There are many wonderful ways to make merry in the depths of winter (and they don’t all involve chocolate!) Many are centred around Christmas, but there are other festivals at this time of year too, including the winter solstice which is today, 21st December. So this feels like a good time to share with you some of our favourite festive traditions from around the globe, you could call it a little celebration of celebrations...
In Britain, the winter solstice is most famously welcomed in at Stonehenge. Although the ancient monument is believed to have been built primarily for summer solstice, crowds also gather there at dawn after the longest night of the year to watch the sunrise through the impressive stone circle. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Canada a more modern winter solstice tradition has evolved; a lantern festival designed to celebrate the start of a new season is now in its 28th year. It features lantern-making workshops, live music and a stunning ‘labyrinth of light’ through which visitors are invited to walk and in the process to let go of the old and embrace the new possibilities of a new season.
Light is common theme in winter celebrations. In Ireland it’s traditional to leave a candle burning in a front window overnight at Christmas, to symbolise welcome, warmth and shelter. Candles and sparklers are also held by those taking part in the ‘Las Posadas’ marches that take place in Mexico and Guatamala every year, re-enacting the journey of Mary and Joseph searching for shelter on the first Christmas night. And of course Christmas lights can be spotted at this time of year not only in windows and on trees but all over buildings and gardens throughout Britain, the USA and across the world.
More unusual, when it comes to decorations, are the spiders and spider webs you’ll find adorning Christmas trees in Ukraine. The decorations celebrate the legend of the Christmas spider which tells of a poor family who couldn’t afford Christmas decorations but who, on Christmas morning, found their tree decorated by hundreds of delicate spider webs glistening gold and silver in the sunlight. Some say modern day tinsel was created to celebrate this legend too.
A Ukrainian Christmas tree decorated with spider webs
When it comes to outright fun, we think it’s hard to beat the Venezuelan tradition of roller-skating to mass on Christmas morning! It’s not clear where or when it began (is it because it’s too hot to go sledging?) but the activity has become so popular that in the capital city of Caracas the roads are closed first thing in the morning so that people can roller skate together in safety.
Of course our favourite Christmas traditions involve chocolate and you can’t beat the wonderful Icelandic custom of giving a book and chocolate on Christmas Eve; what could be more cosy?
What are you favourite Christmas traditions? Is there anything you do every year with your friends or family that always makes you smile?
Here at Booja-Booja HQ we love getting creative and having a bit of fun with our ingredients and products. You might remember our advert on the cover of Vegan Food & Living magazine last year, featuring a cocoa powder Christmas tree. This year we’ve been creating Christmas trees from melted chocolate, hazelnuts and even an orange. Perhaps this is a new Christmas tradition in the making!