Trying to keep up with the christmas traditions of 4 countries can sometimes be overwhelming. But you can be sure of one thing: your holiday won’t be boring! I want to share my favourite christmas traditions from the countries I have lived in so far: Venezuela, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. Ready to take-off? Let’s go on a christmas travel around the world!
Christmas in Venezuela officially starts the moment you hear “gaitas” on the radio
No, Mariah Carey’s famous “All I want for Christmas is you” is not the most listened to christmas song in Venezuela. We have our own traditional music for holidays and it’s called gaitas. The gaitas are a style of folk music typical from Zulia, nord-west Venezuela. Their song texts are not just related to christmas; actually along the year you can hear many gaitas with political (satirical) texts. But they definitely became the musical flag that announces christmas is coming!
We have two typical gaitas navideñas for New Year’s Eve. These two songs can give you goose bumps when you hear them (especially if you are an expat living abroad). The first is “Viejo año” (old year). And the second one is called “Faltan cinco pa’ las doce” (It’s five to twelve). Both tell about that moment between old and new year. The good memories of everything that happened to you this year, your wishes for the year about to start and the people you want to be surrounded by when the clock strikes 12.
There is no Christmas in Venezuela without hallacas
A good venezuelan Christmas or New Year’s Eve party has 3 basic elements: gaitas, ponche crema and hallacas. The ponche crema is a more creamy and sweet version of a Bailey’s and you can have it as a welcome drink. Or if you are fifteen and you are not allowed to drink alcohol, you can say you drink ponche crema because, c’mon it’s just egg!
But most important is the hallaca, our main dish not just for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but for the whole month of December!
I have to admit that I am not a big fan of hallacas (sorry, mom!) – I eat a few of them during the holidays, but what I like most about them is the cooking ritual behind. Traditionally, each family will gather together on a certain day and cook the hallacas together. One group will clean the banana leaves used to wrap the hallaca. The next group will cut and season the ingredients, while the last group will make the dough ready.
Also the way you wrap the hallacas is an art itself. This was my best training for wrapping your orders!
Trying to eat 12 grapes when the clock struck 12 – or how not to choke on Spanish New Year’s Eve
Ok, we had this tradition back in Venezuela too. But it’s actually a Spanish tradition. And it consists of eating a grape with each bell strike at midnight on the 31st of December. Easy? Eh… well, not exactly. You are supposed to make a wish for each grape you eat. So you better make your list of wishes beforehand and keep it next to you.
Or you cheat and just eat a few grapes and make 3 or 4 wishes for each – that’s my ritual 😛
Glühwein with a view: Munich Christmas Markets are not for cheapskates
Visiting a christmas market in Munich is like going out Friday night and pushing the boat out. But they are so beautiful! You cannot resist to visit these lovely markets and there is literally one on every corner!
The traditional hot mulled Glühwein is the alternative to a German beer during the winter holidays. Usually made out of red wine, there are also variations with white wine, if you are not a pinot fan.
If you want to drink a Glühwein in Munich, don’t be surprised to pay 10 euros or more for a small cup of hot spicy wine. They serve it in christmas alike cups and they take a deposit (another 10 euros) for this ceramic cup, the Pfand, which you will get back when you return the cup.
I still remember the Christmas of 2017, right before we moved to the Netherlands. My surprise was quite big when I paid just 2.50 euros on a local market in a small town in North Rhine-Westphalia, just a few days after I had paid 10 euros for the same cup in the capital of Bavaria. You pay for the packaging more than for the drink, I guess.
So, if you don’t want to break the bank this holiday, here is a tutorial on how to make Glühwein at home – yummy!
Planning to spend New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands? Check this video first and then go build yourself a bunker!
We love our small and calm neighborhood in Groningen. Except on December 31st. Although there are extra regulations that ban people from using fireworks on certain areas of the city, Dutch like to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a pretty big firework party, turning bespoke calm neighborhood into a warzone.
You better keep your bike and car far away. It isn’t uncommon that some people go to the countryside on this evening, just to avoid the fireworks in the city. We experienced this once, and that was enough xD
Looking at other dutch traditions, like eating olliebollen – I am up for that!
Have a happy merry Christmas!