Cultural Encounters/Holidays and celebrations

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INTRODUCTION[edit | edit source]

This database is an on-going discussion regarding the topic of Holidays and Celebrations assembled, written and edited by Irish, Croatian, German, Portugese and Slovenian students who participated in the Erasmus Intensive Programme Glasgow in 2012, in Swansea in 2013 as well as in Newcastle upon Tyne in 2014. In this database, research will be conducted regarding some of the most important holidays celebrated, namely Christmas and Easter, but some other unique holidays as well. Since most of these holidays are fundamentally Christian, they are celebrated in many countries around the world that maintain at least a part of their Christian tradition. It is thus natural that many similarities as well as differences exist between the different countries. In this database, however, only the nationalities which participated in this Intensive Programme will gather information regarding the holidays. Due to the many varieties which exist between the different countries, sub-topics will be created to make it easier to draw the comparisons. These will include the history of Christmas and Easter, the dates in which certain events are celebrated, the differences in the act of gift giving, the decorations, the traditional cuisine and the music and carols. A cultural analysis of Christmas and other holidays will follow the respective topics, referring to Geert Hofstede's theories of national culture as a theoretical framework.

CHRISTMAS[edit | edit source]

Below is a detailed decription of Christmas celebrations, customs and traditions in the five participating nations.

CHRISTMAS IN CROATIA[edit | edit source]



Catholicism is the most widespread religion in Croatia. According to the 2011 Census, 86.28% of Croatians are Catholics (Jurić, Ostroški 25)[1]. Regardless of religion, Christmas plays an important role in Croatia; almost all people celebrate it. Nowadays, Christmas celebrations and customs are a combination of a Christian but also pagan traditions. The importance of Saint Nicholas (Croatian: Sveti Nikola), a historical person and a saint recognized by the Catholic Church, is commemorated on the 6th of December by remembering the story of his life and work. In the evening of the 5th of December, children are urged to clean their boots and leave them on the window sill for Saint Nicholas to fill with toys and candy. Moreover, children are warned to beware of the devil-like creature (krampus) that accompanies the saint, just in case they disobeyed the parents during the previous year. Santa Claus (Djed Mraz, Djed Božićnjak), on the contrary, is considered to be a fictional character, inspired by the national legends of other countries. Christmas Eve (24th of December) is called Badnjak, and is the day when families and children prepare themselves and their surroundings for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but also for the arrival of Santa Claus, who brings gifts.


Christmas in Croatia is celebrated on the 25th of December, although the celebrations start much sooner. On Christmas Eve at midnight, people go to church to Midnight Mass, where the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated through prayer and singing. In the morning of the Christmas Day family gathers around the Christmas tree, in order for them to open the gifts. Gifts are bought or made, wrapped and placed under the tree by members of the family. On the following days (Sveti Stjepan, Sveti Ivan, etc.) people visit their relatives, exchange gifts and wish each other well. In Croatia, not only children get the gifts; adults buy each other presents, too. Usually it is done among family members and relatives. In special cases, the gift is prepared for an acquaintance as well, out of courtesy and tradition. Christmas cards used to be sent, especially amongst those who could not visit each other during the holidays; but nowadays the tradition is starting to slowly die out.

DECORATION[edit | edit source]

Traditionally, Christmas trees are to be decorated on Christmas Eve, although it is not always the case. Artificial trees are not very common in Croatia. Green and red are the most often used, but silver, gold and white are also popular. The Nativity Scene is mostly bought and placed under the tree, but sometimes people like to make their own from the available materials (e.g. wood, straw, moss). The old tradition, which is nowadays only practiced in some villages, is that the oldest male member of the family brings the straw into the house together with nuts and dried fruit (today it is mostly candy) so that the children later search for them. One of the traditional decorations, which is present during the Christmas Eve dinner, consists of a candle placed in the middle of young wheat, which is usually planted either on the day of Saint Barbara (4th of December) or Lucy of Syracuse (13th of December). There is often a wreath on some of the doors in the house. It is made of evergreen branches, straw, ribbons, with stars and other Christmas ornaments secured on top. Similarly, there is an advent wreath on the kitchen or living room table. That one has four candles added which stand for four weeks preceding the Christmas day. Every Sunday an additional candle is lit, so as to have all of them burning during the Christmas lunch. Windows are decorated with stickers showing images of Santa Claus, Christmas tree, Christmas ornaments, snowflakes and the like. One of the most popular type of decoration in Croatia are Christmas lights, that are used to illuminate the house, both on the inside and the outside. Many people use them in their backyard, too. Christmas trees are usually not removed until 6 January, the Epiphany, which is a holiday in Croatia.

TRADITIONAL CUISINE[edit | edit source]

Christmas Eve is a day of fasting, so the conventional meal consists of fish, beans and potato salad, served after the decoration of the tree and before the Midnight Mass. On the 25th of December the whole family continues celebrating Christmas by going to the morning Mass and afterwards the lunch is served. The typical Croatian Christmas lunch is prepared from all sorts of meat, but mostly it includes chicken soup, roasted pork, ribs, sausages with potato and salad. Apart from that, families in the eastern part of Croatia have a custom of preparing hladetina, a course made of soup jelly with pork, vegetables and spices. After the lunch, traditional cookies are eaten.

