Every country and every family have their own Christmas traditions. We asked our colleagues for their personal Christmas stories.

Sara Borrow – United Kingdom

Pantomimes are embedded in British culture and are considered a “must” for many British families for tradition and laughs. Going to the “Panto” hails the start of Christmas for many families.

This year many theatres will not be able to run their traditional Panto, as most theatres have been closed to audiences since lockdown in March.

Personally for me, I’m a Front of House Duty Manger in a local theatre and this year we are actually putting on a “reduced Panto”. Last year we had a cast of 50, this year it’s 8, and with a reduced crew and half of the normal ticket sales.  It’s incredible how much audiences have loved being back in the theatre. The excitement before going in and the sheer joy when they come out is amazing. The first couple of shows were really emotional for everyone involved, with so many feelings of gratitude, joy, mixed with a smidge of concern.

 For 2 hours audiences are able to escape to a place with joy, corny jokes, great songs, audience participation and lots of laughter. Classic lines include “He’s behind you!” and “On no he’s not!” or “Oh yes he is!”

Possibly the best medicine in the world”.

*Images of the theatre were made before the Covid-19 pandemic

Anna Sjöström – Sweden

“In Sweden we start preparing the house for Christmas from 1st of December. Lights in all windows, small Santas in every corner and of course decorating the Christmas tree. Many people nowadays use a decoration tree which can be used again and again, every year. I personally like a real Christmas spruce tree just for getting that special smell of Christmas.

To really get that special scent of Christmas, you have to make ginger bread. It fills up the whole house with warm cozy smell and the whole family all wants to gather around for decorating the ginger bread house.”

Xuesong Liu – China

“Although Christmas is not a public holiday in China, on Christmas Eve, people like to give each other apples as a gift.

Because in Mandarin, Christmas Eve is translated to Ping’anye (平安夜) , which means “the evening of peace”. And apples (Ping’guo, 苹果) have a symbolic meaning of “safe and peace” in the Chinese culture.

By the way, “apple” the fruit, not the electronic devices.”

Jean-Marc Mangenot – Belgium

“Saint Nicolas and Christmas are two traditional celebrations in Belgium: Saint Nicolas hands out gifts to children who have been good. He is traditionally represented on his horse and we eat this as sweet bread and caramelized biscuits.
During Christmas we have a traditional Christmas beer, after all, we’re from Belgium! And here in Tournai where I live, the “Le Clovis” cake is our special tradition during that period.”

Eva Garrido – Spain

“A special and magical Christmas tradition in Spain is the arrival of The Three Wise Men. Every January 5th , The Three Wise Kings, Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar, arrive in each city and town in Spain. All the children with their families come out onto the streets to welcome them and see the spectacular parade. The Three Wise Men carried on floats march through the major streets of the city together with their camels and their royal pages. They throw candy to the children and collect children’s letters including their wish list. Once at home, all the children put their shoes, water for the thirsty camels and turrón (a typical Christmas nougat) in front of their balcony before going to bed. Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar visit every home and leave presents to the children while they sleep. On the morning of January 6th  ,the children get up very excited and happily find their presents”

Elisabeth Lorenzo – Netherlands

“In the Netherlands, people celebrate Christmas both on the 25th and 26th of December. People spend two days with their family, playing games, watching movies and eating some traditional Christmas food, such as, ginger nuts, spiced biscuits or Dutch apple fritters. However Dutch Christmas have some particular elements: On December 5 People celebrate Sinterklaas eve. Sinterklaas visits the homes of every child and leaves some gifts and treats to enjoy. Furthermore If you work in a Dutch company you will most likely receive the annual kerstpakket, this is a Christmas gift box, usually a food basket.”

Susanne Thormählen – Germany

“The first Christmas moment of my year? When I open the first door of my Advent calendar on December 1st. A tradition from childhood days that I have kept.

Advent calendars are not like regular calendars: they can be hand-made or bought, filled with chocolate or small gifts. But it always has 24 doors – one for each day until Christmas. Let yourself be surprised 24 times – that shortens the waiting time and means 24 times anticipation for Christmas.”

Aleksandar Arsovksi – Marcedonia

“A special Christmas bread, which has a hidden coin is baked and during the Christmas Eve dinner, will be divided in smaller chunks. Every member of the family will get a piece. The one who will find the coin is believed to have luck, health and wealth for the next year.”

Bernd Rohwer – Netherlands

“The mistletoe is an evergreen plant that is hung near the Christmas tree at home.The branch is usually hung as decoration, but where we live the branch also has a religious meaning. Families dedicate the mistletoe, which is blessed in the church, to those who have passed away and to remember them during Christmas.

Due to Corona we most probably will have to do it with the mistletoe from last Christmas.”

Katie Thorpe – United Kingdom

“Visiting London at this time of year is so exciting for me and my family. My children love to see the lights and different Christmas displays… Exploring the shop window displays and eating traditional Christmas treats. Oxford Street, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square with  its famous Tree is a must. The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is an annual gift to the people of Britain from Norway.

We’d usually make a day of shopping and seeing a traditional pantomime or go ice skating – but this year has been very different… We wanted to still make it special, and the amazing lights didn’t disappoint”