Christmas is a peaceful, family holiday opposite to a fairy New Year holiday, with obligatory Christmas tree. It sounds unbelievable that people used to celebrate Christmas without a Christmas tree. But it's true: a custom to decorate the tree is only several hundred years old. And this custom was set up in Germany.
The first decorated Christmas trees were established as a fact by a medieval historian in 1605 in German-speaking Alsace (territory of modern France). The trees first appeared in the houses of rich merchants and noblemen decorated with golden apples and nut garlands. Besides, in medieval Germany they decorated not just fur-trees, but also pine-trees and cherry trees and beech branches. It used to be a pagan tradition, and became an official Christmas tradition only in the 19th century.
In modern Germany, among Christmas dishes, there is milled wine cooked according to a special Christmas recipe. In addition with varying ingredients such as traditional oranges, cinnamon and red wine it includes other ingredients.
In December cities and towns of the country have lots of traditional arrangements such as par-ties with colleagues and friends, decoration of Christmas trees (the main Christmas tree is situated on Trafalgar Square in London), concerts with Christmas carols played with traditional charity fund-raising.
Christmas Day will never be complete without Christmas dinner. The table is laden with food cooked especially for this day. The main dish is a huge roasted turkey stuffed with apples, fruits, spices and cranberry sauce which is a usual accompaniment to turkey. It is all followed by a Christmas cottage pudding flavored by rum and sherry. It is common practice to pour over brandy and set it on fire, and put it burning on the table. In some houses it is usual to put coins inside which brings happiness and luck to the person who finds it.
According to the old traditions of this country, early in the morning people should bring firewood for the whole Christmas period - from Christmas to the New Year. It is desirable to have seven sorts of wood.
They bake cookies and pastry of seven different types. When the evening comes all the pastry goes on the table. This tradition to put all Christmas food on the table appeared in the medieval times when lots of travelers could come inside and eat. Fattened hogs normally serve as the main meat for cold and hot meat dishes. They also should remember about neese - a Norwegian Santa-Glaus. They cooked a special porridge with a piece of butler inside and put a beer. Before the meal they normally put Christmas candles on the table, which should be big enough to light for the whole night.
The day before Christinas the Greeks traditionally go to the forest and looked for the hardest fur-tree (sometimes it is an olive tree). They chop it and bring it home. The tree is called "Christohilo" - Christmas tree. It is used like firewood for the whole Christmas period - from Christmas to the New Year.
In all the areas of the country blue is a traditional Christmas dish which emblematizes the swaddled Christ. They also dish up a butter pie, salting, stewed fruits and also "Christopsilo" - Christmas bread with nuts, raisins and olives. The
traditional dishes are roast meat, chicken stuffing with rice, chestnuts and raisins, a cake and boiled wheat with sugar.
Traditionally Christmas starts in Turku - the ancient capital of Finland. You can feel it at the end of November, when the city gets illuminated. At the weekends on the Cathedral Square there are Christmas fairs where you can buy gingerbreads, national straws and New Year gifts. The Finns are not very spiritual, but they like Christmas most of all. Before Christmas dinner they normally go to the sauna. After the sauna they gather at the table, and Christmas comes. On the table the following dishes are displayed: a gammon of bacon, a turkey, turnip and carrot puddings and sugared potatoes. For dessert there is the traditional rice milk, Christmas pies and butter biscuits.
Our neighbors bake fafernuha biscuits with honey and nuts, and also special figured bread. Traditionally there should be 12 dishes on the Christmas table. But NO meat at all! Only fish; carp is desirable. In this country carp is a symbol of family happiness. Mushroom soup, barley porridge with dried plums and a chocolate cake for dessert are very popular.