MUSIC AND CAROLS[edit | edit source]

Christmas carolling is not customary for Croatia, but carols are being sung in church during the ceremonies and at home. Djetešce nam se rodilo, Svijetu se porodi Isus Božji sin, Narodi nam se, O pastiri čudo novo, Kirie Eleison are some of the favourites among the traditional Croatian Christmas carols. Another one is Radujte se narodi:

Radujte se narodi, kad čujete glas,

da se Isus porodi u blaženi čas.

Svaki narod čuj, čuj,

i Betlehemu pristupljuj,


CHRISTMAS IN GERMANY[edit | edit source]



Before Christmas, Saint Nicholas (German: Nikolaus) is coming to town and is joined by Knecht Ruprecht on December 6. Knecht Ruprecht wears brown colours and assists Saint Nicholas. The night before Saint Nicholas' day, all children clean their shoes. If they behaved over the course of the last year, Christmas sweets and fruits (e.g. tangerines, peanuts) and chocolate are put into the shoes. If they did not behave, Knecht Ruprecht is said to leave a rod in it.

A poem about Knecht Ruprecht has been written by the German writer Theodor Storm. It is still read in schools today; every German knows the most famous lines from the poem:

“Von drauß vom Walde komm ich her;

ich muß Euch sagen es weihnachtet sehr!“[2]


Christmas in Germany is celebrated on the 24th of December. On Christmas Eve, families with children dress up nicely and go to mass. Usually, there is a special mass for children at 6 pm on Christmas Eve that includes a nativity play, and a mass for adults at midnight. Even though most people do not go to church on a regular basis, more than half of them go to mass at Christmas Eve.[3] On Christmas Day and Boxing Day days, most of the German families visit all of their relatives and family members around the country. The gifts and presents for the family are bought by all family members separately. It is common that children write a wish list for Christmas, which they put under their pillow for the Christkind (i.e. baby Jesus) to find, who is believed to bring the presents.[4] The presents are given to the family after having dinner and singing carols.

DECORATION[edit | edit source]

According to research conducted by means of participant observation, it is common to decorate the house colourfully with tree branches, candles, and handmade German crafts on tables, on walls or house entrances during Christmas time in Germany. Detailed light arches function as a beautiful decoration for the windows. The traditional colours for Christmas are red, green, gold and silver, although this can vary for every family. A common tradition is having an advent wreath (Adventskranz) in the living room, which is either modern with individual decoration, or traditional with orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Four candles are put onto the wreath, which represent the four Sundays until Christmas Eve. Every Sunday a new candle is lit until all of them burn on Christmas Eve. Especially the younger people like to buy or make an advent calendar with twenty-four windows, containing chocolate or any other kind of sweets. A couple of days before Christmas, a real Christmas tree (the most popular being the Nordmantanne) is bought and put into the living room for decoration. Also, a handmade wooden crib is placed at a special spot in the living room – again, this can vary from family to family. On December 23, the Christmas tree is decorated with all kinds of glass baubles, figures and white (electric) lights. Usually, all family members are included in the process of decorating the Christmas tree. On the top of the tree, it is common to either find a bright star or an angel.

TRADITIONAL CUISINE[edit | edit source]

After going to church on Christmas Eve, Germans usually have a family dinner. There is no traditional German Christmas food; it differs from family to family. The food that is being served varies between a fancy cuisine, like roasted goose, duck or steak, and traditional food, like Frankfurter sausages with potato salad. The alcoholic beverages that are being served are mostly wine and beer. During Christmas time, Germans consume a large number of typical Christmas food at one of the many Christmas markets that can be found anywhere in the country. A wide variety of sweets (e.g. cookies, especially cinnamon stars), gingerbread, fruitcakes and Christmas Stollen (a kind of cake) can be bought; potato pancakes, sausages, cooked mushrooms and sweet chestnuts are the characteristic hot meals in Germany. The three most popular hot beverages are eggnog, hot chocolate with alcohol and Glühwein, a red wine with Christmas spices.

MUSIC AND CAROLS[edit | edit source]

The most famous German Christmas song is probably Stille Nacht (Eng. Silent Night). It was written in 1816 by Joseph Mohr.

Stille Nacht! Heil'ge Nacht!

Alles schläft, Einsam wacht

Nur das traute heilige Paar.

Holder Knab' im lockigten Haar;

Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh![5]

Today, the song has been translated in over 300 languages and dialects.[6]

While it is not common to go carolling in Germany, Christmas carols are usually being sung at Christmas Eve. After having dinner and before receiving the presents, the family gathers around the Christmas tree and sings a song. Again, this varies from family to family and is more frequently done in families with small children.

