From minus 30 °C in Siberia to plus 30 °C in Singapore, from ice skating on a frozen river to eating ice cream at the beach – the seasons around the world when the old year comes to an end and a new year starts couldn’t be more different. But there is one thing that the various countries across the globe have in common: although every culture has its own cultural, spiritual and fun traditions, these customs all connect people, family members and friends. It’s about celebrating together. It’s about togetherness. That is what our global OASE family is all about. Colleagues from all over the world, from Scandinavia to Japan, have gathered together to share their cultural traditions with one another. Be part of the cultural adventure and journey through the different OASE countries to find out about ancient rituals, special decorations and delicious recipes.
Spain | Orujo Festival
This traditional festival has been celebrated in Cantabria every November since 1984. Thousands of people travel to the north of Spain to participate in the celebrations. Orujo originates from the region of Liébana and is mentioned in documents from the Middle Ages found in the monasteries of the region. Have you ever heard of the importance of this spirit liquor, which was once used as currency? Enjoy watching orujo being distilled before sampling it on the streets of the town, taste the different varieties from the local cellars, and discover well-known local dishes, accompanied by music shows and folklore performances.
Germany | German Christmas markets
A typical Christmas market consists of numerous stalls on the streets and squares of a town or city. Christmas baked goods and regional specialities are on offer. Warm drinks, such as mulled wine, are also served. Regularly at a Christmas market there are stalls selling Christmas gifts or handicraft items. Most Christmas markets also include a cultural programme of plays and music. The Christmas market usually gets its special charm from a large Christmas tree and festive lighting.
United Kingdom | Apple Wassailin’
The word ‘wassail’ comes from the old Anglo-Saxon ‘Wæs hæl’, ‘Be in good health’, and the aim is to bless the apple trees to give a good crop next season. Originally orchard workers wanted to ensure a good crop as their wages were linked to the cider they produced.
The wassailers will dance around the apple trees making as much noise as possible to ward off evil spirits. Everyone then places pieces of toast that have been soaked in cider on the branches of the trees in the orchard to welcome the good spirits.
Japan | Yuzu baths
A traditional Japanese custom in winter brings wellness for your senses. In Japan at the winter solstice, many people have the custom of bathing with yuzu fruit, a small, Japanese citrus fruit. The fruit is placed in the 38 ℃ to 40 ℃ hot water either whole or sliced (in a net) or with the juice squeezed in (this is not recommended for people with sensitive skin). Taking a bath with yuzu for 15 minutes to a maximum of 20 minutes is said to ward off bad luck and bring good luck. The aroma of the yuzu relaxes the body and mind.
China | Chinese Spring Festival
Winter brings the Chinese Spring Festival. It is a time to end the year-long journey, when families gather to celebrate with fireworks and good cheer, love and blessings. People celebrate the festival by putting up paper-cut decorations. Some are shaped like koi fish, some in ‘Fu’, some in swallow patterns. On New Year's Eve, the whole family gathers around the table, dining and chatting. Outside, fireworks and firecrackers are lit to make everything lively, as a sign for a good start to the year.
Switzerland | Cheese fondue
A cheese fondue is a dish made of melted cheese. It is prepared across Switzerland in numerous regional variations. Besides cheese, the ingredients are traditionally corn starch, white wine, some kirsch liqueur, garlic, lemon juice, pepper and nutmeg. The heated mixture is placed over the rechaud on the table in a special pot, usually ceramic. The guests place pieces of bread on a long fork, dip the fork in the liquid cheese, and gently swirl it until the bread is coated with cheese.
Austria | Vienna Opera Ball
Every winter, the Vienna Opera Ball is a social highlight of the ball season at the Vienna State Opera. It is Austria’s largest meeting place for cultural figures, entrepreneurs and politicians from Austria and abroad. Around 180 dancing couples from the Young Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Committees are involved in the opening ceremony. The ball begins with the entry of the Federal President of Austria. The committee enters the ballroom to the sounds of a polonaise.
Russia | Russian banya
The Russian banya is one of the oldest Russian traditions. The steam bathhouse was usually built near lakes or ponds, and after taking a steam bath, people ran out naked and jumped into the water. If there was no natural water nearby, then bathing was replaced by pouring cold water from a well. The first Russian baths were built exclusively from logs, and each type of tree exuded a special aroma, which gave the bathing ritual a special charm and produced positive health effects.
Poland | Gingerbread biscuits
- 320 g of plain flour
- 2 tbsp. of honey
- 150 g of sugar
- 1.5 tsp. of baking soda
- 20 g (1 bag) of gingerbread spice (ready-made is easiest, or homemade)
- 2 tbsp. of butter
- 1 egg (+ additionally 1 egg for the egg wash)
- approx. 2–4 tbsp. of warm milk
Sift the flour on a pastry board, pour in the hot honey and mix it in (preferably with a knife). Keep mixing while adding sugar, baking soda and spices, and then add butter and one egg.
Gradually (1 tbsp. at a time) add milk while kneading the dough thoroughly by hand until it is smooth and like shortcrust (you might not use all the milk) – for about 10 minutes.
On a floured board, roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thick. Use biscuit cutters to cut out the gingerbread shapes. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper, approximately 2 cm apart.
Brush the top with a beaten egg (not necessary if you plan to decorate the gingerbread biscuits) and bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees Celsius for about 10–12 minutes, depending on the thickness.
Czech Republic | Vánoční lodičky – Christmas boats
Placing little boats made of walnut shells, with a lit candle inside them, in a bowl or washbasin full of water is a favourite Christmas tradition from the Czech Republic. It is believed that this custom can answer a question or predict the future. It is important that whoever asks the question makes the boat out of a walnut and places it into the water themselves. The number of boats launched corresponds to the number of family members. If a boat moves away from the group, the person who owns the boat will go out into the world. If they stay together, the family will be together. If your boat reaches the other side – successfully and without help – you get what you wished for. If it stays afloat the longest, or the candle stays lit for a long time, a long and happy life awaits you.
