People are often shocked when they hear that there are countries in which families open their Christmas gifts on 24 December. This shock is completely understandable since Hollywood films tend to portray families putting out milk and cookies for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve before waking up to open their presents on the following day.
Sometimes, these films will also show people exchanging a single gift on 24 December. The gifts are typically festive pyjamas which they sleep in on the night before Christmas. In doing so, they prepare themselves for the excitement of the next day and wake up in festive attire. Then, they generally open their gifts in the morning and with their new pyjamas.
Unwrapping gifts on 24 December
To those who are used to practising or seeing the above traditions, opening Christmas presents on 24 December can seem unconventional. In reality, there are numerous countries around the world in which families open their presents on Christmas Eve.
While these countries are not located solely in Europe, they include many Eastern European and Scandinavian nations. Some of the European countries in which families unwrap their gifts on 24 December are Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, and Switzerland.
It is important to note that although people in these countries open gifts on the same date, they do not do so at the same time. That is, some nations wait until the sun sets to open gifts while others unwrap the presents after dinner or at midnight.
Gifts in January
If you are one of the people who are surprised by the idea of opening gifts on Christmas Eve, you will surely be shocked by the tradition of opening presents on Epiphany (6 January). This custom can mostly be observed in predominantly Catholic countries, such as Spain and Italy.
Taking a case in point, Italian children await the arrival of La Befana – the Italian Christmas witch – on Epiphany Eve. Much like Santa Claus, La Befana visits houses at night and fills the stockings of well-behaved children with treats and those of naughty ones with coal, garlic, onions, or straw from her broom. Furthermore, families leave a glass of wine and some food for La Befana before going to bed on 5 January.
With so many rich and diverse cultures, one must not be shocked when finding out that different people celebrate Christmas in different ways. Instead, we must praise the customs that make our holidays so unique and special.
The article was originally published on TheMayor.EU.