Monday, 13 December 2010

Symbols of Christmas in Different Countries -

I have to confess that I still get seized with a childlike excitement at the thought of Christmas! But as an adult, my excitement is generally mixed with a large helping of anxiety, bordering on panic when I realise how much there is to prepare and how little time left to do it! I’m not, however, quite as frantic as a neighbour from years ago, who would pronounce herself ‘behind’ with Christmas in September! 

The year that we had builders doing a major refurbishment of our Edwardian house in Norwich right up to and including Christmas Eve afternoon, taught me that it’s possible to cut some corners – such as buying the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding instead of making them! – and still have a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas.

But, although I have recently ‘cut a corner’ and succumbed to an artificial Christmas Tree, I still enjoy decorating the house and I’d almost go so far as to say that a reason that I love living in Victorian or Edwardian houses is that they seem to take to Christmas decorations 'like a duck to water'! 

But mixed in with the excitement, there are a number of regularly surfacing ‘tensions’ to do with Christmas that have virtually reached the status of Christmas Traditions! So I’ve created a series of Christmas cards on the theme of these ‘alternative’ traditions'.  Maybe some of the humour won’t be fully understood by anyone who hasn’t spent Christmas in the UK. But then there are also things that have surprised me about US Christmases since I joined Greeting Card Universe.

I suppose it was the different category choices available on GCU that drew my attention to the differences between Christmas here in the UK and Christmas in other countries.

Whereas we would have a major category for robins – one year nearly half of the cards I received had robins on them – I don’t think we would ever dream of having ‘candy-canes’! Previously I didn't even know what they were though maybe they’ll cross the Atlantic at some point... ‘Happy Holidays’ is a greeting you’d never find in the UK and I’d never heard of ‘Secret Santa’ until I joined GCU - but I think it's beginning to take root over here. And ‘Father Christmas’ is used far more commonly than ‘Santa’ in the UK - for now!

It took me a while to work out that ‘ornaments’ are what we would call ‘decorations’ and Greeting Card Universe doesn't seem to have a category for 'candles', (unless I've missed it!) which are a common feature of our Christmas Cards. I’m still not sure what a typical Christmas dinner consists of in any part of the world except the UK. Of course, all these differences matter when it comes to designing Christmas cards for sale worldwide. For instance, this Christmas card that I received a couple of years ago would only amuse someone who lived in a country where mince pies are an integral part of Christmas.

This year, many of my online sales have been Christmas cards with their captions in a foreign language but I always wonder whether what we here in the UK look upon as the traditional Christmas subject matter, would also be appreciated in other countries.

So I’m requesting that you all do me, and hopefully other readers, a favour by writing  your countries' traditional symbols of Christmas in the ‘Comments’ box. I think it should be really interesting – and helpful when it comes to next year's Christmas card designs too!


Jean said...

Gee...where do I begin? Here is my list of Popular Christmas images on cards in the USA: Baby Jesus, 3 Wise Men, Stable..etc, Santa, Stockings hanging from a fireplace, snowy landscapes, Northern Cardinals are popular in the snow, Candles,Poinsettias (a flower/plant from Mexico)Holly with red berries. Christmas Trees. I could go on but need to get ready for work.
Love how you decorated your lovely staircase!

Judy Adamson said...

Wow, thank you for your list, Jean! I think all but the Northern Cardinals would be popular in the UK too. I hadn't even heard of these beautiful birds until I joined GCU!

The staircase garland is a nightmare to put up! I leave the decorations/ornaments on it when I pack it away with labels for the top, bottom and middle. But it still takes a lot of fiddling with and as the white bells are china and floor beneath them Victorian ceramic tiles, there's always the risk of them smashing if I'm not extremely careful!

Ulla Hennig said...

Christmas trees are definitely a part of the German Christmas tradition. They are bought one week before Christmas Eve, stored in the garden or on the balcony and decorated on the morning of Christmas Eve. Candles are mostly red or white (although you can find them in blue or silvery also), and for decorations you have small bells, all kind of balls, silvery stripes we call "Lametta" (symbol for snow), straw stars, even yellow red apples.
On our cards you will find "Fröhliche Weihnachten" (Merry Christmas) combined with Wishes for the New Year. We love cards with winter landscapes, or candles.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Ulla - lovely to have your input from Germany! Thank you!

Your decorations sound very similar to mine - I have red apples and golden apples and pears for my Christmas tree and tiny straw angels for the little tree I put in the bay window of the room where my grandsons will be sleeping. I'll try to post some photos when the decorations are all up but I find it difficult to capture the atmosphere of Christmas decortions in a photo because I'm never sure whether to use the flash or not!

Polly said...

Your staircase looks lovely! Also kind of familiar as our hall and staircase is a similar layout.

Well, you're already familiar with most of the traditional American images on cards. I'll just add, mail boxes. The little arch-topped mailboxes we have over here. People often decorate them with greenery, wreathes, red bows etc. and they're often depicted on christmas cards. Now I must get to work on the decorating! Many people over here have had their trees up for three weeks already! I just can't bring myself to do that.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Polly - thank you!

The postman finally managed to deliver a backlog of Christmas cards today - in a blizzard! - and two of them had robins, one of which was sitting on top of a mailbox (postbox)of the old fashioned type that we still have a few of in our streets!

I don't like putting up the decorations too early but I've always had them almost done in time for the final week of lessons so that the children could help me finish them off, which the love doing, especially if I tell them that their fingers are small enough to do some of the fiddly bits that I can't do (all confidence-building!). This is the first year that I haven't been teaching so I was a little bit lost as to when to put them up!