the following is thanks to:
Traditional greeting: "Sretan Bozic" and "Hristos se rodi"
Location: Eastern Europe
Tree Type: Traditional
Decorations: Trees in Bosnia are decorated with toys, chocolate, lights and colored balls and are traditionally topped with stars.
Traditions: Bosnians, like those in many other countries, observe Christmas primarily by celebrating the family. The three Sundays that precede Christmas Eve, Detinjci, Materice and Ocevi, are dedicated to children, mothers and fathers. Most holiday rituals take place within the family, including the many meals families eat together.
Bosnians celebrate Christmas Eve dinner with a traditional stuffed turkey. It is served with stuffed cabbage, spinach pie, beets, mayonnaise salad, and pita. In the Orthodox tradition, a golden coin is hidden in a loaf of bread and will grant wishes for the person who finds it throughout the year. Sojikolac, chocolate nut cookies, and cake with white frosting to represent fresh snowfall are served for dessert.
It is Djeda Mraz, Grandfather Frost, who visits children and delivers their treats. The feasts that celebrate families begin again on December 31, when everyone toasts the New Year. The next day, many families traditionally watch the Vienna Concert on television together, and friends and neighbors get together for one last party before life returns to normal on the 3rd of January. To bring people even closer together, most seasonal parties are celebrated with sparklers, singing and dancing.
the following are thanks to http://www.whychristmas.com/
Christmas in Slovakia
In Slovakia, Christmas celebrations begin with Advent. Many Slovaks are Roman Catholics so this is the start of the important spiritual preparations for Christmas.
Slovaks also celebrate St. Nicholas' day on the 6th December. In Slovakia he is known as sv. Mikulas. He comes in the evening of the 5th December and gives presents to good children. Young children place their shoes near the door so sv. Mikulas can fill them with sweets and fruit.
During Advent there are lots of preparations to be made for Christmas. The include cleaning the house, baking, shopping and buying the Christmas Tree. Carps are also sold on the streets from big tanks (carp is eaten in the main Christmas meal).
Christmas Eve is the most important day during Christmas for Slovaks. It is called 'Stedry den' (the Generous Day). The actual evening is called 'Stedry vecer' (the Generous Evening) and the Christmas season is called 'Vianoce'.
In Slovakian Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Vesele Vianoce'.
Slovak Christmas Trees are decorated with coloured lights, fruits, hand-made decorations made of wood, baked goods made with honey in the form of Angels and other religious symbols and sweets. Christmas Trees are kept until January 6th, Feast of the Three Kings (Epiphany. Then the children are allowed to finally eat the candies and other sweets from the tree.
Christmas gifts are brought to children by the Baby Jesus. Family gifts are put under the Christmas Tree. A common tradition is that the children have to leave the room when the presents are being brought by Jesus. When they are there a bell is rung. The children then run to the Christmas Tree to try and see the Baby Jesus but they always narrowly miss him! Then the present are opened. Christmas carols are sung or played, often Silent Night, then the supper is served.
On Christmas Eve morning the carp is killed and gutted (or some other kind of fish is taken out of the freezer!). During the day the supper is cooked. It used to be the custom to fast (not to eat anything) all through Christmas Eve. This was a direction given by the Catholic Church. It was said that if you manage to get by without food for the whole day, you will see a little golden pig in the evening (after the Midnight Mass service)!
The main Christmas meal is known as the 'velija' and consists of 12 dishes (the number of dishes symbolizes the number of Jesus's disciples). The table is prepared with a white table cloth with straw and sheaves of wheat at each end.
Christmas dinner begins with Oplatky small bread wafers and a blessing.
The main Christmas supper varies between regions and families. It normally has lots of courses including a fish dish and 'Kapustnica'. Kapustnica is a thick cabbage soup with sausage, meat, dried mushrooms and cream. Every family has its own recipe. Some recipes include ingredients that might seem unusual such as dried plums and apples.
Carp is often the fish that is eaten. Some people buy it live and keep it in their bath until it's time to kill it and cook it. And if you want a bath or shower, you have to take it out of the bath and put it in a bucket! Other dishes might include a baked ham or a roost goose, 'bobalky' small pieces of bread mixed with butter and sauerkrat or sweetended with honey and poppyseeds, potato salad, pirohy dumplings, vegetables and plenty of walnut rolls or cookies.
