und Gebaeck, durchaus in Nikolausform, macht jeden Nikolaustag zu etwas Besonderem.

Dansk Risalamande:

I ugerne op til Jul, er en dansk tradition at spise risengrød til aftensmad. Dette er normalt spist med kanelsukker drysset ovenpå og med et glas Ribena eller andet bærsaft ved siden af. De fleste folk vælger dette her måltid fordi at det er meget billigt og børn plejer godt at kunne lide det fordi der ikke er nogle grøntsager involveret of fordi at der er sukker oven på. Men personligt synes jeg at det er et meget kedeligt og uappetitligt måltid.
En god ting stammer fra dette måltid. Ved Julefester, bliver koldt risengrød brugt til at lave en dejlig dessert. Vanilje, sukker og hakkede mandler bliver blandet i risengrøden. Så bliver det spist koldt med hjemmelavet hindbærsovs. Det bedste ved det hele er der altid er én hel mandel tilbage i desserten. Nu er Julefesten blevet til en konkurrence om at finde den hele mandel. Værten sørger for at der er ´mandelgave´ til den person der finder mandlen.
Navnet på denne her dessert, risalamande, kommer fra fransk, ´riz á l l’amande’, som betyder ´ris med mandler´.

Christmas Markets:

A typical tradition of a North italian region called Alto Adige is Christmas markets. Every year from the first week of Advent to the Epiphany, small wooden houses light up the squares of five main cities. Walking around these arrayed houses it is also possible to taste local food such as “Zelten”, the Apple Strudel and Sacher, all different local types of cakes and also handmade biscuits.
Each house exhibits its own handmade local products such as wooden games for children, Christmas decorations, clothes made by local artisans. Every year these squares are full of thousands of tourists from every part of Italy. In some houses they can also buy a typical hot wine called “vin brulè” usually associated with the hot chestnuts cooked at the same time.
For this special event there are also some fun activities for both adults and children. It is possible to have a carriage ride or ride the ponies and in one particular city, called Meran, this market is located near the spa in order to offer relaxation as well.
Furthermore, every market is different from the other. In each of them there are different products and totally varied Christmas decorations.
For example, in one of them tourists can find particular handmade cribs and, in another, ice rinks for both adults and children.
Gaia Casolino

Saint Nicholas’ Day:

“From out of the forest I now appear, to proclaim that Christmastide is here!” A climax of the German pre-Christmas season is often celebrated on St. Nicholas’ Day on 6th December. On the preceding evening, children already place their empty boots in front of the entry door. They then wait impatiently until the next morning when the young children are allowed to take a look which presents were brought by Nicholas. Over the past few years, the variety of presents has shifted from simple sweets and chocolate to more advanced gifts, so that St. Nicholas’ Day is – sadly- heavily affected by commercialism.
In reality, Saint Nicholas lived in Myra (Turkey) in the 4th century. According to different myths, he has performed miracles, prevented people from catastrophes and gifted the poor with presents. Because of these good deeds, Saint Nicholas has been worshipped by adherents of the Greek Orthodox and the Catholic Church since the early medieval times.
However, the children are only given chocolate and sweets if they have behaved properly in the preceding year. Saint Nicholas’ companion, “Knecht Ruprecht”, ought to prompt the children to show better behaviour; his figure as a dark and almost scary man therefore enforces his message.
Not only suitable Christmas songs, but also the gathering over tea and German “Plaetzchen” (a variety of biscuits, often even shaped as Nicholas) make Saint Nicholas’ a wonderful day of the Christmas season.
Carolin Bernhard

Danish Risalamande:

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, a Danish custom is to eat rice porridge for dinner. This is generally eaten with a topping of cinnamon sugar, next to a glass of Ribena or other berry squash. Most people choose this meal because it is highly inexpensive, and children tend to like it because it involves no vegetables and is topped with sugar. However, I find it very dull and unappetising.
One good thing does stem from this meal though. At Christmas parties, cold rice porridge is altered to make a lovely dessert. Vanilla, sugar and chopped up almonds are added to the mixture. It is then eaten cold with homemade raspberry sauce. The best part is that there is always one whole almond left. Now the Christmas party has turned into a competition to find the whole almond; an ´almond-present´ is provided by the host for the person who succeeds.
The name of this dessert, risalamande, is from the French, ‘riz á l’amande’, meaning ‘rice with almonds’.
Esther Grunbaum


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