Hungary | Halászlé
Fisherman’s soup or halászlé is a hot, spicy, paprika-based fish soup. A folk item in Hungarian cuisine, it is a bright-red, hot dish prepared with generous amounts of hot paprika, onion and carp or mixed river fish. It is a traditional dish from the Pannonian Plain, particularly the Danube and Tisza river regions. With its generous use of hot paprika and, often, hot peppers, halászlé is arguably one of the spiciest dishes originating from the European continent.
Belgium | New Year’s dive
The New Year’s dive is an annual tradition, organised for the turn of the year. It is a collective jump into open water. It generally takes place on New Year’s Day but can sometimes take place on another date in January or December, e. g. Boxing Day. The challenge is to jump into the water on a cold winter’s day. In Ostend, the most famous, De Smeets New Year’s Dive, takes place just after New Year’s.
NETHERLANDS | The Eleven Cities Tour
The Elfstedentocht is the largest skating event in the world, organised by the Royal Association De Friesche Elf Steden. This heroic skating tour starts and ends in Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland, and takes participants along the waterways over a distance of approximately 200 km past eleven Frisian towns. The whole event can only take place during very hard winters when the ice thickness over the whole route is at least 15 cm. The last Elfstedentocht held was in 1997.
Denmark | Hygge
The importance of hygge in Denmark is linked to the Danish weather, where cold, dark, wet months encourage togetherness inside. It’s what Danes, Swedes and Norwegians do when we’re together with our families and friends. Hygge is a cosy way to be together, an expression of the simple joys of life. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge, as is cosying up with a loved one for a movie. And there’s nothing more hygge than sitting around with friends and family, discussing the big and small things in life. Perhaps hygge explains why the Danes are among the happiest people in the world.
United States | Halloween
Halloween is celebrated on the 31st of October in the United States. Children dress up in costumes and go ‘trick-or-treating’, where they go from house to house in their neighbourhoods asking for sweets by saying ‘Trick or treat!’ Other Halloween traditions include carving faces into pumpkins, known as Jack-o-lanterns, visiting haunted houses and watching horror films. Americans will also decorate their houses with pumpkins, bats, spiders, black cats and ghosts in celebration.
Slovenia | Potica cake
- 1 kg of flour
- 30 g of yeast
- 3–4 egg yolks
- 300 ml lukewarm milk
- 120 g butter
- 1 tsp. of salt
- 2 tbsp. of sugar
- fat for the mould
- 600–700g of walnuts
- 200 g of honey
- 50 g of sugar
- 100–200 ml of milk
- 1 Egg
- small amount of rum or brandy
Dough: Prepare the dough in a warm environment. Add a teaspoon of salt to the flour, and mix the yeast with a teaspoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour and 50 ml of lukewarm water or milk. Leave to rise in a warm place. Make a small hole in the middle of the flour, pour in the beaten eggs, yeast mix, melted butter and sugar. Keep adding the remaining lukewarm milk as you mix. Mix for 15 minutes or until you see bubbles and the dough separates from the bowl. Sprinkle the dough with flour, cover with a napkin and leave it to rise, again in a warm place.
For the filling, roast crushed or minced walnuts with milk and sugar. Heat the honey so it liquifies. Add it to the walnuts and add cinnamon. Leave the filling to cool down, then add another egg or two and gently mix them in. Roll out the dough until it is 1/2 cm thick and coat it with the warm filling. Roll it tightly and place it in a baking form. Leave the potica to rise slowly. It will rise somewhat in the oven as well. Before baking, coat the potica with a beaten egg. Bake for one hour at 220 °C (upper/lower heat), and then leave it to cool in the mould for another 15 minutes. Finally, sprinkle with sugar if you wish.
Romania | Sorcova custom
Of all the Romanian customs, ‘sorcova’ is the most beautiful and fun. On the 1st of January, children participate in this custom to wish their family and neighbours all the best of luck and health for the New Year. Children go carolling with the sorcova, a stick or twig decorated with flowers of different colours. On the morning of the 1st of January, children gently tap their parents or acquaintances with the sorcova, wishing them health and luck. Nowadays, the sorcova is made with artificial flowers, but it used to be made of twigs of apple, pear or plum trees cut on the day of Saint Andrew (30 November) or on Saint Nicholas (6 December) and placed in water to sprout. After the carolling is over, the sorcova is kept throughout the year, either in an eastern corner of the house or in a clean place.
Italy | Panevin festival
Panevin is an old tradition from Venetia, Italy. The aim of this festival is to celebrate both the end of Christmas and the beginning of the new year with a wish for abundance. During this celebration, a pile of wood or branches is burned on the evening of the eve of Epiphany, as a sign of forgetting the past and preparing for the coming year. As the fire blazes brightly, the directions of the sparks and the smoke are interpreted by farmers to predict whether the new year will begin with rich or poor crops.
Singapore | Singaporean style Christmas tree decoration
Local families who celebrate Christmas will take this opportunity to put up their Christmas trees and decorate their homes. Here are the simple steps to personalising your tree the Singaporean way. Invest in a high-quality artificial tree, set it up and fluff its branches. Design the decorations around a theme of your liking. Start with a chain of lights, then choose the decorations for your theme. Make sure to include baubles and ribbons in matching colours for your set-up. Cluster the baubles first. Then layer and wrap the ribbons around the tree. For the perfect finish, choose a themed, expressive tree topper. Turn the lights on and enjoy your Singaporean styled Christmas tree!