At this festive holiday season, perhaps Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah is your standard greeting to family, friends and those you meet. In areas of Door County you might still hear some people express holiday greetings in the languages representative of their ethnic heritage.  “God Jul” (Swedish and Norwegian), “Froeliche Weinachten” (German), “Feliz Navidad” (Spanish), “Buon Natale” (Italian), “Joyeux Noël” (French), “Vesele Vianoce” (Czech and Slovak), “Wesolych Swiat” (Polish), “Zalig Keerstfeest” (Dutch), Kala Christouyenna” (Greek), “Gleolig jol” (Icelandic) are some of the ways people say Merry Christmas here and around the world.  Whether you have your Christmas holiday dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, traditionally such dinners include roast turkey and/or baked ham, bread stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, a green bean side dish, jello (A Wisconsin must have) rolls, and a wide array of sweet treats, pies and cakes for dessert. 

Have you ever wondered about the Christmas traditions practiced in other regions of America and other countries as well?  Children in Belgium enjoy two visits from St. Nicholas. He visits each village for the first time on December 4th to check on each child’s behavior, then returns on the 6th with treats for those who have been good and switches for those who haven’t.  Christmas morning in Egypt is a time for visiting friends and family and for sharing a shortbread called kaik and a drink called shortbat.  One unique tradition in Hawaii is the Christmas luau, which features the Kalua pig as its main course. The poinsettia, which grows on the islands, is considered the Christmas flower. Ireland celebrates an old custom called “Feeding the Wren.” On December 26th, St. Stephen’s day, Irish children scour the countryside for a Wren, a small bird similar to a sparrow, or they purchase one. The wren is placed in a cage and the children go door to door collecting money for the poor. For Native Americans, legend states that dream catchers are placed over the bed on Christmas Eve. The dream catcher will let all the good dreams pass through the web while all the bad dreams are caught in the web. One can tell when the bad dreams are caught for the web will be wet in the morning. Grandfather Frost lived deep in the woods of Russia and came to town in a sleigh. Grandfather Frost had a reputation for bringing gifts to good children and forgetting those who were naughty. He could be both jolly and cold-hearted. During the Christmas season, he would roam the streets, handing out toys to well-behaved children-and overlooking those who behaved badly. Traditionally there is a strict fast before Christmas. The Christmas season is a time for reconciliation in the Slovak Republic. Borrowed items are returned and forgiveness is asked from family, friends and neighbors. The women clean the entire house on the morning of Christmas Eve. The floor under the table is painted with whitewash. The table legs are chained as a symbol of family ties and unity. Only the family could sit at the table on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve in the Creole parishes of Louisiana, huge bonfires are built on the levee. The fires are constructed as a tall four-sided pyre with timbers laid log-cabin style and fueled by any kind of trash which was stacked in the middle. Today, the building of fires is elaborate and very competitive. Teams of young men organize themselves year after year to build the biggest and most unique fire. 

No matter how you celebrate the holidays in your home and family, the staff at Birchwood Lodge in Sister Bay, Door County, wishes everyone Happy Holidays.  May 2016 be filled with good health and happiness for all.