Cookies are a popular dessert and treat at Christmas. Some favorites include vanilla ones made with poppy seeds and walnuts and apricot cookies. Sometimes people will make more than 10 different types of cookies. These are given to visitors over Christmas. There are also special thin waffles that are eaten with honey.
After supper people might visit the close family or neighbors and give small gifts. Then many people will go to a Midnight Mass Service. This is the busiest Church service of the year.
In Slovakia there are many regional variations of the Christmas Eve celebrations. Some are local folk custom and rituals, that date back many years. One tradition is to clean the house and windows ready for Christmas.
Christmas Day and Boxing Day (26th) are much quieter and days of rest. People might go to Holy Mass Service and visit their family on Christmas Day. Families with children like to go to church and watch 'Betlehems' (crib scenes) which are displayed in almost every church. Some of them are mechanical!
Christmas in Poland
In Poland, Advent is the beginning of Christmas Time. It's a time when people try to be peaceful and remember the real reason for Christmas. People try not to have excess of anything. Some people give up their favourite foods or drinks and parties and discos are not widely held. Some people also go to Church quite frequently. There is the tradition of the 'roraty', special masses (or communion services) held at dawn and dedicated to Mary for receiving the good news from the angel Gabriel.
During Advent, people also prepare their houses for Christmas. There's lots of cleaning and people wash their windows and clean their carpets very thoroughly. Everything must be clean for Christmas day!
Poland is a largely catholic country and Christmas Eve is a very important and busy day. Traditionally it's a day of fasting and abstinence (not eating anything) and meat is not normally allowed to be eaten in any form. A special Christmas Eve meal called Wigilia (pronounced vee-GHEE-lee-uh) is eaten after the first star has been seen in the sky. It's also all meat free and might consist of Barszcz (beetroot soup), Uszka (mushroom ravioli), Pierogi (Pasta dumplings filled with either cheese and potato or cabbage and mushroom) and fish dishes (normally carp and herrings).
If the Christmas Tree hasn't been put up before hand, it's also brought in and decorated with tinsel, lights and glass decorations. Gold, silver and white chains resembling long, silver glittering hair is also hung on the tree and a star is placed on the top.
Nativity Cribs are also common decorations and Children take part in Nativity plays at schools and in Churches.
People in Poland also like kissing under the mistletoe!
After that the house is cleaned again and everyone also gets washed and puts on their festive clothes. People are normally very hungry on Christmas Eve, as it is traditional that no food is eaten until the first star is seen in the sky! So children look at the night sky to spot the first star!
At the beginning of the meal, a large wafer biscuit called an 'Oplatek', which has a picture of Mary, Joseph and Jesus on it, is passed around the table and everyone breaks a piece off and eats it. Sometimes a small piece may be given to any farm animals or pets that the family may have. A place is often left empty at the meal table, for the Christ Child, as in the Czech Republic.
Sometimes straw is put on the floor of the room, or under the table cloth, to remind people that Jesus was born in a stable or cow shed.
The meal consists 12 dishes of mostly fish (as meat used to be forbidden), mushrooms, puddings and cake. Common dished include pierogi, bigos and karp (carp). Like in many Catholic countries, Christmas Eve is often a 'fasting day' meaning that some people don't eat anything until after sunset (when the Church day officially ends). So that's where the custom of the first star come from.
Later children check the presents under the tree and and give them out. Presents might also be brought by 'Swiety Mikolaj' (St. Nicholas).
After the meal, the candles on the Christmas Tree are lit and people eat, talk and sing carols. Children sometimes dress up as characters from the Christmas story and go carol singing.
Christmas Eve is finished by going to Church for a Midnight Mass service.
The days after Christmas are often spent with family and friends.
In Polish Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Wesołych Świąt
Polish Children also often get dressed up and go carol singing on Epiphany, January 6th (see Spain for more information).
Christmas in Romania
In Romania, Christmas and mid-winter celebrations last from 20th December to 7th January. The 20th is when people celebrate St. Ignatius's Day. It is traditional that if the family keep pigs, one is killed on this day. The meat from the pig is used in the Christmas meals.
The Christmas celebrations really begin on Christmas Eve, 24th, when it's time to decorate the Christmas Tree. This is done in the evening of Christmas Eve. In Romanian, Christmas Eve is called 'Ajunul Craciunului'.
