'That’s Christmas For Me': #TeamSavant Shares Their International Holiday Traditions

Our favourite festive season is in full swing: Christmas Day is tomorrow and New Year will follow suit. What a year it has been! ‘Tis the season to be thankful and reflect back on the year. We hope you will have a wonderful holiday season and a mindful New Year. We wanted to share our thoughts on Christmas: from sunny beaches of Australia to the crispy cold of Lapland.

Collective article by Team Savant

What gives you the feeling of Christmas?

Meri: Christmas lights with a soft, warm glow: the beautiful combination of darkness and light.

Johanna: For me, the feeling of Christmas comes from Christmas lights lining the streets, the smell of fir trees, and mulled wine.

Evelin: Of course the first clementines in the food stall, decorations around the city, buying and wrapping gifts, but it’s rather a prelude. Not a second before sitting at the table at my grandmother’s place, that I feel like Christmas.

Brigitte: Christmas is family to me! Since I live in Sydney and it is summer during Christmas-time, I haven’t experienced White Christmas but would really love that someday.

Aleksandra: It’s a mixture of different things. It’s the never-changing Christmas music playlist, it’s the same foods, it’s the Christmas decorations, the lights. BUT, the most important part for me is to be home. And it has to be in a cold country! No palm trees for Christmas! That’s against official Christmas rules.

Hanna-Amanda: Keeping and following the same traditions whilst they remain unchanged. Coming (usually from a big city) back home to my parents house on the snowy countryside in the middle of nowhere already adds to quite a cliche… Although we have mostly given up the commercial gift giving habit, the season is still all about getting together with people who are dear to me. And appreciating that valuable time.

What is your first memory of Christmas you can recall from childhood? What are the smells... tastes... experiences you'd instantly associate with Xmas?

M: I grew up in Lapland and I remember seeing reindeer in our backyard. Chocolate is essential, of course, and home-cooked meals made with love. I love Christmas-time. It is such a beautiful time to get cosy and spread the love - but we do need to rethink how to spend this holiday in a more planet-friendly way.  

J: I think the magic of it all is what I remember most. Every Christmas Eve, my family went to church. And when we came back, there were presents under the tree. That amazed me every year! To this day, there is no Christmas for me without going to church service and then coming home and dining with the whole family, and of course bickering with my brothers about the most random things.

E: I remember my grandparents living in the apartment of my dreams - high ceiling, balcony and a grand entrance of two-sided doors to the living room. While waiting for my parents, the ‘Santa’ would always drop a bag of gifts just before my parents arrived! Magic! I’m happy my parents kept up the game, because as a grown up nothing has a mysterious charm anymore. I find it important to create Christmas spirit and nothing beats homemade gingerbread and the smell of spruce to spike up memories.

B: Presents! Just going for a nap and waking up to presents under the Christmas tree. Feeling loved and protected by my family. I would love to do the same with my children someday.

A: Definitely the smell and taste of gingerbread, mandarins and mulled wine! As for experiences, it is the family traditions, where we collectively decorate the house, the Christmas tree, and bake gingerbread cookies and saffron buns. But one of my favourite parts of Christmas is the ritual of getting gifts for my family and loved ones.

H-A: It has always been a nice downtime when the family spends some happy times together and reflects back on the year - shared moments of failure and success. I remember driving to my grandmother’s house, who lived in the middle of a thick black forest all her life with an awful lot of cats, and some pretty dark and crisp Nordic nights spent there in the woods… Outside was freezing, but the cosiness, lights, smells and nostalgic atmosphere inside the house is almost indescribable to this day! We also always followed an outdoor sauna tradition back then.

How are you planning to approach this Xmas and holiday season?

M: I am expecting a child that is due any day now - quite a Christmas present! We will have a minimalist Christmas this year. I hope to go see the Christmas tree in the town center with my son and bake the Cranberry Gingerbread Dream Cake by Vanelja and the sweet Christmas pizza by Wellberries.  

J: I'm spending Christmas at my parents' house with my brothers. I'm looking forward to spending time with them and just having a cozy night in. This year, I tried to plan ahead and thought of presents early so I wouldn't feel stressed. I'm all about the sustainable wrapping ideas this year. Using things you have at home, not buying too much. Also, I will try not to eat too much this year. It's always a struggle.

E: It’s the first time in my life that I’m not living in my hometown, or even country. This year is the first time that I will be going home for Christmas … And it’s the first time in my life that I sincerely miss my family and friends. A lot of firsts! My days are already overbooked with meeting new and old friends, sauna evenings and heartwarming dinners with family. Let’s be honest, I just want to be cuddled and take naps with my cat.

B: I plan a quick trip to see my parents with my fiancé, and keeping it calm this year with a sip of champagne at the beach with some friends.

A: Same as always. Christmas is one of those experiences that I want to remain unchanged, with the same feelings, same experiences and same traditions. There is no Christmas if I am not at home with my family in Riga.

H-A: This time I am coming home from (another home away from home) Paris and spending the Xmas eve with my parents and sister’s family. We follow our usual festive traditions, no exceptions. I do believe it is important to note we have given up the commercial gift giving tradition for about 3-4 years already, and it's a true relief! Instead of unnecessary stress, we just focus on spending enough time with each other and try to be quite relaxed about the holidays. I am also trying to keep this Xmas social media free. If we do want some variety, we focus on 'gifting' experiences - like going to the opera, spa, or mini-holiday together! My boyfriend will join us closer to the NYE this year. 

If you'd imagine Xmas without the 'present game', what other activities could bring value to this important seasonal holiday?

M: My son, one year and eight months, says 'ho ho ho' when he sees Santa and gives kisses to elf dolls! I hope to raise my two sons in a way that they would love this season in a mindful way: take it as a chance to spread the love and the positive vibes, feel grateful, and stop for a moment. However, festive stress is not uncommon in this season and I would hope to remember myself, and remind others, that it should not be taken so seriously and it is also ok if you are not constantly all over the moon.

J: Just spending time with your loved ones and thinking about those who cannot be with you this year. Sometimes a donation for a good cause is a good alternative for presents for the holidays. There are many out there who are less fortunate who could use a helping hand this season. And simply being grateful and appreciative of everything in your life.

E: Living in the Northern hemisphere, we tend to stay outdoors awfully lot. I’d love to take a hike with snacks and warm drinks in thermos and work up an appetite. And then cook all together.

B: Just singing Christmas carols and spending some time home with my loved ones. Just being happy and healthy is the most important Christmas wish to me.

A:  Ohhh, this is a difficult one. The ‘present game’ is a huge deal at our house. A huge part of the Christmas experience is just the preparation for the holiday, getting gifts for everyone. I don’t even know, to be honest. You could invent new traditions like going ice-skating? But at our house, each person has to perform a small show to receive each gift - a song, dance, poem, yoga pose, whatever comes to your mind. This usually takes hours and it’s just the best thing ever. I would never exchange it for anything.

H-A: Xmas is never complete without decorating the Xmas tree together, or running a ‘gingerbread art’ competition. I also do not imagine Xmas without the small moments: when jazz is playing in the background and you can just observe the snow slowly falling, falling, falling, and the whole yard gradually becoming covered in a white blanket. That should be accompanied by your morning tea, or a cup of mulled wine. It’s the people you share these moments with who then create and complete the right Christmassy spirit, and make the atmosphere even more hygge.