Christmas Around The World

Tis the season to be jolly falalalalalalalala…I love Christmas, it’s my favourite time of year. I find the origins of this holiday fascinating, and I love learning about each country’s traditions and customs and how Christmas has developed. I thought it would be fun to do a series on Christmas around the world and share with you what Christmas is like in other countries, starting with part one…

Germany – Norman from Années De Pèlerinage

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Christmas might just be the best time to visit Germany. Plenty of snow, fairy tale castles and Christmas markets around every corner create a truly magical experience. Unlike in the Anglo-Saxon countries, we celebrate on December the 24th. But there is so much more to Weihnachten, as we call it, than just the Christmas tree, the holly mass and lots of presents. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is called “Nicolaus”. On December the 6th, we remember the death of the Saint Nicholas. Children will line up their shoes in front of the door and Saint Nicolaus will stuff them with treats overnight.

In some areas of Germany Saint Nicolaus will come to visit the houses of all children and bring the presents himself. But beware! He is not coming alone. He will usually bring a couple of devilish helpers along. These are called Krampus and are truly frightening to behold. Imagine animal furs, horns, iron chains and a nightmarish mask. So, when he asks the children about their good deeds and their piety, better not lie, because you might be in for a little, playful beating.

historic-christmas-market-munich christmas-market-munich-germany


U.S.A. – Emily from Happynfull

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Christmas in the United States is very festive! Starting the last week of
November, after Thanksgiving, you will generally start hearing Christmas
tunes, seeing Starbucks’ red holiday cups, and admiring Christmas trees
and lights in every neighborhood and shop. There are a lot of traditions and the common theme is to spend time time with loved ones. For the religious, they will often go to a church service on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25. On this Christmas Day, many families will have dinner together, with ham as
the main course. Gifts under the Christmas tree are often exchanged. It is
the one time out of the year that Egg Nog (with brandy or rum) is served!

While every family has varying traditions, one of my favorites is a game
called White Elephant. This is a great idea if you want everyone to
receive a gift, and you have too many people to buy gifts for. It has
become popular in the workplace and in large families. The idea is
everyone participating has to buy a gift (usually a set dollar amount is
given). The gift is wrapped and placed in the center with all of the other
wrapped mystery gifts. Everyone draws a number and grabs a gift in order.
The next person can opt to ‘steal’ a person’s gift or grab a new one. If a
person’s gift is stolen, they can choose to ‘steal’ another person’s gift
or grab a new one. In the end, everyone has a gift but it’s very funny to
see who ends up with what and what gift is the most popular!

Another great gift game is Secret Santa. In Secret Santa, everyone
participating draws a name of another participant in the hat. The
selections are secret and no one knows who has whom. On the gift exchange
day, the wrapped gift is given to the recipient and the person remains
‘Secret Santa’ as they do not know who it came from. While Christmas has become quite commercialized in the United States, there are still a lot of wonderful traditions and beautiful lights that make this holiday my favorite.



Australia – Melissa from Thrifty Family Travel

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Whilst Hollywood would have you all dreaming about white Christmas, this couldn’t be further from reality for Christmas in Australia!  With temperatures averaging anywhere from the high 20sC (70sF) to the high 30sC (86sF) you will find the average Australian family in their swimmers (“togs” as the aussies say) by the pool or at the beach cooling off as opposed to being around the fire place watching snowflakes float to the ground. Australians love getting into the Christmas spirit well before the big day.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas day all Australian families put up lavish Christmas trees complete with beautifully decorated ornaments.  Many Australian love to go crazy with outdoor lights and Christmas displays encouraging children from all over town to come and ohhhh and ahhh at their over the top displays.


On the night of Christmas Eve, families prepare for the big day by putting out a plate of biscuits and a cold beer for Santa, whilst Rudolph is left a carrot and water.  Stocking are put out in hope of being filled to the brim by the morning. On Christmas Day, Mums and Dads are usually woken up far too early by children excited at all the presents Santa has left for them the night before.  Usually after breakfast families pack up their cars and meet with their extended families including Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins for huge lunches which include seafood buffets or cold roast meats, salads and desserts.  Usually the location for Christmas lunch is chosen based on which family member has a pool, or a large living area with air-conditioning so everyone can keep cool.  The day is spent eating far too much food, talking and laughing, spending quality time with family members not seen often enough throughout the year.  After lunch families return to their respective homes, with children usually asleep in the back of the car after such a long day.