Carol singing (known as 'Colindatul') is also a very popular part of Christmas in Romania. On Christmas Eve children go out carol singing from house to house performing to the adults in the houses. They normally dance as well. The children get sweets, fruit, traditional cakes called 'cozonaci' and sometimes money for singing well. Adults go carol singing on Christmas Day evening and night.
A traditional Romanian Carol is the 'Star Carol'. The star, made of colored paper and often decorated with tinsel, silver foil and sometimes bells, is put on a pole. In the middle of the star is a picture of baby Jesus or a nativity scene. Carol singers take the star with them when they go carol singing. The words of the Star Carol are:
"The star has appeared on high,
Like a big secret in the sky,
The star is bright,
May all your wishes turn out right."
Other popular carols to sing include 'Oh, What Wondrous Tidings' ('O, ce veste minunata') and 'Three Wise Men coming from the East' ('Trei Crai de la rasarit').
In many parts of Romania, it's also traditional that someone dresses up as a goat, with a multicolored mask, and goes round with the carol singers. The goat is known as the 'Capra' and it jumps and dances around getting up to lots of mischief!
Another Christmas Eve tradition is a drumming band or 'dubasi'. This is normally made up of un married-men. A band can up to 50 or 60 men in it! As well as the drums there's often a saxophone and violin. The band will practice for about a month before Christmas so they are really good. The go round the streets and are given presents.
In Romanian, Merry Christmas is 'Crặciun Fericit'.
In Romania Santa Claus is known as 'Moş Crăciun' (Old Man Christmas), 'Moş Nicolae' (Old Man Nicholas) & 'Moş Gerilă' (Old Man Frost).
Traditional Romanian Christmas foods include Roast Gammon and Pork Chops (made from the killed pig!), 'Ciorba de perisoare' which is a slightly sour vegetable soup made with fermented bran and pork meatballs; 'Sarmale' cabbage leaves stuffed with ground pork and served with polenta; 'Cozonac' a rich fruit bread; Romanian doughnuts called 'gogosi' and cheesecakes.
New Year's Eve is also an important celebration in Romania. It's sometimes called Little Christmas. Traditionally a small, decorated plough called a 'Plugusorul' is paraded through the streets on New Year's Eve. It is meant to help people have good crops during the following year.
On New Year's Day, children wish people a Happy New Year while carrying around a special bouquet called a 'Sorcova'. Traditionally, the Sorcova was made of twigs from one or more fruit trees like apple, pear, cherry or plum. They're put into water in a warm place on 30th November, so they hopefully come into leaf and blossom on New Year's Eve! Nowadays often a single twig of an apple or pear tree is used and it's decorated with flowers made from colored paper.
Christmas in Hungary
In Hungary, Christmas Eve is very important and is called 'Szent-este' which means Holy Evening. People spend the evening with their family and decorate the Christmas Tree. Sometimes only the adults decorate the tree (without the children there), so when children come in and see the tree, it's a great surprise and they are told that angels brought the tree for them!
The main Christmas meal, which is also eaten on Christmas eve, consists of fish and cabbage and a special kind of poppy bread/cake called 'Beigli'.
The Midnight Mass service is very popular in Hungary. Most people go to Church after their Christmas meal.
On Christmas Day people visit their families.
St. Nicholas also visits Hungary on the 6th December. In Hungary he is known as 'Mikulás'. Children leave out shoes or boots on a windowsill to be filled with goodies! Presents might also be brought by Télapó (Old Man Winter).
Christmas in the Czech Republic
During the evening of the 5th December, children are very excited and watch for St. Nicholas (Svatý Mikuláš) to arrive. He normally is accompanied by one or more angels and one or more devils. He asks the children if they've been good all year and also asks them to sing a song or recite a poem, and gives them a basket of presents (often containing chocolate and fruit). The basket normally contains small present similar to the stockings that children receive in the UK on Christmas day. The main presents are often opened on Christmas eve, during the evening.
In the Czech language Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce'.
The main celebrations are on Christmas Eve. Some people fast during Christmas Eve in the hope that they will see a vision of 'the golden pig' appear on the wall before dinner! This is meant to be a sign of good luck!
The Czech traditional Christmas dinner is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve. The meal often consists of fish soup (made of carp), and fried carp with potato salad.
Ježíšek 'Little Jesus' (the Czech version of Santa Claus) brings presents during the Christmas Eve dinner and leaves them under the Christmas Tree. He rings a bell right before he leaves. The presents are normally opened right after dinner. Religious families also usually sing Christmas carols by the tree, and go to church either at midnight or on Christmas Day.
