Christmas Traditions Around The World: Secret Santa
‘Tis indeed the season to be jolly because Christmas is once again around the corner! Devoid of caste, creed or religion, it is that time of the year where everyone comes together from far and near, sitting around a warm fire and food with loved ones, with the sole purpose of spreading love and good cheer. In fact, Christmas is so unique that even under its large common bracket, every culture, family, place has their own distinct way of celebrating the season.
Over the years, we have seen many different Christmas traditions unfold in various cultures, and the story has been told and retold in umpteen different ways. Across the many stories that have been told for generations, one can notice that there are a few common elements that tie these stories together into a common thread.
Stories bring us closer together -
The world runs on stories. Stories bring us together and tear us apart. Stories dig into our deepest cores and awakens us from slumber, it prods and reasons, bends and gathers us back to ourselves. It is a way by which we all come undone, a way through which we are at once all-powerful and at the same time vulnerable. Societies have progressed through stories, rebellions have taken shape and form due to stories.
Historically, as larger parts of the world exposed themselves to literature and the arts, and owing to new developments in technology, the rate at which stories impact the world has increased, and words ignite and spread like wildfire. More people started to have access to these stories, and that birthed more stories, broadening the scope for storytelling within cultures.
Christmas of the Pagans -
The word Pagan, derived from the Latin word paganus, was first used in ancient Rome and literally referred to anyone and everyone who followed the practices of a religion outside of Christianity. Early Christians used the word pagan as an “outsider” term to categorize all the non-Christians into a group distinctly separate from the Christians. Pagans were known to be worshippers of multiple deities, paying homage and respect to the elements of nature. The irony in all of this is that even though we have come to know December 25th as the day of Jesus’ birth, it was a date with customs and traditions that were borrowed from the pagan festival and traditions surrounding the winter solstice.
The Feast of Saturnalia -
The Feast of Saturnalia was a way to commemorate the return of a much-awaited summer. In English, we call this the Winter Solstice, or, among some, the longest night of the year. The days start to feel longer than usual and the Sun shines brighter and for an extended period of time. Most December traditions around the world find themselves rooted in the tradition of the solstice, though they may go by different names across the globe.
In Rome, there used to be a huge feast that took place around the winter solstice and went by the name Saturnalia. In ancient Rome, the winter solstice used to be commemorated on the 25th of December every year. The day was celebrated with cultural traditions, exchanging of gifts, lighting of candles and bonfires among other decorations.
Over the years, when Christianity spread far and wide and hit Rome, a princely birth coincided with the birth of Jesus, and this day came to be celebrated across Rome as the actual day of birth of Jesus - the day of Christmas.
Christmas is a festival for one and all, and we have all at some point participated in some for of tradition around these dates. Exchanging gifts, singing of carols, families dining together, opening presents together, the smell of plum cakes in the air, the pungent smell of rum and brandy and of course - the beloved tradition of the Secret Santa announces to us all that Christmas, the time of cheer is finally here.
The Lure of The Secret Santa -
Secret Santa is an old and borrowed tradition. But even though it is borrowed, it has now begun to feel very much a part of our own versions of Christmas culture. In fact, you will find that the enjoyable Christmas tradition is often played by all, devoid of differences in religion, place or culture. It is a fun activity that brings people together and allows for new friendships and relationships to blossom through the simple act of giving thoughtful presents to a special someone. The game usually starts with a lucky draw where the pairs are chosen and each one is assigned to a secret Santa who surprises them with a gift every day until Christmas, where the curtains come down for one final reveal. It’s a game that leaves all of our heads scratching trying to figure out who our secret santa could be, and that’s the part that makes it the most fun - the guess.
There are different ways the game is played out, and the rules may differ from setting to setting or place to place.
Different Secret Santa renditions from around the world -
#1 Where there’s Santa, there’s Krampus
In Austria, you don’t just jingle with Santa, but his evil elf too. A half-goat, half-demon, Krampus can be seen wandering the streets in search of the ‘bad kids’. The tradition of dressing up as Krampus is quite popular in Europe and parts of Southern Germany and Italy as well.
#2 Move over Santa, it’s the time of the Yule Cat
The Yule Cat has been a part of Icelandic folklore for several years, along with the many other mountain dwelling creatures who roam about the streets during Christmas. The good creatures leave gifts for the well-behaved kids, and the monsters eat disobedient children.
#3 In Ukraine, it’s Christmas with the Arachnophobes
Story goes, an old widow and her kids found a discarded Christmas tree but couldn’t afford to decorate it. The following day, a spider wove its web all around the tree and by morning the web had turned to silver and gold. In memory of that, the locals here hang spider webs for good luck.
#4 Ain’t no Christmas without Kentucky
There are barely any extravagant Christmas celebrations, festivities or displays in Japan. However, there is one very offbeat tradition - the Christmas eve dinner. Due to a seventies Christmas marketing campaign called Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii, or Kentucky for Christmas, families and friends head to the nearest KFC, every year, for some crispy fried chicken.
#5 Christmas Sauna with the Sauna Elf
Saunas and Finland are an inseparable combination during December. A unique tradition in Finland finds people returning to their Saunas at home on Christmas eve to reconnect with their dead, followed by a night of celebration where they beckon the spirits of their ancestors.
Christmas is ALMOST here, and if you think it's all about Santa, jingle bells and exchanging gifts, there's more! Swipe right to discover some of the quirkiest Christmas traditions around the world. From spiders to rollerskating mass in Venezuela to hanging pickles on trees, these weird Christmas traditions are really something.
While we are all for some quirky Christmas fun, our favourite part about the festival is when friends, lovers, family members gather together in unity, coordinated outfits, wide smiles plastered across their faces, bringing out their yearly kitchen-bests and just making merry. Inspired by the sheer happiness of the season, our Christmas and Santa collections are designed to bring out the Christmas fun in you.
You can visit Gubbacci design Studio to design your own custom T-shirt. And you can also browse some best selling collections like Birthday Collections, Anniversary Collections, Family Reunion collections, Family Vacation Collections and many more.