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Christmas Gift-Giving around the Globe

Here we are again…

Are you feeling prepared for Christmas yet, or are you burying your head in the sand (on a nice beach somewhere warm…)?

Perhaps you’ve been making plans and buying presents since September and can’t wait for the big day?!

However you’re feeling about Christmas this year, we hope it’s a peaceful time for you and your family.

But what about your international clients and customers?

How will you be spoiling them when Christmas comes around this year?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, then fear not! We’re here to help!

Read on to find out about the gifts people will be exchanging and the traditions they’ll be celebrating in countries from Iceland to China!

And if you’re not keen on buying any more gifts this year, maybe you could just learn how to say Merry Christmas in your client’s mother tongue? You’ve still got some time to practise!

Have a look below at our favourite Christmas gift ideas from around the world!

Books galore

A book is a pretty good bet if you want to present an Icelandic client with a gift!

The term the Christmas Book Flood (or Jólabókaflóðið, if you can manage that) refers to the months leading up to Christmas in Iceland when hundreds of new books are released…

Christmas is a very popular time to release new reading material and this has really become a tradition in Iceland! Households even receive a compilation list of new books for free!

It’s thought that the tradition has its roots in the Second World War when Iceland became independent. One of the materials that wasn’t so strictly rationed back then was paper, so books became very popular Christmas gifts!

Perhaps we should adopt this Christmas tradition here and get everyone off their smartphones!

Merry Christmas in Icelandic is Gleðileg jól – and apparently, Icelanders start saying this as soon as Advent
begins, so you’ve got plenty of time to perfect this one!

Have a finger-lickin’ good Christmas

These days Christmas is celebrated in more and more non-Christian countries, and Japan is one of those countries that has developed its own festive traditions.

But you wouldn’t need to worry about preparing a full-on Christmas dinner with all the trimmings if you wanted to impress a Japanese client…

You’d just need to head on down to… KFC!

That’s right, a typical Christmas dinner in Japan involves fried chicken! KFC is the go-to restaurant/takeaway for the Japanese on Christmas day! Wouldn’t that save a whole load of meal prep?!

And if that’s not enough, dessert is a Christmas cake, but not your standard fruit cake, in Japan it’s a sponge cake topped with strawberries and whipped cream!

Very appealing!

And if you want to wish your Japanese clients a merry Christmas, you can say Meri Kurisumasu – as Christmas isn’t a native holiday, this is basically the English version with a Japanese twist – shouldn’t be too tricky, right?!

Beware of the goat-demon

You might want to put two dates in your calendar for Christmas this year if you have a lot of European clients.

The Christmas gift-giving starts a couple of weeks earlier than the 25th of December in countries like Austria, Germany, Italy and Poland.

St Nicholas pays a visit to children across Europe, usually in the first week of December. He leaves chocolate and other gifts for the children who have been well-behaved, often in their shoes or under their pillows!

There’s not such a nice surprise waiting for those of us who have not been so well behaved though…

Meet Krampus – he’s a lovely hybrid of goat and demon…

The night before Nikolaustag (St Nicholas day) on the 5th of December in Austria, those who haven’t behaved well are in for a slightly disturbing encounter… with Krampus.

He leaves bundles of sticks or piles of coal for the children who have been naughty, and you’ll often find processions of Krampus-creatures parading around local Austrian villages as they scare children with their noisy bell-ringing and chains…

In Slovenia and Croatia, Krampus leaves the naughty children’s parents a rod for them to use as punishment!

Slightly more extreme than just being on the naughty list!

off those cobwebs

If you want to buy some Christmas tree decorations as a gift for a Ukrainian client, you’ll just need to do a bit of early spring cleaning…

In Ukraine, Christmas trees are often covered with (fake) cobwebs…

The tradition stems from a story about a poor family who couldn’t afford to decorate their Christmas tree. Some generous spiders then covered the tree in cobwebs overnight and when the family woke up on Christmas day, the cobwebs had turned into fancy gold and silver tinsel-like strings that served as beautiful decorations!

Christmas is usually celebrated on the 7th of January in Ukraine, based on the Julian calendar used by the Orthodox Church.

for Christmas

Now you might be a bit jealous of your Finnish friend’s Christmas gift…

Because you’ll be getting them a trip to the sauna!

Joulusauna or ‘Christmas sauna’ is a big part of Christmas traditions in Finland.

After their Christmas lunch on the 24th of December, you’ll find most Finns getting their sweat on in a sauna!

They relax and take it easy until the evening’s celebrations!

The sauna was considered a holy place of healing and purity in Finland, and it was even believed that the spirits of your deceased ancestors would come to the sauna after sunset… spooky!

Part of the tradition used to involve the long process of heating up the sauna, but these days it doesn’t really take long at all!

One part of the Finnish Christmas meal might be slightly less appealing… a bowl of porridge!

It’s usually topped with plenty of cinnamon and sugar though, and if you’re lucky enough to find the hidden almond in your bowl of porridge, you get to make a Christmas wish! 

Merry Christmas in Finnish is hyvää joulua!

‘If you don’t poo well, I’ll hit you with a stick’

What would you say if somebody bought you a ‘pooping log’ for Christmas this year?

Bear with me, it’s actually quite a fun gift! With plenty of treats at the end!

In the Catalonian region of Spain, parents often give their children a Caga Tió, or ‘pooping log’ for Christmas.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the log-like creature is given pride of place on the dining room table…

Every night, the log has to be fed with a variety of goodies (nuts, sweets, fruit, etc.) and on Christmas Eve, the log is expected to release, or defecate, all of these goodies!

People hit the log with sticks until it poops out all of the treats! There is even a song that can be sung to ease the process along… lyrics include “if you don’t poo well, I’ll hit you with a stick”…

A definite contender for the weirdest Christmas gift tradition!!

An apple a

You don’t need to splash out on gifts for your Chinese clients…

That’s because a popular gift given during Christmas time in China is an apple!

Not just any apple though… an apple that’s wrapped up in bright paper with fancy ribbons… maybe even with a picture of Father Christmas on it!

Apparently, the Chinese phrase for Christmas Eve (平安夜 or ping’an ye) is very similar to the word for apple (苹果 or píngguŏ). The translation for Christmas Eve means ‘safe and peaceful night’ and the apple is the ‘fruit of being safe’.

This is where the tradition of giving apples as Christmas gifts has come from. People also say that the apple symbolises not just peace but good health and good luck.

So what are you waiting for? Get sprucing up those regular old Granny Smiths!

Merry Christmas in Chinese is 圣诞节快乐 or
shèng dàn jié kuài lè!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of some of the world’s most wonderful Christmas gift-giving traditions!

Have we inspired you? Have you added anything to your own Christmas wish list?

Of course, we like to give gifts to our own clients too, so in the spirit of all things Christmas, we’re giving you an extra early present this year and offering you 10% off translations throughout December!

If you need a quote or any information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! And do let me know if you think we’ve missed any interesting Christmas gifts from our list!

Richard Hale

Richard Hale

My name is Richard Hale and I am Managing Director at Tongue Tied (Manchester) Ltd, a translation agency that provides specialist translations from and into any language. We have a global network of over 4000 highly qualified, experienced and carefully chosen translators who are experts in their particular field.

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