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Hi Barb

Here is what I experienced in southern Germany:

There's something called Niklaustag (St. Nicholas Day) on December 6th. Kids leave a boot or a shoe outside the front door on the evening of December 5th, and on the morning of the 6th they discover that Niklaus has filled their shoe or boot with some goodies.

Germany also has two Christmas Days -- December 25th and 26th. However, it is on Heiligabend (Christmas Eve) that the Christkind (Christ child) comes. He arrives around dusk on the evening of the 24th -- usually while the kids are in church or otherwise occupied -- and leaves lots of presents under the Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas tree).

My closest German friends also now hang Christmas stockings on their hearth, but only because I introduced this custom to them and made Christmas stockings for each member of the family. Emotion: smile

As far as I know, our Christmas tree tradition was actually brought to the US by German immigrants.
I think it came to the UK with Queen Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert - although before that we used to decorate our homes with evergreens, particularly holly and ivy. And mistletoe... I forgot about mistletoe. You're allowed to kiss someone under the mistletoe.
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Oh, yes! Mistletoe is an important ingedient here too. Lots of smooches take place underneath it. Emotion: smile
Francesca
Kooyeenbut there's a guy named exactly "Santa Claus" that brings gift on another day (not sure which day it is, but it's before December 25th).

I didn't know that Santa Claus comes even in Italy Emotion: surprise in what Region, precisely?

OOOPS! Big mistake! Sorry... After reading Amy's post, I remembered that he's St. Nicholas, not Santa Claus! That's the equivalent of "Babbo Natale" there. On December 6th, like in Germany... That's in Trentino, by the way. You know, the more you go north, the more Italians are "Germanized" ("Austrianized", actually)

Kooyeen
That's in Trentino, by the way. You know, the more you go north, the more Italians are "Germanized" ("Austrianized", actually)

Especially in the province of Bolzano.

Thanks for the info Emotion: smile
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Now when children ask how Santa can possibly make it all over the world in one night, we can answer that he only does parts of the world on Christmas Eve, and the rest on January 6. That gives him a few days to rest. I think we can even say that Santa and Saint Nick and Father Christmas all work as a team and divide things up Emotion: smile

I'm kidding about the last... my kids are old enough now that we just pretend.
Okay - Here we have someone you don't, and, he is [url=]Olentzero[/url], he comes the 24th at night. :) The usual thing is that the 24th you dine with your family and the 31st, after the 12 strokes and after having eaten the 12 grapes, you go out to have fun with friends until..until you get tired! There is not Santa Claus here but "Los Reyes Magos" who come the 5th at night. :)

..I really don't know what to write, Barb Emotion: smile.
Christmas is a family thing in Finland. An outsider might think that the country is closed for about 18 hours at 5p.m. on Christmas Eve. All shops close even earlier, 1p.m. All public transport except taxis ceases at about 5 o'clock: local buses, trams, the underground/subway and there are no domestic flights after that magic hour on Christmas Eve. Even most international flights are not flown that evening, except for foreign airlines, of course. Nearly all restaurants and bars are closed except for a few in some hotels that stay open.

There is no law that says traffic has to stop and bars have to close. Nearly all activity simply stops because no one wants to travel anywhere late on Christmas Eve. Everybody wants to be home. This has been changing slightly and slowly especially in the bigger cities as there are quite a few divorced people and singles these days and they have been complaining about the lack of places to go to that night. So a handful of bars are open in Helsinki on Christmas night, and Christmas Day as well.

In the old days it was customary especially in the countryside to go to church as early as six o'clock in the morning on Christmas Day. I have never been able to understand that! These days this custom is dying but there are still areas where it persists.

Life appears to begin anew around noon on Christmas Day: the buses and trams return to the streets but all shops remain closed.

It is customary for families living in towns to drive to the countryside to meet and stay with their parents for a few days at Christmas. There are also about 500,000 summer houses on the shores of our 188,000 lakes or the seaside, and many of them are built well enough for people to live in them even in wintertime. Some people go to these second homes for Christmas. I assume about one-third of Helsinkians leave the city for Christmas. Those who don't want to celebrate Christmas in Finland go abroad. The Canary Islands have been popular since the sixties, but there are other destinations: Thailand is very popular and some go to the Caribbean islands and Brazil. In wintertime there are about 25 flights a week to Thailand, quite a lot for a country whose population is 5 million.

Finnish children get their presents personally from Santa before they go to bed on 24th December. Santa supposedly lives at Korvatunturi, Finnish Lapland, and makes his journey in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Finnish reindeer don't fly. If there is no snow in southnern Finland, Santa comes by helicopter. Actually, the biggest Finnish television company YLE airs a short news bulletin about Santa's departure from Korvatunturi on December 24 even for international use. I don't think they pay much attention to it in the USA, though, because American children think Santa lives at the North Pole, don't they? (The ice covering the North Pole will melt pretty soon, so the American Santa will have to be relocated in the near future.)

Because the children meet Santa in person, it means all families with young kids have to get one somewhere.Emotion: smile Any relative or friend who is willing to do the job will do. It is also possible to hire a Santa in towns and cities. Some old widowers make some money on Christmas Eve handing out presents to children who have been waiting for that moment extremely anxiously. University students also make extra money disguised as Santas.

December 26 is called Boxing Day in Finland, or Christmas Day II. Supermarkets selling groceries are open from about noon but other stores remain closed. This day is very popular for visits to friends and relatives who live close by.

January 6 is not really celebrated in any significant way, but it is a public holiday for the workers and practically all shops are closed. It is supposed to mark the end of the festive season and thus is the last day Christmas carols are played on the radio. Most people take down the decorations from their Christmas trees on that day and throw away the tree.

I've been abroad quite often at Christmas but it never feels quite the same as at home. The main reason is the lack of snow in countries situated further south than Finland and also the fact that it is not so dark in those countries. Christmas lights seem to shine more brightly in the dark.

Thousands of foreign tourists visit northern Finland during the Christmas season; I think last year there were about 550 leisure flights to a couple of northern airports. So many in fact that the small airports which normally handle perhaps ten flights a day could just barely cope with the traffic. It is an exotic experience for the foreign children who get to see and talk to a multilingual Santa in his workshop and even their parents enjoy the sleigh rides they are given in the snowy terrain. There are lots of reindeer in Lapland, so people are pulled by the real thing.

Some Brits used to fly to Lapland by Concorde for just one day and paid a fortune for it. Now Concorde no longer flies and people have to come in subsonic planes.
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Kooyeenso, as you can read in Tanit's post, in her region the situation is pretty different.
Hi, Kooyeen,
Actually it's not a regional thing, but a family one! Whenever my grannie gives a present, she will call it "a Baby Jesus". Irrespective of whether it is actually a birthday/wedding/graduation gift, for her "a Baby Jesus" = "a gift" Emotion: big smile