Tuesday, 22 December 2015

An expat Christmas: festive family traditions

When a family embarks on their expat adventure, the move shakes up their lives. With a new location comes a new language, food, culture and weather. And as a result traditions a family once knew may change. A well-established habit of staying in with close family on the 25th can suddenly turn into a day for visiting friends and entertaining well-wishers. When we asked our community which customs they’d discovered and incorporated into their own celebrations, the responses highlighted many delightful customs from around the world. 

Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market)

For expats new to Christmas in Germany the fabulously festive street markets can become an essential part of the season. This age-old tradition has been popular since the days of the Holy Roman Empire[1]. Weihnachtsmarkt gives shoppers the opportunity to purchase handmade crafts for their loved ones from quaint but well decorated stalls. While basking in the lights that many of the major markets are known for, patrons can treat themselves to sizzling bratwurst sausages, soft gingerbread cookies (Lebkuchen) and warm mulled wine (Gl├╝hwein) to stave off the winter chill.

Dana Newman - @WantedAdventure
O (Canadian) Christmas tree

With locations like Reindeer Station, Christmas Island, Sled Lake, Holly, Turkey Point and Snowflake it might well feel like it’s always Christmas in some corners of Canada. But when the season is in full swing Canadians go big with their trees. Instead of buying artificial firs, families drive out to tree farms and collect their timber directly from the forest. When surrounded by other towering trees in the forest, the trees can look a lot smaller than they are. It’s often not until the last bauble is up that people discover their mighty Douglas fir is not the little sapling they thought it was.

Flickr - Steven Depolo
Tropical Christmas trees

From the snowy winter wonderland that is Canada to humid subcontinent of India, the festivities bear some core similarities but take on a new form in a different climate. As the types of trees available during the celebrations are more tropical, families decorate mango and banana trees in place of firs and pines. And even though December is one of the coldest months of the year in India, expats are unlikely to see striking Christmas jumper patterns dotted about, as temperatures are still around 20 degrees. 

Google Images - Pixabay
Stir It Up Sunday

Christmas comes to a very sweet end in the UK as families wrap up the festivities with a hearty pudding. The dessert, which is made up of dried fruits, suet, cinnamon, nutmeg cloves and ginger, is aged for at least a month before it’s served. The deadline for this process is called Stir It Up Sunday. On this day families gather in the kitchen so each member can take their turn to stir the pudding and make a wish for the year ahead. Some people even plant a coin within the mixture as it is said to bring good luck to the person that finds it. The pudding is doused with brandy set alight before being presented to the table. 

Flickr - James Petts

A British expat relocating to Sweden will see their Christmas pudding take on a different form, as Risalamande. After enjoying the delights of a Smorgasbord, a rich creamy vanilla rice pudding with chopped almonds and cold cherry sauce is served. Although the dish doesn’t need to be prepared nearly as early as a British pudding, it is not uncommon to make a large batch a couple days ahead of the big day. In this scenario the coin is replaced by a whole almond and the lucky person to find it wins a small prize. By concealing the discovery for as long as possible a host can get their guests to eat through more - if not all - of the dessert. 

Flickr - Pille

As you prepare for the holiday season, have you noticed any new traditions that you’ve taken on since embarking on your expat adventure? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @expatexplorer

[1] http://www.xmas-markets.org/category/germany-christmas-markets/

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