CHRISTMAS IN IRELAND[edit | edit source]



Christmas is one of the most celebrated religious holidays in Ireland as 76.6%[7] of the population are Catholics. It is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ (Banting 10)[8]. Four weeks before Christmas, Advent is celebrated. This is when Irish priests and ministers place four candles on the altars of their churches and light one candle for each Sunday of Advent until all the candles are lit. The reason for the lighting of the candles is to prepare for the birth of baby Jesus[9] when all the candles are lit for the midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

Saint Nicholas in Ireland is known as Santa Claus or Daidí na Nollag (lit. Daddy of Christmas) in Irish, as well as the simple nicknames of Santa or Santy. During Christmas Eve, it is said that Santa arrives during the night, who bears gifts for everyone to put under the Christmas tree and into the Christmas stockings. It is also believed that Santa Claus enters one's house through the chimney, as his reindeer wait for Santa outside the house receiving gifts. The reason for this is because people attend mass during Christmas Eve, especially the midnight mass which is held on Christmas Eve which is still a strong tradition.[10] for many families in Ireland.


Although Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December, the Christmas season[11] traditionally commences on the 8th of December in Ireland and lasts until the 6th of January, which is known as the feast of the Epiphany or Little Christmas (Banting). The 8th of December usually starts the Christmas decorations in Irish houses. Then, on Christmas Eve, families enjoy a special dinner, watch Christmas movies, sing Christmas carols and tell stories[12]. After dinner, families with young children often attend Christmas mass at around eight o'clock in the evening and adults then attend the midnight mass. However, there is also Christmas mass services which can be attended on Christmas day.

With regards to gift giving, family and friends usually give and receive gifts during the days before Christmas. However, people do not open these gifts until Christmas morning in Ireland. Children wake up very early to open these gifts and the day continues on with another special Christmas day dinner.

DECORATION[edit | edit source]

Christmas decoration is an important part of the Christmas season in Ireland. Previously, it was mentioned that decorations start on the 8th of December. During this day, houses are decorated with holly and pine cones as well as other glass, wooden and plastic ornaments[13]. The Christmas trees which are used in Ireland were traditionally the Noble Fir[14], though artificial trees are much more common now in modern day society. The colours of decoration can vary from household to household, but the dominant colours are red, green, silver and gold. Many variations of plastic baubles are used as decoration along with white lights and usually, an angel at the top of the tree is the most popular way of decorating it in many Irish families' homes. Apart from the usual Christmas tree, a nativity scene is placed into the living room, where all figures are put in, except the baby Jesus doll, which is hidden behind the crib until Christmas Eve and then the youngest family member gives it a place inside the crib as a symbol for the birth of Jesus. Also, a lot of candles are also put into the room to create a warm and intimate atmosphere. After the Christmas season, all of the decorations are taken down on the 6th of January, Little Christmas.

TRADITIONAL CUISINE[edit | edit source]

As with holiday traditions in other countries, food performs an integral role in the celebration of Christmas in Ireland. Naturally, there are many different variations of the special Christmas Eve dinner as well as Christmas Day dinner. Traditionally, Christmas dinner consists of either goose or turkey with stuffing, roasted ham, boiled or mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips and any other family favourites, followed by Christmas cake or a Christmas pudding[15]. Other favourites for dessert also include truffles and fruit cake. Alcoholic beverages are common and may vary between wine, gin & tonic, brandy and hot whiskeys. Usually, one enjoys a Christmas pudding, which is usually served after being warmed in the oven. In addition to the standardized Christmas pudding, during the Christmas period, Irish people enjoy mince pies usually after each main course.

MUSIC AND CAROLS[edit | edit source]

Singing hymns and carols are all part of the traditonal Irish Season. As Ireland is a predominently Christian country, many thanksgiving and apraisal songs on commemoration of the Birth of Jesus Christ. Most of these Irish carols are in the genre of traditional music which creates quite a cheerful atmosphere that often sets the people of Ireland in the Christmas holiday mood[16]. The main Christmas carols sung in Ireland would include; "The Wexford Carol", "Christmas in Killarney", "Don Oiche Ud I MBeithil" (That Night in Bethlehem), Whilst Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night, "Curoo, Curoo" (The Carol of the Birds), "I Saw Three Ships".

A classic Christmas ballad sung in Ireland is a song by The Pogues called "The Fairy Tale of New York" (1987). The lead singer, Shane Mac Gowan, is of Irish decsent, being brought up in Great Britain. The song depicts how drunkeness has ruined the relationship between the male and female duett singers. The song was sung as part of a duet with Shane Mac Gowan and Kirsty Mac Coll.

Another song is the Fairy Tale of New York[17], which is a song by a group called the Pogues (1987) which became a hit in Ireland in the same year as it was released and is one of Ireland's favourite Christmas song.

CHRISTMAS IN PORTUGAL[edit | edit source]



Catholicism is the predominant religion in Portugal. For Portuguese people, in general, the Christmas crib is an essential part of the Christmas decoration. It does not only have the three main figures (Jesus, Virgin Mary and St. Joseph), but also other characters (like the animals and the Three Wise Men) that represent an elaborate decoration in Portuguese homes[18].


