In this article, we focus on Christmas traditions among respondents. The topic was approached through an online survey conducted on the questia.ro platform. The research study was active between December 11th and December 12th, 2018 and covered 1000 respondents, with a +/- 3% margin of error when reported to the Romanian online population.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

In December, people celebrate Christmas through various rituals and traditions dating from hundreds of years. Gifts, tree decoration, Santa Claus, spending time with the family, cooking and eating cakes are just some of the symbols associated by world cultures with this holiday. Let’s now sleigh through some of the world’s Christmas rituals:

  • Germans begin to celebrate Christmas on December 6, when Santa Nicholas arrives. They also have a traditional cake, the” house of the witch” which includes almond paste and candied fruits;
  • In Australia, since Christmas is celebrated at temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius and considering Santa Claus is very adaptable, he decided to pass on the sleigh ride and make an appearance on a surfboard. The holiday meal is usually served on the beach or at a picnic and they also decorate the “Christmas bushes” with small red flowers;
  • Bethleem is the center of Christmas celebrations. Locals and tourists go to churches and watch the traditional religious procession consisting of the police parade on Arab horses, followed by a man who carries a big cross on his back, similar to Jesus and other religious scenes;
  • Americans use popcorn threated on strings to decorate their Christmas Tree. Moreover, their traditional meal consists of turkey or ham with cranberry sauce;
  • Canadian children meet Santa during the Christmas Parade. They also prepare milk with biscuits in order to serve Santa with a treat;
  • Christmas in Russia is celebrated on January 7th. After the traditional meal, bread crumbs are left on the table during the night in the memory of the dead. Children receive presents on the night of December 31st to January 1st from ”Snegurochka”;
  • In Venezuela it is forbidden to drive on Christmas, so many people choose to go to church on rollers;
  • Children from France put their shoes in front of fireplace before going to sleep, hoping for Pere Noel to fill them with gifts;
  • In Portugal everyone is participating in the ”missa do galo” and every guest at participating at the dinner is offered an orange in addition to the traditional gifts. After the traditional meal, people serve 13 types of dessert, as a symbol of Jesus and the 12 Apostles;
  • In Spain, everyone waits for 22nd December when the "Lottery of Navidad" takes place. Each participant has a chance out of seven to win a small prize, but the big one contains one of the world’s most consistent prizes – 2,24 billion euros. This Christmas lottery is organized every year since 1812. Moreover, Spanish children receive gifts on January 6th, when they celebrate the Day of the 3 Wise Man, as the legend says that that the magi traveled to Jesus after a star showed them he was born and offered him gold, myrrh and incense;
  • Children form UK first write their letters to Santa Claus and then they throw them in fireplace hoping the wind will lead them to the North Pole;
  • Families in Norway hide their brooms so the witches don’t steal them, as it is believed that witches and other spirits fly through the air on the eve;
  • Young people in Austria walk the streets dressed as Krampus – a horned demon who comes alongside Nikolaus (Santa Claus);

In Romania, Christmas is celebrated with carols, houses adorned with lights and meals full of traditional dishes. In all of Romania’s historical regions, the center of the winter holiday is the family and the faith in a better and prosperous year.

A famous Romanian Christmas tradition is “cutting the pig”, as it is literally translated from Romanian. This ritual usually takes place on the day of December 20th, also called the day of the “Ignat”. It is told that any pig that wasn’t cut in this day will not gain any weight because it has already seen the knife. Another ritual says that no cleaning is to be done in the day of Christmas. You don’t throw the trash, because in this way you banish luck.

Young people from the villages of Maramures walk from house to house to sing carols and to practice some common rituals such as ”Steaua” (a carol that preaches the star that proclaimed the birth of Jesus) and ”Jocul Moșilor” (carols sung by people who wear handmade masks). Another tradition in this area is ”Viflaimul”, a popular play that signifies the moment of the appearance of magicians and shepherds who preach the birth of Jesus. In Moldova and Bucovina, there is a tradition of putting basil through the house in order to bring good luck. The women also make cakes in the shape of the number 8 and will keep them until spring when the plough starts in order to place them between the horns of the oxens. In the villages of Oltenia, people gather near the fire and throw each one a fire wood hoping to bring good luck.

Christmas traditions

As stated in our previous research studies regarding Christmas traditions (This Christmas Comes with New Data and This Christmas Comes with... Comparative Data), Christmas remains a family holiday, as for more than three-quarter respondents (78.4%) Christmas means an opportunity to gather with their family and spend time with them.

