No matter where in the world you are celebrating, or if you are celebrating Christmas, this holiday season is all about enjoying quality time with friends and family.
Our team is pretty international, to say the least. We have team members spread across the world coming from the U.S., Colombia, Ecuador, Netherlands and Denmark. We caught up with some of our team members as they prepare for their favorite holiday traditions.
It’s safe to say that Christmas in Colombia is more than just a family affair. To celebrate the festive season, Colombians make sure to include everyone in the neighbourhood. One of the most particular traditions is called Novena, a nine-day period of prayers before Christmas, to obtain special graces or make petitions. This has become a social event, where friends, family and neighbours usually visit each other houses, say a prayer or two and sing villancicos – Christmas carols.
On December 24th, families gather around the table to enjoy traditional Colombian food, including everyone’s favorite dessert- natilla, a sweer custard, and buñuelos, a Colombian version of donuts!
In Denmark we celebrate Christmas eve, Dec. 24. That is the big day with lots presents and family gatherings. Dec. 25 and Dec. 26 are of course also celebrated but those are visiting other relatives for Christmas lunches and dinners.
On Dec. 24 families gather early afternoon to start the festivities. Some of the family members might go to church while some enjoy the traditional Disney Show “From all of us to all of you.” It is the same every year and as an adult you enjoy it as well. Then the food preparation starts. Lots of meat and potatoes. Duck, pork, potatoes sauteed in brown sugar, cabbage, etc. But the most special part is the dessert. The Danes have a special dessert for Christmas, a rice pudding called, ris a la mande. It is a rice pudding with chopped almonds, except for 1. There is 1 whole almond in the bowl. Nobody knows who will get the almond, but everyone must finish their plate and wait to announce it until the bowl is empty. And that person with the almond will get a present.
After all bellies are full the Danes hold hands, and dance around the Christmas tree and sing Christmas songs. Still to this day many Danes enjoy real lights in the tree. And after the Holiday spirit it is time to open up presents. One person reads the card who it is from and to and one by one the presents are being opened.
Christmas Eve is a very exciting day to be in Cuenca, Ecuador. On this day, we gather in the streets of the beautiful historic center for a colourful parade that celebrates the birth of Jesus. This parade is called el Pase del Niño Viajero or the Passing of the Child. Up to 70,000 attendees line up to watch the procession of people dressed up in traditional clothing or enacting biblical characters. There are also floats elaborately decorated with flowers, fruits and vegetables. It is a joyous tradition that celebrates the city and our culture.
Christmas is very “gezellig” in the Netherlands, which means very cosy and fun. On Christmas Eve, children go to sleep waiting for Santa Claus, called Kerstman in Dutch, who comes from Finland to deliver presents. The next day is spent with family and friends gathered around the dinner table. A very traditional way to prepare your food is named gourmetten, which is a hot plate on which diners place a set of mini pans containing their choice of meat, potatoes and a lot of vegetables. So, everyone prepares their own meal while talking, having a good glass of wine and have some fun. A typical old desert is like , advocaat (egg-yolk liquer) and bischops wijn (Dutch mulled wine). The best thing about Christmas in the Netherlands? You get one extra day to celebrate. Many celebrations continue until the 26th, which means more quality family time.
Christmas in the United States is celebrated on December 25th. Typically, the night of the 24th and the 25th are celebrated with family and friends. Family members get together to have dinner, drink, and enjoy being together with their loved ones. Eggnog is a traditional drink that a lot of people will enjoy around Christmas. In my house we like to add some cinnamon on top! On Christmas Eve children and parents will hang up the stockings in the house typically on the fireplace if you have one. Some will also leave out cookies, milk, and a note for Santa. On that night the kids will go to bed early.
On Christmas morning everyone wakes up early to unwrap presents around the tree. Christmas day is spent laughing, spending time with family, and playing with presents that Santa brought. Christmas evening families come together to enjoy a delicious meal which usually includes a Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, and much more! In my house, we like to carry on the tradition of giving to others for the joy of giving and we always say, “The joy of giving lasts longer than the joy of getting.” Christmas provides a special opportunity to be a blessing through giving not only to loved ones but to people you do not know who may be in need.