On the 1st of December, traditionally, Portuguese people have the tree ready for the beginning of the Christmas month. The Advent is also a tradition in Portugal. Christmas Eve is the main Christmas celebration in Portugal, since all families gather for the Christmas dinner and gift giving. Also on this night, the midnight Mass (A missa do galo) is celebrated for the Catholics, at Midnight. Religious chants are always present in this event. On Christmas day, traditional families have a Christmas lunch or dinner. The gift giving on Christmas morning is still a tradition for some families, as it is especially exciting for the children. But the main tradition is exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve at midnight especially.

DECORATION[edit | edit source]

The traditional families have kept alive the Christmas spirit by using the same recipes and decorations from the old times. The ornaments and decorations consist on Nativity Scenes under the Christmas tree and various images of Baby Jesus. For some years, the city of Lisbon displayed a 200-foot-tall Christmas tree in "Praça do Comércio", which has been the tallest in Europe.

TRADITIONAL CUISINE[edit | edit source]

Portuguese gastronomy is quite diverse when it comes to Christmas events. Most families eat boiled codfish or roast turkey for the Christmas Eve dinner. However, there is a variety of other traditional dishes which Portuguese eat, such as:

  • "Roupa Velha" (in English: “Old clothes”, which consists on a dish from the North of the country – Minho and Douro – made with the leftovers from Christmas dinner such as codfish, cabbage, carrots and potatoes)
  • "Bacalhau com todos" (in English: “Codfish with everything”, which consists on boiled codfish with all sort of vegetables, such as cabbage, carrots, onions, chickpeas and potatoes)
  • Octopus (usually roasted and typical in the North and in Madeira)
  • "Leitão" (in English: "Roast Pork"; typical in Trás-os-Montes)
  • "Perú" (in English: "Roast Turkey"; only some people eat it on Christmas)

There is also an enormous variety of sweets all over the country in this time of the year. Such sweets include:

  • "Fatias Douradas" or "Rabanadas" (in English: "Golden Slices", which consists on fried white bread slices with lemon, sugar and cinnamon)
  • "Sonhos" (in English: "Dreams", which consists on fried cakes with light texture, powdered in sugar and drizzled in syrup)
  • "Migas doces" (it consists on an egg and sugar sweet with nuts and cinnamon)
  • "Filhoses" (dessert which consists on a mixture of flour, eggs and pumpkin)
  • "Aletria" (dessert prepared with long angel hair pasta, which consists of milk, eggs, lemon and cinnamon)
  • "Coscorrões" (consists on an orange juice, brandy and olive oil mixture, which then is cut into little strips of floured pasta)
  • "Azevias de grão" (dessert that consists on sweet pumpkin, orange and flour)
  • Walnut cake (typical from Madeira)
  • "Papas de Carolo" (consists on a dessert prepared with crushed corn and cornflower)
  • "Arroz doce" (in English: “sweet rice”; very known dessert that consists on boiling rice and then, after drained, mixing it with boiled milk with cinnamon and lemon and then with sugar and eggs).
  • Pumpkin cake (typical from Madeira)[19]
  • "Bolo Rei" (in English: "King's Cake"; one of the most traditional Portuguese sweet bread, with nuts and crystallized fruit on top)
MUSIC AND CAROLS[edit | edit source]

In Portugal it is not common to go to the streets and sing carols during this season, like other countries may do. The most famous Christmas song is by César Batalha, called A todos um bom Natal[20] (To everyone a Happy Christmas):

A todos um bom Natal

Que seja um bom Natal

Para todos nós.

No Natal pela manhã

Ouvem-se os sinos tocar

Há uma grande alegria

No ar

A todos um bom Natal

Que seja um bom Natal

Para todos nós.

Nesta manhã de Natal

Há em todos os países

Muitos milhões de meninos


CHRISTMAS IN SLOVENIA[edit | edit source]


Christmas is probably the most popular religious and family holiday in Slovenia. It has a long tradition of celebration and veneration that has been partly preserved, partly substituted with some new forms of celebration.

HISTORY[edit | edit source]

The Christmas period starts four Sundays before Christmas – with the period called Advent – time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus. One of the traditions connected to Advent is lighting of the four candles on the Advent wreath (beginning on the First Sunday of Advent, continuing on the Second etc.).


Some Slovenians would talk about three Christmases[21]: the “real” one on the 25th of December and two minor ones, which would be the New Year and the Three Kings (Sveti trije kralji – on 6th of January). Children in Slovenia also know three gift-giving men. They traditionally received presents on the 6th of December, called St. Nicholas Day or Miklavž (named after the saint St. Nicholas or Sveti Nikolaj). Children used to get different kinds of fruit and nuts, both dried and fresh, the more wealthy got chocolate. Nowadays they mostly receive toys and sweets of all kinds. With the arrival of the so-called “American Christmas” (capitalist and commercially oriented), children more and more commonly receive gifts on the Christmas morning, brought by Santa Claus (Božiček) or in more religiously oriented families by the Baby Jesus. The third gift-giving man is Grandfather Frost (Dedek Mraz), which brings presents on the New Year’s Eve. It very much depends on the family on which of these three occasions will the children be given presents; usually on only one of them, sometimes on all three.

