There’s lots to love about Christmas and there’s plenty to discover! Around the world weird and wonderful customs and celebrations make the last month of the year so special. A few traditions even feature bananas so we couldn’t resist putting them together for you… Discover More.
Christmas around the world. First Stop over: Braga, Portugal
Believe it or not, the traditional Portuguese wine Moscatel goes very well with chunks of tasty banana and the Bananeiro toast is very popular, not only in Braga.
This tradition goes back around 30 years. At first, the Casa das Bananas was a warehouse for storing Madeiran bananas until they ripened. To draw in the customers, the owner offered glasses of Moscatel. Eventually, some of his wine-drinkers asked for something to “comfort the stomach” - a Portuguese expression for something to eat - so he served, naturally, bananas. Some of the owner’s friends started stopping by Casa das Bananas on Christmas Eve for a glass and a banana, and to wish their friends a Merry Christmas before heading home for dinner. The tradition grew, and now every December 24th, the Rua do Souto swells with people clutching bananas and a glass of golden wine for the annual Bananeiro toast.
Tidy up: Brooms and mops in Norway
In Norway, Christmas means hiding your mops and brooms – and not because people do not want to tidy up! Norwegians just want to stop evil spirits returning to earth that night from stealing the brooms and going for a spin on the Christmas sky.
Christmas Spiders from Ukraine
In Ukraine, Christmas trees are decorated with cobwebs – but don’t worry, it's just ornaments that look like cobwebs and they bring good luck. The story goes back to a poor woman who could not afford ornaments to decorate her tree. The next morning, she woke up and her tree was draped with cobwebs, which glittered in the sunlight and looked beautiful. It’s good luck to find a spider web on your Christmas tree in Poland and Germany too – so watch out!
Meet Jólakötturinn, the Icelandic Christmas cat. Or better not?
Christmas may be a time of festive splendor, but it’s also time for monsters that remind children to be nice … at least one month a year. One of the more surprising members of this "Christmas Police" is Jólakötturinn, the Icelandic Christmas cat. Sounds cute, but ... Jólakötturinn eats children - to be exact, the children who have not done their duties. Boo.
Next stop over: Czech Republic
Greetings from Cinderella: On Christmas Eve, Czech women can test their marriage potential. They stand with their back to a door and throw a shoe over their shoulders. If the shoe shows off with the toe, the lady knows that her prince is not far and she will marry over the next year.
Another option: Put a cherry tree branch into the water on December 4th. If the branch flowers until Christmas, you will be married within the next year.
And how is Christmas celebrated outside of Europe? Here, Carolina Fernandez from Fyffes Costa Rica tells us about some of the customs in her country.
“Costa Ricans are known as Ticas and Ticos, and I'm very proud to be a Tica. We have very special traditions that unite the family at different times of the year, but Christmas is one of the most significant celebrations.
Throughout the month of December, and for a few weeks afterwards, we eat large volumes of food. In particular, we prepare a very tasty dish called “tamal”. This consists of cornmeal (a main staple in Costa Rica's diet since colonial times) with chunks of pork added, along with other ingredients, such as potatoes, carrots, slices of green pepper, raisins and olives. It is then moulded into a small “package”, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled for several hours. The banana leaves, which are not eaten, are very important because that is what gives it that very special “tico” flavour. We eat tamales throughout the month of December, and we give and exchange them with our friends and family to show our affection and to celebrate the holiday season. The day tamales are made is really special, because the whole family gets together to help in preparation.
On Christmas Eve, we have a special dinner. The main course, a leg of pork, is carefully marinated and roasted for hours. It is served garnished with cherries and slices of pineapple and accompanied by a salad, mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes. Dessert is the most difficult, because we have to choose from fruit cake, chocolate cake, gelatin with fruit, lemon pie or my favourite, coconut flan!
After the meal, those of us that are still awake and alert dance and sing. This is when we have the most fun because everyone, from young kids to grandparents all join in. It is also a tradition to exchange presents with what we call our “secret friend”. A few days before Christmas we write down everyone's name on a piece of paper, and these are randomly passed out. That way, everyone will have a present from their secret friend on Christmas Eve.”
And in Venezuela? They roller-skate!
The award for the coolest Christmas transport goes to the Venezuelan capital Caracas: There people do not walk to the Christmas Mass, no, they run on roller skates. Parts of the city are closed so that everyone arrives safely at the church. And the night before, children will tie one end of string to their big toe and hang the other out of the window allowing the passing roller skaters to offer a friendly tug as they pass in the morning.
Yummy. Banana croquettes - a Kentucky Christmas tradition (USA)
You all know that we at Fyffes love bananas, but this recipe even surprised us. In Kentucky, USA you will enjoy banana croquettes on Christmas Eve - and yes, this unique Kentucky food tradition is truly delicious.
Fresh bananas rolled in mayonnaise and then rolled in crushed peanuts. Some involve sugar, some add milk, others add vinegar and display the banana slices on crisp iceberg lettuce. But regardless of the variation, the secret of this special custom is that it even involves the youngest family members. It is their job to shell, peel and crush the peanuts. Enjoy!
Sparkling banana trees spotted in India
In India, only about 2 percent of the population are Christians, but because of the large population, we are talking about 25 million people! Christians here celebrate Christmas with midnight mass and gift-giving like the rest of the world, but with the absence of fir trees or pine trees to decorate, they use banana and mango trees instead. That means instead of Christmas pine trees, you’ll find brightly lit, well-decorated Christmas banana or mango trees on the streets. They even use the leaves of those trees to decorate their houses. We like :-)
Last but not least: How to reach out to Santa Claus? Let´s go to Canada.
We’ve all probably written a letter to Santa Claus, but did you know that he has a real-life address? His mailbox is in Canada and if you write to him by 16 December - in any one of more than 30 languages, including braille - then he answers. Just send your letter to Santa Claus, North Pole H0H 0H0, Canada. It's free and you do not need stamps – Santa Claus is a great guy. And what a great postcode too!
Impressed by all these exciting customs around this special time of the year? We are. But we would like to discover even more. Please share your favorite Christmas customs on facebook.com/FyffesUK/ with us.
Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all of you!