European Christmas Fireworks (level Pre-Intermediate)

Гордевська Т. В., фізико-математичний ліцей № 27, м. Харків


Pr e s ent e r. Hello, dear friends! We are glad to see you! I hope you remember that it is December, today. In Europe people celebrate Christmas on this day. What do you know about this holiday and about traditions of celebrating in different countries?
 
P1. Austria. Austria shares many Christmas traditions with its neighbor Germany but also has many special customs of its own. During Advent many families will have an Advent Wreath made from evergreen twigs and decorated with ribbons and four candles. One each of the four Sunday on Advent, a candle is lit and a carol or two might be sung.
 
Most towns have Christmas market from late November, early December selling Christmas decorations, food (like gingerbread) and Gluhwein (sweet, warm, mulled wine). Cities like Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg have huge markets and people from all over the world to visit them.
 
Christmas in Austria really starts around 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve (Heilige Abend) when the tree is lit for the first time and people. Come to sing carols around the tree. The most famous carol is Silent Night, which was written in Austria in 1818.
 
(Song “Silent Night”)
 
The main Christmas meal is often fried carp (Gebackener Karpfen). However roast goose and roast turkey are becoming more popular.
 
Some “really cool” people, or those who live in the mountains, might go skiing on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.
 
Every year, Austria’s capital city, Vienna, holds a world famous classical concert “New Jarks Konzert” which takes place during the morning of New Year’s Day.
 
Another famous event that happens over the new year is Austria and German is Ski Jumping (Four Hills Tournament).
 
P2. The Netherlands / Holland. For most children in the Netherlands, the most important day during December is 5th December but in the Netherlands, the major celebrations are held on the 5th December. The name Santa Claus comes from the name Sinterklaus.
 
On the morning of St. Nicholas’ Day, Sinterklaus travels to a city or town in the Netherlands, wearing his red bishop’s robes. He travels with the servants called “Black Peters” when they come ashore from the boat, all of the local Church bells ring in celebration. Sinterklaus then leads a precession through the town, riding a white horse. If he visits Amsterdam he meets the Queen / King in the Palace. On December, 5th children leave shoes out by fireplace on sometimes a windowsill and sing Sinterklaus songs. They hope to get presents. Chilfren are told that Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters) keeps a record of all the things they have done in the past year. Good children will get presents, but bad children will be put in a sack and Zwarte Pieten will take them to Spain for a year to teach them how to behave! The Dutch tradition says that St. Nicholas lives in Madrid, Spain and every year he chooses a different harbor to arrive in Holland, so as many children as possible get a chance to see him.
 
Christmas Day itself is a much greater day in the Netherlands with a Church Service and family meal. On Christmas Eve night, Dutch children believe that Santa Claus (while is also called “Christmas Man” to avoid confusion with Sinterklaus) comes from Lapland in Finland to deliver more presents!
 
P3. Slovakia. In Slovakia Christmas celebrations begin with Advent. During Advent there are lots of preparations to be made for Christmas. This includes cleaning the house, baking, shopping and buying the Christmas Tree.
 
Slovak Christmas Trees are decorated with colored lights, fruits, hand-made decorations, baked goods made with honey in the form of Angels and other religious symbols and sweets. Christmas gifts are brought to children by Baby Jesus.
 
The main Christmas meal is known as “velija” and consists of 12 dishes (the number of dishes symbolizes the number of Jesus’s disciples) The table is prepared with white table cloth with Straw and Sheaves of wheat at each end.
 
Christmas dinner begins with Oplatsky small bread wafers and a blessing. The main Christmas supper varies between regions and families. It normally has lots of courses including a fish dish and “Kapustnica”, Kapustnica is a thick cabbage soup with sausage, meat, dried mushrooms and cream. Other dishes might include a baked ham or roast goose. Cookies are a popular dessert and threat at Christmas.
 
After supper people might visit the close family or neighbors and give small gifts. Then many people will go to a Midnight Mass Service.
 