DECORATION[edit | edit source]

On the Christmas Eve, that is the 24th of December (or earlier), people decorate their Christmas trees – today mostly with purchased decorations (e.g. plastic, ceramic or porcelain orbs of different colours and tinsel), whereas in the past, they used home-made ornaments (dried fruit, nuts, honey biscuits, wooden ornaments etc.). It is common to see an evergreen wreath hanging on the front door. Under the tree people usually display nativity scenes. If the tree is traditionally taken down on the 6th of January (the Three Kings), the nativity scenes remain displayed longer, usually until the 2nd of February – the Candlemas Day (svečnica). On the Christmas Eve, the more traditional families also burn incense in every room in the house, sprinkle the rooms with holy water[22] (sometimes accompanied by prayer) and thus wish the residents of the house happiness, health, good luck and success.

TRADITIONAL CUISINE[edit | edit source]

Christmas dinner varies from family to family. Most people eat turkey or chicken, but there are some more unusual dishes to be found as well (namely, dishes which are not eaten too frequently during the year). Apart from potica (Christmas loaf – a roll with walnut, coconut, or tarragon filling that is usually eaten for Christmas and Easter)[23] there is no common dish that would be common for all Slovenians. After the dinner family usually spends the evening together until they go out and walk to the church carrying lit torches and singing Christmas carols. The Midnight Mass is always something special and this is why it is usually attended also by people who would not go to church otherwise.

MUSIC AND CAROLS[edit | edit source]

Slovenians around Christmas usually sing typical religious Christmas hymns and songs (e.g. Glej zvezdice božje), often composed by foreign authors and then translated into Slovene, the most famous example being the German Stille Nacht (Engl. Silent Night, Slo. Sveta noč). As have the participants of this summer school observed, smaller villages still maintain the tradition of carol singers dresses as the Three Kings; they were supposed to bring happiness, peace and health to people and animals of the home they visit. Written Christmas cards were not the tradition that would be common one or two generations ago. Is has developed into a tradition only in the last 10 years. Cards with typical Christmas motives are usually sent about a week before Christmas to close family members and friends, sometimes also to geographically more distant relatives (those that you know will not meet personally in the time around Christmas).


Looking at the traditions of celebrating Christmas described above and at how they differ from each other, one could ask why the traditions of celebrating the same holidays are not the same.

Concerning the traditions, Hofstede's research on national culture helps understanding the differences between the countries.[24] Regarding our topic of Christmas as a traditional holiday, the concepts of Long term orientation and Individualism are most relevant to have a closer look at. Hofstede defines long term orientation as "dealing with society’s search for virtue, the extent to which a society shows a pragmatic future-oriented perspective rather than a conventional historical short-term point of view"[25]; Individualism is defined as "the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members"[26].

All five countries show a wide variety of traditions and customs when it comes to celebrating Christmas. While the initial reason to celebrate Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ in all countries, it may be more difficult to define the exact motivations for the continuous popularity of Christmas, apart from religious. Nevertheless, the history of Christmas remains the same as it was one hundred years ago. This also shows in the dates of celebration: while the main celebration does not take place on the same day, all countries celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The survey above reveals even more similarities: all five countries have red, green, silver and gold as their traditional colours. While we have seen that some families in certain countries prefer other colours, the traditional ones are still most prominent. Germany, for example, does not have fixed traditional Christmas food, whereas other countries do prefer eating special food on Christmas.

These findings would suggest that Croatia, Germany, Ireland, Portugal and Slovenia are in Hofstede's terms short term oriented societies when it comes to Christmas. As we have seen, all countries respect their respective Christmas traditions. In fact, this coincides with Hofstede's findings: Ireland[27], Germany[28] and Portugal[29] are all short term oriented societies (there is no information on Croatia and Slovenia). Hofstede defines a short term oriented society as "generally exhibit[ing] great respect for traditions"[30], which, as we have seen, all five countries do regarding Christmas traditions.

The majority of the people in a country may celebrate Christmas with their immediate family (parents and siblings) or their extended family. This fact can be represented very well with Hofstede’s category of individualism. The more individualistically oriented nationalities usually celebrate holidays with their immediate relatives, meanwhile the more collectivist nationalities consist of closely-knit communities or families with unquestioning loyalty and celebrate holidays mostly in the circle of their extended family.[31]

Out of five countries that we compared, only Germany and Ireland have relatively high individuality indices (Germany 67, Ireland 70), which would indicate the people celebrate Christmas and other holidays more commonly with their immediate family members. On the other hand, the indices for Portugal (30), Croatia and Slovenia (both 27) are relatively low and indicate a more collectivist society. That would also indicate that they usually celebrate holidays within their extended families; even if they do not get together with their extended family on the actual day of the holiday, they visit their relatives in the next few days (e.g. to wish merry Christmas during Christmas holidays).[32]

EASTER[edit | edit source]

Easter the most important Christian holiday. There is no set date for it, however, it is usually celebrated between 22 March and 25 April. The date is the same for each country, as they all share the same calendar and religion. What follows below is a description of customs in each of the participating countries.