Soon after Christmas Day, many Australian families go on family holidays, with a popular choice being camping on one of Australia’s gorgeous beaches.  Families spend their Christmas holidays catching up with families, drinking beer, having barbeques, watching cricket and keeping cool. An Australian Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with family and see little children’s eye light up with joy as they experience the magic of Christmas.



Russia – Liza from Tripsget

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Christmas in Russia is unique and pretty much strange (for all another Christian world). First of all, it’s celebrated on the 7th of January (2 weeks after the “normal” Christmas). Secondly, all the religious people either go to church – there’s usually a holy mass lasting all night long and the most religious people stand there all night (because it’s not common to sit in churches in Russia) or watch the ceremony on TV. It’s not really common to give presents on Christmas or to stay at home with your family at all, and even though Christmas is an official day off for everybody most of the shops, restaurants, services still work on Christmas.

So well, Christmas is not as important for Russians as… the New Year. Yes, New Year! It’s when Santa comes and brings presents to the kids and leaves them under the New Year’s tree (read Christmas tree), it’s the holiday that you celebrate either with your family or friends and when you give presents to everyone. Sounds strange, but that has a reason: Russia (as part of the USSA) was a socialist country, where religion doesn’t play any important role. Thus, most of the Cathedrals were transformed into museums and most of the religious holidays were either forgotten or stayed in the calendar for the sake of appearing.

So now Russia is trying to return to the roots and give a big importance to Christmas once again, but most of the people were raised as atheists, so the attempts were quite unsuccessful so far.


Croatia – Maja from Mexatia

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December is here again! The cities in Croatia are full of Christmas markets where you can buy traditional licitar hearts for your tree or heat up yourself with tasty mulled wine, grilled sausages and fritule (kind of fritters). After strolling around the city for a while, on December 13 we plant Christmas wheat. It symbolizes how successful will be the following year and we put it next to the decorated tree.

As the Christmas comes closer, we start to bake traditional cakes and cookies like makovnjača, orahnjača, kuglof, vanilin kiflice and many others. As a nation, we are known for preparing too much food in any occasion ☺ but nothing says better Christmas is coming than the warm cookie scent spreading from the kitchen, right?

During the holidays, we give lots of attention to the food. On a Christmas Eve day we usually serve a fish (often cod) and the day after roasted turkey with mlinci (kind of pasta). Most of the families still buy the real Christmas tree and decorate it on December 24, together with their family members. Presents are brought during the night by Santa Claus (Djed mraz ili Djed božićnjak), wrapped and placed under the tree. In the morning we wish all the best to each other and have fun opening the presents. Croatia is a Catholic country, but Christmas holidays today are mix of traditional and modern. Still, the days between Christmas and New Year are well spent with family, enjoying each other’s company and tasty food. If we are lucky enough, we get some snow too.




I hope you enjoyed part one of Christmas Around The World and thank you Maja, Liz, Emily, Melissa and Norman for contributing. Check back next week for part two!

Marteen x

Discover the traditions and customs of Christmas from different countries around the world.

Coming Home

This post will be short and sweet as I just want to check in with you all and give you an update on how life is. On August 26th I hopped on a plane to Canada. It was my first solo trip abroad and my first time living in a different country. It was my big adventure. This week I returned home. I won’t delve into the ins and outs of why I returned home but I will say this, Victoria is one the most beautiful cities I have ever been to and yes it’s true Canadians are just the friendliest people. I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts here and my pictures on Instagram of Victoria. Does this mean that my adventures are over? Not a chance! It just means that my priorities have changed and how I want to travel…for now. I’ve always said that there is no right or wrong way to travel and if you don’t want to travel that’s fine too. It’s about doing what’s right for you. Looking to the future, there’s a guide book for a seven day itinerary in the west of Ireland in the works, I’m finally graduating next week with a BA in Heritage Studies after a five year hiatus, and I have flights booked to Edinburgh, London and Bath for the beginning of next year. There’s a lot to be getting on with. I can’t wait to share with you my travel plans for next year in due course. I can say that I will definitely be returning to Canada someday to explore more of the beautiful country but for now it’s good to be home.

