The customs of Christmas and New Year vary from country to country. In most, however, there is a common point of reference: a child’s Holy protector. For Orthodox Christians are Saint Basil, Saint Nicholas in the northern countries, Anglo-French speakers call him Santa Claus, Pere Noel.
The arrival of New Time creates a romantic atmosphere in Vienna from the early days of December. In the square, in front of the Town Hall, the Christmas market invites you to take a look, to look forward to and even to shop, although high prices do not favor markets. And in Rathaus Park an impressively decorated tree diffuses the pre-Christmas mood. This is a successful magic trick: Vienna hits her stick and turns you into a child. And as a child, you look out of the windows of the 19th-century Biedermeier houses and enjoy their festive scenery, inspired by the giant Santa Claus, you are stunned in front of the huge bells and skating shows. The delicacies of the days and the small magic gifts have an irresistible attraction in which no one has ever managed to resist. A miniature train and pony horses await the lillipuous visitors of the Austrian capital. If the little ones do not go crazy for walks, they can make their own biscuits at the Christmas workshops in the Volks Hall of the Town Hall.
London’s stores are the ones that spread the spirit of Christmas in the British capital. Apart from the adorned shops and the open-air markets, the tradition, which for the English people is a way of life, is the one that gives a distinctive character to the Christmas celebration. Since early December, even as of November, London has been “drowned” in gypsies, the doors of the houses are decorated with garlands and wreaths, card fireplaces and knitted socks. And in the kitchens are prepared the turbot, the roast dish, often stuffed with delicacies, stuffed eggs, dried fruits and of course the traditional Christmas pudding. And these culinary exaggerations are explained if we go back some years. The days before Christmas were once a period of harsh fasting and so on Christmas Eve came the redemption from the exuberant deprivation.
The New Year for the Buddhist Japanese is a family feast. The reception of New Year’s Dean Tashigami begins with a good house cleaning, which is decorated in a traditional way. A sacred rope with white ribbons is placed on the front door indicating the temporary residence of Tashigami in order to remove the evil spirits. The entrance adorns a composition of pine branches, bamboo stalks and in some areas plum branches that are said to bring prosperity and health. In the “Tosantana”, the shelf of the year (a high altar), there are round rice cakes, bottles of sausage and other dishes to celebrate the new year.
On Omisoka (New Year’s Eve), the world is flocking to the Buddhist temples and Shinto sanctuaries wearing their best kimonos to hear the bells in the mornings knocking 108 times, pushing the forces of evil last year. They are tasting a “home-made stove” (something like the noodles) wishing to raise the wealth of one of the families attending dinner. In some places there are visits of disguised artists who present traditional dances. In rural areas the family leader wakes up before dawn to take New Year’s water to use for tea, for a special soup or to warm the bath. Visitors must be aware that on the second day of the year, the interior of the royal palaces (as on the Emperor’s birthday) opens to the public. If you are on vacation in Indonesia for Christmas, leave your infinity pool Bali has in every villa that rents to travelers, take a last minute flight to Tokyo and have the moment of your life.
On the New Year’s Eve, the streets of this famous Chilean harbor (two hours away from Santiago) are filled with local and foreign tourists who prefer to celebrate the arrival of New Year in a warmly warm climate. The ships at the harbor are awaiting anxiously at midnight to signal their sirens, at the same time as the bells of the city’s churches. At the same time, fireworks illuminate the night and welcoming the New Year. Meanwhile, the “victories” (the traditional carriages, which owe their name to their origins from the Victorian era) do not stop carrying people to and from restaurants, entertainment centers, houses where the already hot summer night becomes hotter.