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Santa Obscura

Santa Obscura

As you’re waiting for Santa to come down the chimney, glugging the sherry you left him and somehow stumbling close enough to your tree to leave the presents under it in perfect harmony, why not let your mind wander to the other corners of the world the jolliest fat man in history’s been to on his rounds?

After all, festive cheer isn’t limited to just our shores, and sometimes it gets downright daft overseas! Step into our sleigh as we follow Little Saint Nick around the globe.

There’ll Always Be A Greenland

Let’s start as we mean to go on with the traditions of home recreated miles away, but with a twist.  Crashing into Greenland, we find ourselves in the middle of what looks like a scene from the most festive Christmas film ever. Carollers everywhere in fine voice, trees looking resplendent and mulled wine aplenty; so far, so normal.

Indeed, the putting up of the trees takes on an almost ritual significance, ordered from Europe months in advance, with whole towns turning out to watch the spectacle. Rather poetically, they always get a white Christmas…well, it is rather cold and snowy, which may explain why churches are packed in the build-up!

And what better prelude to a festive sermon than a traditional choral sing-along to Guterput (Our Lord), a traditional Greenlandic carol? Continue the magic with the sight of the famous Northern Lights in the sky before going home to a meal of musk ox, reindeer or rock ptarmigan (often served as an alternative to turkey). Yummy, you’ll surely agree!

Santa’s Serbian Cousin

Yes, you read that right, we’re popping in to see Claus’s Eastern European doppelgänger. Say hello to Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost)! Sounds positively evil, you might think – but actually, he’s not some propaganda tool.

Riding his sleigh, pulled by three white horses and accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden), he chooses a rather more pedestrian method of delivering presents – pitching up at the front door and only when you’re asleep, much like Royal Mail, some might argue.

A Calendar Curiosity

Staying in a similar corner of the world (as we’ve not got much gas left and the sleigh’s close to overheating) we turn our attention to a quirk of the calendar. The difference between the Gregorian (mostly used universally) and Julian (used only by Eastern Orthodox churches, and a staggering 13 days behind its rival) years means that the likes of Macedonia don’t celebrate Christmas until 7th January.

Who have we to thank for bringing the holiday spirit this far afield in the first place? The answer lies with Peter the Great, who brought it all back with him to Russia from travels across the western world in the seventeenth century, though curiously mostly crushed following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 before being reinstated by 1935, though shorn of all religious connotation and adopted into the secularist policies of the Soviet state.

And if that’s not plain odd we don’t know what is – weird Christmas to all, and to all a strange night!

Written by Chris Morley