Marteen x


Canada | The Butchart Gardens Photo Essay

The Butchart Gardens began life as a quarry. In 1904 Robert Pim Butchart developed a quarry and built a cement plant near Tod Inlet. Robert and his wife Jennie established their home near the quarry. As Robert exhausted the limestone deposits, Jennie thought something beautiful could be made from the pit and so the pit blossomed into the Sunken Garden. People heard of Jennie’s flowers and gardens, and began to visit. Today the gardens consist of five separate gardens: Sunken Garden, Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, Italian Garden and Mediterranean Garden, and is a designated National Historic Site of Canada. I couldn’t put into words the beauty of these gardens and so I thought a photo essay was more appropriate to see the beauty for yourself.

Kneed To Know

The Butchart Gardens is situated at 800 Benvenuto Ave, Brentwood Bay, BC V8X 3X4, just 23km of Victoria. You can get a CVS Tours bus outside the Fairmount Empress Hotel to The Butchart Gardens if you don’t fancy driving yourself. The cost varies depending on the season, at peack season you’re looking at $61.75. But the ticket from CVS Tours includes admission to the gardens aswell. The gardens are open all year round even Christmas Day! Hours vary depending on the time of year. Rates vary also depending on the year, the cheapest time of year to visit is between January 7th – 14th where tickets are $17.75.

Have you been to The Butchart Gardens? What did you think of it? Would you like to visit?

Marteen x

Come on a walk with me through The Butchart Gardens with my photo essay

Canada | Craigdarroch Castle

Craigdarroch Castle is a Designated National Historic Site and coined ‘Canada’s Castle’. Being from Ireland and with all the castles that we have in the country, I just knew I had to visit this place.



Craigdarroch Castle was built for Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant coal baron. The castle was finally completed in 1890. Robert and his wife Joan had two sons, eight daughters and one child who passed away in infancy. Robert unfortunately passed away before the completion of the castle. His death caused much strife among his family as he had verbally promised his two sons that the castle would be left to them, but instead he left his entire Estate and business holdings to Joan. The only people to ever live in the original 28-acre estate were his wife Joan, three of their daughters and two orphaned grandchildren.


Joan passed away in 1908 and left her Estate to her five surviving daughters, one son-in-law, and three of her grandchildren. In order to split the proceeds between the nine of them, the contents of the castle were sold in a three day auction. Since Joan’s death the castle has been a military hospital, Victoria College, offices for the Victorian School Board, and the Victorian Conservatory of Music. Today it’s the Craigdarroch Castle Historic House Museum.



During the 1880s and 1890s there was a revival of the Romanesque style of architecture. Robert commissioned architect Warren Heywood Williams of Portland, Oregon to design Craigdarroch Castle. Williams’s colleague Arthur L. Smith completed the project when he passed away. What became known as the “Richardsonian Romanesque” style can be seen throughout the castle. 11th and 12th century southern French, Spanish and Italian Romanesque characteristics are incorporated into this style.



From the outside the castle reminded me of a fairytale castle with the cylindrical towers and cones on top, almost ‘Walt Disneyesque’.  Walking around I felt an air of mystery about the place, not in a spooky way, but that there was a lot to explore, even beyond what the public were allowed to see. I found it sad that the contents had been auctioned off but was delighted to discover that some pieces of furniture were original to the house, like the table and chairs in the dining room. I loved the grandness and opulence of it, it reminded me of Kylemore Abbey in Connemara. I kept imagining what it must have been like to live and work there, with the hustle and bustle of entertaining and holding dances and how everything had to be just so. Downton Abbey sprung to mind. It was nice to view the servants’ rooms at the top to learn what life was like for them. I was in awe of the work that the conservationists and restorers put into maintaining the building. What sticks with me from the visit is the frame in the dance hall with the beautiful fans and the dance cards with gentlemens’ names written on them. There was stiff competition among ladies to get as many names on their card as they could by the end of the night.