EASTER IN CROATIA[edit | edit source]

Sretan Uskrs! - Happy Easter!

In Croatia, a predominantly Christian country, Easter is the most important holiday, but people usually look forward to Christmas much more. Thus, the number of customs and celebrations is not as large as it is for Christmas time.

With Ash Wednesday, Lent begins. During Lent, no meat is eaten on Fridays. In the past, people used to forego meat for the entirety of Lent, nowadays, however, this is not observed. Some people refrain from carrying out their bad habits instead, such as drinking alcohol or overindulging in chocolate. Before mass on Palm Sunday, people receive blessed olive branches, which they take home and put on the crucifix hanging on the wall. In Croatian, this day is called "cvjetnica" (flower day) because girls used to wash their faces with water from washbowls containing flower petals.

From Maundy Thursday onwards, people do not work on their fields and land. Good Friday is not a public holiday. There is no mass on Good Friday, but the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, is held in the afternoon. People eat fish that day: in Slavonia, a type of fish stew called "paprikaš" is eaten, and in the coastal regions cod is preferred. Apples and pasta with poppy seeds and ground walnuts are traditionally eaten as well.

Ham is prepared on Holy Saturday, and eggs are dyed. They are called "pisanice". They used to be red, but are much more colourful nowadays. They are put into baskets along with horseradish and spring onions, and brought to church. The priest then blesses the food, which is eaten for breakfast on the following day. Cookies and pastries are usually prepared as well. [33]

As mentioned above, Easter begins with a rich breakfast. Lunch is similarly rich. Children play games with the eggs - they tap one against the other and the winner is the one whose egg does not crack. Furthermore, they pluck grass and make nests into which the Easter Bunny places eggs, sweets, and chocolates early in the morning of Easter. People visit their relatives on Easter Monday, and give each other presents and "pisanice"(dyed eggs). [34]

EASTER IN IRELAND[edit | edit source]

In Ireland, many people enjoy celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ by spending the day with friends and family. In general, Irish Christians attend a special mass celebration on Easter Sunday, followed by a traditional Irish dinner at home. This Easter Dinner usually consists of roast lamb, potatoes, vegetables, onion stuffing, Brussel sprouts and gravy. After the dinner, one gives and receives Easter eggs usually made of chocolate. In addition to the association of Easter and a time of family unification, the Easter weekend is a bank holiday, where some shops, businesses, and post offices close their doors to the public. By law, it is illegal to sell alcoholic beverages on Good Friday.

Similar to the Christmas celebration in Ireland, children receive chocolate eggs from the “Easter Bunny”, which encourages young people to embrace the event of celebrating Jesus Christ’s ascension to Heaven. An Easter egg hunt is sometimes organised for the youngsters. The eggs are dispersed throughout the garden, comparable to a treasure hunt. In addition to the search for Easter Eggs, one usually participates in an egg and spoon race which is held in most parishes and communities. Customarily, farmers in rural Ireland visit the local church and take some holy Easter water. This water is spilled upon each agricultural animal, as well as the four corners of every field possessed by each farm labourer for a successful harvest and fertile soil.

Finally, Easter in Ireland brings back the memory of The 1916 Easter Rising. The Irish people are reminded of the struggle for Irish Independence through the media as well as street parades. The Irish insurgents attempted to revolt against British rule in Ireland. After they failed, many of the major leaders were executed for their involvement in the uprising.

EASTER IN GERMANY[edit | edit source]

Easter (in German: Ostern) is a Christian holiday.

Typical foods include chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs, and special Easter cakes shaped like a lamb, which are very popular and can be acquired at the local supermarket. What is most important is to spend time with one's family, so the meals are eaten in a family circle. Apart from the aforementioned chocolate bunnies and eggs, and lamb cake, there are no special dishes typically served during Easter time - any food can be eaten.

EASTER IN PORTUGAL[edit | edit source]

Easter (in Portuguese: Páscoa) is one of the most important Christian holidays in Portugal. The most important day is Easter Sunday, the day when the resurrection of Jesus is celebrated, but preparations begin much sooner.

The Wednesday after Fat Sunday is called Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent. During this 40-day period meat is not eaten on Fridays. The last preparations and festivities happen between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. On Good Friday, a bank holiday, religious people go to mass. After that, there is a procession from the church to a place called the Calvary (this is mainly practiced in the North of Portugal, in villages, and in cities like Braga where this practices are of great importance). During the procession, people carry icons of Jesus and crosses. They also say the rosary and thus recite all the stages that Christ went through. This day represents the death of the Messiah.

On the morning of Easter Sunday, people go to mass to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. In small villages, mostly in the North of the country, priests and volunteers go from house to house carrying a statue of Jesus on the cross, so that people can kiss it. That way, their houses are blessed. On this special holiday, the Portuguese usually eat roast lamb with rice and potatoes, and sweets like sponge cake and "folar" (a type of pastry). Children get chocolate eggs and sugar coated almonds. [35]

EASTER IN SLOVENIA[edit | edit source]

Easter is a Christian holiday with which the resurrection of Christ is commemorated. It has some Pagan origins as well, for it is a celebration of the arrival of Spring.