P4. Finland. Finnish people believe that Santa Claus or Father Christmas lives in the northern part of Finland called Lapland. So he doesn’t have far to travel on Christmas Eve to deliver presents to people in Finland.
 
Everyone tries to be at home for Christmas including fishermen who try to get their bots in the harbor by December, 21, St. Thomas Day.
 
Christmas Eve is very special and the most important day over Christmas. It’s traditional to eat rice porridge and plum fruit juice for breakfast. The main Christmas meal is eaten in the early evening Lutefush (Salt fish) is traditional starter, but it is not so common nowadays. The main meal is a leg of pork served with mashed potato traditionally baked slowly in birch — bark boxes in the oven. Some people also have turkey. Desert is baked rice pudding eaten with spiced plum jam. One almond will be lucky for the next year.
 
After the meal Santa might visit house. When he comes he asks if any children are living there, they reply loudly! Then he asks if they have been good all through the year. When they are given their presents the whole family gathers to watch the fun opening. After opening some presents, it’s time to go bed.
 
P5. Great Britain. In Great Britain Christmas Day is observed on December, 25. The English like to brighten up their homes at Christmas time with holly, mistletoe and other evergreens. The Germans were the first to use Christmas Tree in their celebrations. The tree became popular in England when Queen Victoria used it, because of the influence of her husband, Prince Albert who was a German. Since them trees have become more and more decorative.
 
There is an interesting custom of kissing under the mistletoe which is hung above a door at Christmas time, he or she may demand a kiss and may not protest in such case. On Christmas Eve in the homes there is a great air of expectation. Children decorate the fir-tree with tinsel, colored lights and toys. The Christmas bird, nowadays usually a turkey is cooked and stuffed by housewives.
 
The children are told that Santa Claus drives through the skies in a reindeer-drawn sleigh on Christmas Eve, loaded with toys and presents for all young people. He comes down every chimney and fills the stockings, the children leave at the foot of their beds with good things.
 
At Christmas time too carol singers begin to go round the houses, singing Christmas carols and asking for alms for charities.
 
(Song “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”)
 
P6. Ukraine. Christmas Day is observed on January, 7. This holiday is of religious origin and most people go to church and have a tasty dinner.
 
Sviata Vecheria, or Holy Supper, is the main Christmas tradition in Ukrainian homes. The dinner table sometimes has a few whisps of hay on the embroidered table-cloth. When the Ukrainians see the first Star in the eastern evening sky, Sviata Vecheria begins.
 
In the villages the head of the family brings in a sheaf of what called didukh. It symbolizes the family’s ancestors and represents the importance of the ancient and rich wheat crops of Ukraine. The family gather round a table, light candles and eat a ritual spoonful of kutia.
 
Ukrainian hostess usually lays the table with 12 meatless dishes.
 
At the end of Holy Supper the family often sings Ukrainian Christmas Carols and young people go from house to house, sing koliadkas and collect donations.
 
Pr e s ent e r. And now dear friends, let’s have a Christmas Quiz and define the winner (see Card).
 
Key: 1 Advent; 2 More than one, the Bible doesn’t say how many; 3 Elizabeth; 4 St. Nicklas; 5 Bethlehem; 6 1840–1843 by sir Henry Cole; 7 Egypt; 8 Germany; 9 King Herd; 10 Shepherds.
 
Presenter. Our party is coming to the end.
 
In times like these,
How wonderful it is
To hold the timeless gifts
Of His peace and His presence
In out hearts.
 
Card
 
Quiz
1. What’s the name of the period leading up to Christmas
2. How many gifts did the Wise Men bring to Jesus?
3. What was the name of John the Baptist’s Mother?
4. Who brings presents to children in Holland on the 5th / 6th December
5. In what town was Jesus born?
6. In what decade was the first Christmas card sent in the UK?
7. What country did the family escape to?
8. What country did Christmas Tree originate from?
9. Who was the King of Jews that ordered the babies to be killed?
10. Who were the first people to visit the baby Jesus?
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