Need To Know

The castle is situated at 1050 Joan Crescent, Victoria, B.C. V8S 3L5. From Downtown Victoria it’s about a 35 minute walk. The castle is open daily from 10am – 4.30pm with extended opening hours from 15th June to 6th September, 9am to 7pm. Admission is $13.95 per adult. Once you’ve paid you’ll receive two leaflets, one a map and the other a history of the castle and you’ll be asked to clean your shoes on the shoe cleaner before entering the main hall. Once you enter the main hall there’s a guide waiting to welcome you. They will give a brief explanation of the castle and what’s permitted and not permitted. The tour is self-guided but there are volunteers dotted around the place if you have any questions. They’re super friendly and very knowledgeable. Oh and photographs are allowed.


Craigdarroch was a fascinating castle for me in terms of history and architecture. Have you been to Craigdarroch Castle? If you have, what did you think of it?

Marteen x

If you love castles you need to visit the magnificent Craigdarroch Castle, coined as Canada's Castle!

Canada | Victoria Photo Essay

Victoria is a beautiful Canadian city situated on Vancouver Island. As the capital of British Columbia it boasts marine wildlife, Victorian architecture, First Nations culture, and so much more. Victoria holds a special place in my heart and I think you’ll understand why from these pictures.

Have you visited Victoria? What did you think of it? If you haven’t visited Victoria, is it a places you’d think you’d like to visit?

Marteen x

Come along on a tour of Victoria with my Victoria Photo Essay

Canada | Getting Your Veggie On In Victoria

Victoria is a wonderful city for vegetarian and vegan food. I set myself a challenge to eat out in non-veggie cafés and restaurants to see if their menus were vegetarian friendly and there was always at least one vegetarian option that wasn’t a leafy green salad. So I was pleasantly surprised. That aside, for this post I’m focusing on three restaurants and cafés that are solely vegetarian or vegan. If you ever visit Victoria do check them out. My favourite was Café Bliss.

Café Bliss

Café Bliss is situated at 556 Pandora Avenue. It opened its doors in 2008 with an ethos of nourishment and bliss. It serves a fantastic menu of smoothies, raw foods, fresh juices and yummy salads. I recommend their apple cinnamon sprouted buckwheat granola for breakfast.


Lotus Pond

The Lotus Pond is situated at 617 Johnson Street. They believe that vegetarianism is more that just a living style. It can also be a window through which great things can be seen from the small. Their Lunch Buffet is pretty much the best lunch special in the city. The decoration is simple and the food is delicious.


Green Cuisine

Green Cuisine is located in the lovely Market Square, downstairs. They’ve been serving Victoria’s best vegetarian food for over 25 years. The food is filling, hearty, healthy and you pay by weight.


Do you like vegetarian or vegan food? Are you a vegetarian or vegan? Are there other vegetarian and vegan eateries in Victoria that I’ve missed?

Marteen x

Check out these vegetarian and vegan eateries in Victoria, BC!

Canada | Victoria Gallery Walk

While I’m not an expert, I love art in all its forms and mediums. I admire the time and work an artist puts into their pieces and how open and curious they are of the world around them. I love how it sparks something in me, not necessarily to paint or to draw or to sculpt, but to create something. So whenever I visit somewhere I like to stroll around discovering street art or galleries and Victoria has a thriving art scene. What I adore about Victoria’s art scene is how it supports local and indigenous art. What better way to learn about the culture of an area you’ve come to visit then through it’s local and indigenous art.

Legacy Gallery

Legacy Gallery is situated on 630 Yates Street. It features the University of Victoria’s permanent collection of work by some of the best known artists of the Pacific Northwest.


Madrona Gallery

Mondrona Gallery is situated on 606 View Street. It features contemporary and historical Canadian paintings and sculptures alongside important First Nations prints, drawings and carvings.


West End Gallery

West End Gallery is situated on 1203 Broad Street. It features art from significant new and established artists from across Canada with a focus on original paintings and glass sculptures.


Alcheringa Gallery

Alcheringa Gallery is situated on 621 Fort Street. It features masterworks from contemporary indigenous artists of the Northwest Coast of Canada, Papua New Guinea and Australia.


What’s wonderful about the Victoria Gallery Walk is that all these galleries are within close proximity of one another and it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon in Victoria. Does art inspire you? Do you like to learn about a specific culture through their artwork?

Marteen x

 Learn about the culture of the Pacific North West of Canada through its indigenous art work on Victoria's gallery walk