In Slovenian, it is known as "velika noč" or "vuzem".[36] Lent, a 40-day period of abstinence from meat, ends with Good Friday. After that, people can once more eat whatever they want. However, there are some dishes typically served on Easter. These include horseradish, cooked ham, "pinca" (a type of sweet bread), "potica" (a type of wallnut pastry), and hard-boiled Easter eggs called "pirhi" in Slovenian. The Easter eggs are traditionally dyed by being sealed inside a stocking with a leaf of parsley tightly pressed against the shell and cooked along with onion skins, which turns the shell deep brown.

Children get chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs containing a surprise. Religious people take their food to church for the priest to bless it.

CULTURAL ANALYSIS: EASTER[edit | edit source]

As Easter is a religious holiday, and since the participating countries share the same religious background, the assumption is that the customs and traditions do not differ much from each other.

Our findings reveal this to be largely true; however, there are some differences that are worth discussing and analysing. In accordance to the findings of Hofstede, countries with a high score on dimensions of Individualism and Pragmatism are usually less traditional and do not follow the customs as readily as the countries with low scores in these dimensions.

Germany, for example, is a country with high scores in both Individualism and Pragmatism (Long-Term Orientation). Our findings confirm the hyphothesis above. In general, Germany is not a traditional society and people do not engage in religious ceremonies, particularly the younger generations. [37]

Ireland largely follows the German pattern, but it has a substantially lower score in Pragmatism. We find this to be a true reflection of the influence of the Catholic Church on the Irish society. For example, alcohol is not sold on Good Friday. Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that the strength of tradition is strongly linked to the political developments in Ireland during the first half of the twentieth century. [38]

Slovenia, Portugal, and Croatia are collectivist societies and have similar mentalities when it comes to maintaining and observing the customs. Easter is usually celebrated within extended families, unlike in Ireland and Germany. In Portugal, there is a tendency to observe all the traditions as much as possible (mainly in villages and small towns), which attests to the low score in Pragmatism. Conversely, traditions in Croatia seem to be slowly becoming extinct, but not to such an extent as in Germany. [39] [40] [41]

There is a particular remnant of Pagan tradition which is observed in Slavic countries, i.e. Slovenia and Croatia: a special way of dying and decorating eggs with onion skins and wax. In Germany and Ireland, eggs are adorned with colourful patterns, and the Portuguese do not dye eggs at all.

Overall, it can be found that societies with a lower score in Individualism tend to spend more time celebrating and spending time with their kin. Individualist societies celebrate with their immediate families. Highly pragmatic societies tend not to be traditional, according to our findings.

Other Celebrations[edit | edit source]

PRVI MAJ (1st OF MAY) IN CROATIA[edit | edit source]

The 1st of May (Croatian: Prvi maj) is a national holiday in Croatia when the international labour movement is celebrated. According to the Croatians, this holiday also represents the beginning of the Spring/Summer season. Almost everyone spends that day outside having a picnic or a barbecue with their friends and/or family. Many young people start celebrating May Day the evening before, when they spend the night outdoors. Every city has its own special place where people gather to eat and enjoy the nature. Labour unions organize parades and hold speeches so as to support the right of workers. For many years, the President and the Prime Minister of Croatia have been following the tradition of distributing carnations (carnation is an international symbol of workers' movements) to people gathered on the main square in Zagreb, the Croatia's capital. Public concerts are often held in places where people have their picnics.


The Day of German Unity (Tag der Deutschen Einheit) is celebrated on the 3rd of October and is the national day in Germany. Germany is a country with a very rich history; the 50-year separation of the country into BRD (Western Germany) and DDR (i.e. Eastern Germany) and the subsequent joining shaped the modern German identity significantly. After the wall separating Eastern and Western Germany fell in 1989, it was decided that Germany should be re-unified. The process of affiliation was completed on the 3rd October 1990. Ever since then, this day is celebrated as the German national day. Every year, the official part of the celebrations take place in other cities[42].

ST. PATRICK'S DAY IN IRELAND[edit | edit source]

On the 17th of March, the Irish celebrate a religious feast in the honour of St. Patrick, who died on this day around 460 A.D. It is said that St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, which at the time consisted of a pagan worshipping society. It is arguably one of the most important holidays in Ireland alongside Christmas. It is celebrated during the Christian season of Lent, which lasts for forty days, excluding Sundays. The Irish people attend their local church during the morning to celebrate the patron saint and then continue on to attend parades, concerts, fireworks and theatre productions. Usually, each large village, town and city organise a parade for their inhabitants. Children often paint their faces with a green colour and dress in green clothes.