More than half of the respondents associate Christmas holidays with the religious interpretation of the event: 53% believe Christmas means of the birth of Jesus while to 52.4% this holiday signifies the Romanian Christmas traditions of decorating the tree and singing carols.

To some of the respondents (42.4%), Christmas means the perfect occasion to offer an receive gifts, while 38.2% associate it with Santa Claus and the gift-giving and receiving.

To more than a quarter of respondents (28.3%), this holiday resumes to eating traditional (usually homemade) products such as sarmale, sausages, pork skin, borsch, sponge cake and many others.

Most respondents (89.8%) will have a Christmas tree this year in their homes. The evergreen fir tree has been used by both pagans and Christians for thousands of years to celebrate winter. It is not clear yet who first introduced the Christmas tree as part of the Christmas tradition, some sources say were the Germans in the 16th century, others say the first decorated tree was introduced in Latvia in 1510.

More than half of them (65%) will choose an artificial tree this year, while the rest (35%) opt for a natural tree. According to National Christmas Tree Association, only in the US approximately 25-30 million natural trees are cut every year for Christmas. It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical height (6 - 7 feet) or as little as 4 years, but the average growing time is 7 years. Moreover, natural trees are a renewable, recyclable resource while artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead.

Christmas is spent by respondents in a cozy atmosphere, this year, as most respondents said they will celebrate it at home, either with their family (81.7%), relatives (6.6%) or partner (4.1%).

Christmas shopping

We then asked respondents where they usually buy the Christmas shopping. As it appears, most of them (88.8%) prefer to shop from stores, while over a quarter (28.2%) do their shopping in malls. Comparing the results to our 2017 Holiday Study, the percentage of users who do their Christmas shopping online has decreased from 38.8% in 2017 to only 17% in 2018. Moreover, 8% of respondents prefer to buy products from the Christmas markets, which are gaining more and more popularity.

Gift giving

Since most respondents spend their Christmas holidays with their family, they also plan on buying them gifts for Christmas (88.9% of respondents will buy gifts for their family this year). Moreover, more than one-quarter (38.3%) will surprise their partner with a Christmas gift, while 23.3% will offer gifts to their close friends.

As Christmas is known for love and dedication (as 37.1% respondents associate Christmas with these feelings), some respondents (18.7%) will also donate gifts to people in need that can’t afford to buy themselves something for Christmas.

How do respondents find the perfect gift? Over half of them (64.4%) get inspired from the gifts/ products exposed in stores. The blunt ones (35%) prefer to directly ask people what they want for Christmas and this way they don’t have to stress over whether the person will love the present or not. Comparing the results to our 2017 Holiday Study, the percentage of users who look for gifts online has decreased from 36.2% in 2017 to 30% in 2018, while the proportion of people who look for gifts in stores increased from 58.8% in 2017 to 64.4% in 2018. Some people (14.3%) take their inspiration from Christmas markets, while 8.9% base their gift ideas from the suggestions received by work or college colleagues. Only 6.3% get their ideas from emails or messages received from the merchants.

Even after a year, many respondents (67.1%) still feel that they spend more money on Christmas gifts than they first planned to. Fewer people (18.3%) left everything at the last moment this year as 76.9% respondents spent time picking the best gifts for their dear ones. Moreover, Romanians prove to be generous in 2018 as well, as 70.8% of respondents offer more presents than they receive. People usually receive what they want (64.5%) as they are carefully picking presents (89%) to fit the color and size of the ones they are buying the gifts for. Furthermore, over one quarter (27.2%) feel like they didn’t spend enough time to think about suitable gifts for their dear ones. However, almost one quarter of respondents (24.4%) agree with the fact that Christmas shopping is a stressful activity for them, while 69.3% enjoy it, this highlighting the importance of the Christmas shopping for the Romanian culture.  

Top presents people intend to buy in 2018 are clothes (56.8%), sweets (54.1%), toys and games (52.2%), perfumes and cosmetics (47.7%) and books (28.1%). As the data shows, in 2018 the percentage of people who intend to offer clothes as Christmas gifts increased since 2017 (43%), as well as for toys and games (45% in 2017).

When asked about what they would like to receive for Christmas this year, 35.2% prefer clothes, 34.4% perfumes and cosmetics while 25.5% will be happy to be offered cash.

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