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Holiday ornaments on a tree in the Christmas Around the World exhibit.
Croatia to Guatemala

Trees and Traditions

Croatia

“Sretan Božić”

Made from honey-spiced cookie dough, beautiful ornaments (licitars) adorn the Croatian tree. The history of licitars dates back to the 16th century. These ornaments will be conserved for years to come; each one represents a different region of Croatia. On St. Nicholas Eve (December 5), children leave out freshly polished boots; good children's boots will be filled with treats. St. Lucia Day is December 13, when the female head of the household will plant wheat grains in a dish. By Christmas Eve, she ties the sprouted grain with ribbons of red, white, and blue: the colors of the Croatian flag.

Tree decorated by the Croatian Woman Branch #1, Chicago.

Czech Republic

"Veselé Vánoce"

The Czech tree has been part of Christmas Around the World since 1942. This tree's hand-blown and hand-painted glass ornaments from the Czech Republic would be treasured additions to any traditional Czech tree. St. Nicholas Day, celebrated on December 6th, is when the Saint, accompanied by an angel, brings gifts to children who have behaved, and the čert (devil) punishes those who did not. On Christmas Eve, families gather to enjoy baked carp and kuba (a barley, mushroom and onion casserole) and the traditional vánočka (a braided sweet bread, with almonds and raisins).

Tree decorated by the Moravian Cultural Society.

Denmark

“Glædelig Jul”

The Danish tree is adorned with traditional dolls, flags, angels, hearts, muffs and more! The celebration in Denmark begins with Advent, taking place four weeks before Christmas. A wreath crown is decorated with four candles, one lit each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Served on Christmas Eve, a traditional Danish feast includes roast goose and rice pudding in which an almond is hidden. The person who finds the almond receives a gift.

Tree decorated by the Danish Brotherhood in America #35.

Ecuador

“Feliz Navidad”

During the Pase del Niño Viajero (The Festival of the Traveling Infant Child) held in Cuenca, Ecuador, on December 24, costumed children parade through town with floats, animals, and music. Children also bring gifts of fruit to their neighborhood's nativity scenes as offerings to the Christ Child. The Ecuadorian tree represents the different regions and styles found throughout Ecuador.

Tree decorated by the Ecuadorians.

Egypt

"Nofri Shai" (Coptic), “Eid Sa’id” (Arabic), “Merry Christmas”

In accordance with the Coptic calendar, the Copts (Egyptian Christians) observe Advent for 43 days prior to Christmas and celebrate the holiday on January 7. During this time, they fast from all meals for a certain period of the day and then restrict themselves to a vegan diet. As Christmas approaches, Copts decorate trees and their homes with lights and ornaments, and they purchase new outfits for both children and adults. On Christmas Eve, Copts attend a midnight mass, then gather in their homes after the service and feast together in celebration.

Tree decorated by the Coptic Orthodox Community of Chicago.

England

"Happy Christmas"

The English tree pays homage to the country's cultural icons and includes a nod to our beloved royal family, especially King Charles III and his recent coronation. In England, families decorate their homes with holly, ivy, and mistletoe. At night, carolers go from house to house, ringing handbells and singing Christmas songs. People give the carolers treats in return for spreading Christmas cheer. Tea is the drink of choice in England and is an integral part of British heritage. This years' tree is decorated with teacups, tea pots, crowns, and other British items to represent our traditions and culture.

Tree decorated by the Daughters of the British Empire.

Estonia

“Haid Joule Ja Head Uut Aastat”

The largest event featuring Estonian national costumes takes place in the Estonian capital Tallinn every five years. This is the Song and Dance Festival, where most of the 27,000 participants wear national dress. To represent this proud tradition, small dolls in costume decorate the Estonian tree. Specific to each region, the garlands are ceremonial belts, a key part of the national costume. Small, woven snowflakes and festive handmade mittens represent "hand arts," a longstanding custom for Estonian women. The shields are official symbols from each county. Snowflakes and icicles adorn the tree in honor of the cold northern climate.

Tree decorated by the Aavik-Dawson Family.

Finland

“Hyvää Joulua”

This tree features white snowflake and snowball ornaments and ribbons. It also showcases handmade Christmas elves, a very traditional holiday decoration in Finland. All Finns know that Santa Claus, also known as Joulupukki, lives in northern Finland near the Arctic Circle—a short jaunt to the homes of good Finnish boys and girls. Christmas dinner is served on December 24, and Santa arrives afterwards while children are still awake, so they have the chance to greet him!

Tree decorated by the Finnladies of Chicagoland.

France

“Joyeux Noël”

From painters during the Renaissance to contemporary designers, artists take center stage this year showing how French culture holds the arts of all kinds in the highest regards!

Tree decorated by the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) and Alliance Française de Chicago.

Germany

“Fröhliche Weihnachten”

The German tree features candles that embody the lights of the tree, crystals representing the snow and ice of the winter season, and angels personifying the religious component of the Christmas holiday. Gingerbread signifies the famous treats of Europe. The nutcrackers and Hummel figurines showcase the craftsmanship of Germany. Christmas is a time when families come together and celebrate love with hearty Christmas meals. The German Christmas feast includes roasted pig, spaetzles (dumplings), bread, nut strudel, gingerbread, chocolate, and homemade wine.

Tree was decorated in honor of the late Helen E. Meiszner by the Csapo, Meiszner, LaCour Families & Friends.

Greece

“Kalá Christoúgenna”

Presenting a variety of traditions, the Greek tree is decorated with authentic ornaments from Greece. On Christmas Eve, Greek children visit neighbors while singing carols and playing music. They are rewarded with treats and coins. Many families in Greece bake a traditional Christopsomo (Christ bread). The season also brings such delicacies as roast lamb, pork, and kourabiedes (a nut cookie covered in powdered sugar).

Tree decorated by the Hellenic American Academy.

Guatemala

“Feliz Navidad”

The blue and white lights represent the beauty of our country, Guatemala. The tassels represent our rich folkloric background. The different dolls are wearing a few of some of the over 800 different regional traditional indigenous clothing. These colorful woven Traje Tipico represent the history, culture, religion, and personality of each region of our country.

This tree is decorated by Casa de la Cultura Guatemalteca en Chicago.