There's a superstition in the Czech Republic that says if you throw a shoe over your shoulder on Christmas day, if the toe points towards the door, you will be married soon!
Christmas in Latvia
Children in Latvia believe that Santa Claus (also known as Ziemassvētku vecītis - Christmas old man) brings their presents. The present are usually put under the Christmas tree. The presents are opened on during the Evening of Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day.
Often the presents are secretly put under three when people are not around (such as when people are at Church). Sometime to get a present you have to recite a short poem while standing next to the Christmas Tree! Before Christmas children learn to say poems by heart. You might also get a present by singing, playing a musicical instrument or doing a dance!
Latvia also claims to be the home of the first Christmas Tree! The first documented use of a evergreen tree at Christmas and New Year celebrations is in town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia, in the year 1510. Lots of people think the Christmas Tree first came from Germany, but the first recorded one is in Latvia! You can find out more about the Riga Tree from this great website: www.firstchristmastree.com
In Latvian Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Priecïgus Ziemassvºtkus'.
The special Latvian Christmas Day meal is cooked brown/grey peas with bacon (pork) sauce, small pies, cabbage & sausage, bacon rolls and gingerbread.
Christmas in Lithuania
At Christmas time in Lithuania it is very cold, normally with snow and ice on the ground.
Christmas Eve (Kūčios) is a more important day than Christmas Day. Kūčios is also the name of the big Christmas Eve meal which families have together during the evening of Christmas Eve. Kūčios is also the last day of Advent, so it is important and special.
But before the meal can be eaten, lots of preparations have to take place. The whole house is cleaned, the bedding is changed and everyone washes and puts on clean clothes ready for the meal.
Many Lithuanians used to go to the bathhouse to be cleaned before the meal. Some people thought being clean helped to protect them from evil or diseases during the coming year. During Christmas Eve, working men would put away their tools and clean the cattle pens and farmyard, etc.
Many people fast (don't eat anything) during the day. The Kūčios meal also shouldn't contain any meat.
Straw is a traditional decoration. Is it normally spread on the table top and then covered with a clean, white tablecloth. The table is then decorated with candles and small branches or twigs from a fir tree. The straw reminds people of the baby Jesus lying in a manger. A superstition says that if you pull a piece of straw from under the tablecloth and it's long, you will have a long life; but if it's short you will have a short life; and a thick straw means a rich and happy life!
Often an extra place is set - for a family member who can't come to the meal or if a family member has died during the past year. Sometimes a candle is lit to remember family members who died. Some people believe that dead family members come and join the family round the table. People who are going to be alone on Christmas Eve are also invited to meal.
At the center of the table is a plate of Christmas wafers - one wafer for each person at the meal. In some parts of Lithuania the wafers have the scene of the birth of Jesus on them.
The meal starts when the first stars can be seen in the night sky. If it's cloudy, the 'head of the house' decides when the meal will start! The wafers are offered to each person at the table and Christmas greetings are exchanged. Sometimes an apple is also cut into as many people at the meal and is shared. This remembers the apple eaten in the Garden of Eden.
The Kūčios meal normally has 12 dishes - one for each of Jesus's followers. None of the dishes contain meat (and some people also don't have milk or eggs in them).
Traditional and popular dishes include fish (often herring), kūčiukai (small sweet pastries) normally soaked in poppy milk, kisielius (a drink made from cranberries), dried fruit soup, beet soup (often with mushroom filled dumplings in it), vegetable salad, mushrooms, boiled or baked potatoes, sauerkraut, a kind of wheat porridge with honey and bread. Normally water or homemade cider is drunk with the meal.
Sweet dishes are also often eaten including kissel (a fruit soup/jelly thickened with potato flour) and stewed fruit compote.
After the meal (or possibly between the main and sweet courses) there might be a visit from 'The Old Man of Christmas' (Santa Claus) with presents! People will also exchange presents between themselves.
When the presents have been exchanged, children often go to bed and the adults might go out to Midnight Mass (Bernelių mišios - which means Shepherds's Mass).
Popular Christmas Tree decorations in Lithuania are ones made from white paper straws. They are often in the shapes of stars, snowflakes and other geometric shapes. You can find out more about the straw decorations and see some photos on them on this site.
The Christmas season lasts until the 6th of January - Epiphany.
In Lithuanian Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Linksmų Kalėdų'.