During the mass celebration, the story of St. Patrick is told as well as how it was influenced by the Celts. In order to remember the nation's history, tales like St. Patrick’s are a contribution to the Irish way of life. During the celebration, it is common for people to be dressed in green because this colour is the symbol of Ireland which is often referred to as the Emerald Isle. Besides the tale of St. Patrick, the Shamrock and the Leprechaun (a dwarf, fictional character in Irish mythology, usually wears traditional clothing and a red magical hat) are also of great importance for this specific holiday. The Celts introduced the shamrock as a sacred plant called "seamroy" that symbolizes the rebirth of Spring. The shamrock became a symbol of Irish nationalism and pride in the 17th century as laws were made from the British against the use of their native language, as well as their religious beliefs. For that reason, one can find shamrocks painted on faces, worn on clothes and as broaches, etc. The Leprechaun (Irish: lobaircin) has its roots in the Celtic belief in fairies; very small men and women, that were popular as minor figures for folk tales and piseogs. The Irish music plays an equal role for their identity. The Celtic influence of oral culture was continued by writing songs in order to remember their history and its important events. As for traditional food, people eat corned beef with cabbage and green dyed food and drink, for example, green apple juice. It is a tradition in most international cities to celebrate this day by holding parades and processions through the various streets. For example, St. Patrick's Day in New York sees the parade participants march up through Fifth Avenue.


Every year in June, the Popular Saints (John, Peter and Anthony) are celebrated in Portugal. These festivities gather a lot of tradition and celebrations. St. Anthony is the most popular saint in Portugal. The feast day of Saint Anthony is the first one to happen in Alfama (the city's oldest quarter) on the 12th and 13th of June. Sardines, bread, and "Caldo Verde" (a traditional Portuguese soup) are the main dishes in these festivities and are served with good wine[43] Every year there is a type of Carnival parade called Marchas Populares where different districts from Lisbon compete for the best march. In this time of the year, there is also The Weddings of Saint Anthony, which consists of wedding ceremonies of couples which were chosen to participate. The Weddings are part of a popular tradition that has been going on for the last 50 years and is shown on national television. The ceremonies are paid in full. St. Anthony has also a symbol, the manjerico, which consists of a plant that has a little flag with a love message on it, which is quite popular at these festivities. All villages and cities in Portugal have their own patron saint and a special day for celebrations in their honour. This mainly happens during the summer period (June-September) and it consists of traditional and religious festivities, similar to St. Anthony celebrations in Lisbon. Usually people go to mass, which is followed by a procession in honour of the patron saint. In all processions the icons of the saint that is being celebrated are carried by people, and a marching band follows them, playing music.

PREŠEREN DAY IN SLOVENIA[edit | edit source]

The Prešeren Day, also known as the Slovenian Cultural Holiday (Slovenian: Prešernov dan) is a public holiday celebrated in Slovenia on 8th of February. It marks the anniversary of the death of the Slovenian national poet France Prešeren (he died on 8th of February 1849) and is essentially a celebration of Slovenian culture. It was officially declared as a national holiday in 1944; it has been a bank holiday since 1991[44].
Prešeren Day is all about Slovene language and culture, since they are the characteristics that represent the basis for our national identity. On the eve of the holiday, the Prešeren Awards – highest Slovenian recognitions for cultural achievements – are bestowed. The ceremony also has extensive cultural programme and is attended by the highest state officials and representatives. On Prešeren day, there are numerous celebrations, film screenings, various local and national theatres stage their performances, the majority of museums and galleries are admission free[45].

Cultural Analysis: Other celebrations[edit | edit source]

Regarding the topic of other celebrations, it can be observed that each nation chose a holiday that specifically symbolises a significant part of their national identity.

Firstly, Croatia chose the holiday Prvi maj meaning the 1st of May to represent the International Labour Movement. This date symbolises the oppressed and mistreated workers that have been involved in an on-going struggle to fight for their rights and recognition in Croatia. Germany however celebrates Tag der Deutschen Einheit which celebrates German Unity Day on the 3rd of October. This day is to mark the unity of East and West Germany joining together to become one. In Ireland and Portugal, both countries celebrate their patron saints; Saint Patrick's Day for Ireland and Santos Populares (Popular Saints Day) which includes Saint Anthony, John and Peter, but specifically Saint Anthony in Lisbon, Portugal. These saints represent the importance of religion in both countries as well as the importance of culture and history in modern society. Finally, Slovenia commemorates the Slovene language and culture during Prešernov dan (Prešeren Day) on the 8th of February. These special holidays and celebrations display symbols of unity, importance of religion and culture which notably represent a big part of the fundamental characteristics of each country's national identity.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Our survey of holidays and celebrations in Croatia, Germany, Ireland, Portugal and Slovenia has shown many differences as well as many similarities between the 5 counties. Using Geert Hofstede's theory of National Culture as a theoretical framework, we were able to put these findings into perspective. The comparison of the celebration of Christmas in the five countries shows that while it is a religious holiday, there are still cultural differences to be found. However, these differences would not be a significant problem if a Portuguese person decided to celebrate Christmas in Germany, since the idea of Christmas is similar in both countries. The celebration of Easter in the five countries follows a similar pattern. There are some differences, but since all five cultures share the same religious background, their traditional customs are similar to a very large degree. Regarding the other holidays celebrated in each country, it can be observed that different values (religion, unity, freedom, etc.) are of different importance in each country, depending on the nation's respective history. In relation to these holidays, a certain level of cultural comprehension is necessary to experience the traditional holidays as a foreigner.

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