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festive table

Decorate your

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Christmas treeIn December, many people buy a Christmas tree, which they then decorate. Not only Christians but also many people of other religions or none love this tradition and custom – some because of its Christian symbolism, and others just because it's a lovely thing to do. It is often said that before Christianity, there was a festival at Christmastime in which Germanic peoples celebrated the transition from light to darkness, but not all scholars completely agree on this. But this doesn't alter the fact that every year in Belgium a lot of Christmas trees are placed in people's homes and in streets and squares! A real Christmas tree is better for the environment than a plastic tree, especially if you plant it back in the garden after Christmas and reuse it next year!

Christmas wreathChristmas wreaths are often hung on front doors. There are also special Advent wreaths with four candles. For Christians, the green branches refer to the new life (in the form of Jesus's birth) that is coming. Indeed, the word 'Advent' is from the Latin word for 'coming'. Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas Day (25 December). An extra candle is lit every Sunday.

DatesDried dates come from date palm trees that mainly grow in North Africa and parts of the Middle East, and in California and Australia. Dates are often mentioned in the Koran, Islam's holy book. When Muslims fast during Ramadan, they eat nothing during the day. They break their fast when the sun sets by first eating an odd number of dates and drinking a glass of milk.You can see a date palm below.

LatkesAt Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, people eat food that has been fried in oil. This is a symbolic reference to the Hanukkah miracle: a jug of oil that burned for not one but eight days. Latkes are potato pancakes that are fried in oil. You can find the recipe here.

PresentsIn the festive season you will often receive presents. That wasn't always the case! In the Middle Ages, instead of gifts, people were given food such as apples, cakes and dried fruit.But the most important thing about this period is of course not the presents themselves, but having a nice time together!

Moroccan mint teaMint tea is part of Morocco's culture and way of life. It is drunk when people meet up with their family, at weddings, during Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking the Fast), when entertaining guests, and whenever there is something to celebrate! It is prepared in a traditional way, and the most important ingredient is... sugar!The tea and sugar must be mixed in the right quantities, and after preparation, the tea must be poured from a great height into a cup. What do you need? Green tea, fresh mint, sugar, a beautiful (Moroccan) teapot and tea glasses. For a recipe, click here!

HanukkiahThe hanukkiah is a nine-branched candelabrum that is used for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. Hanukkah is sometimes referred to as the Jewish Christmas because they both happen in December, but in fact these two festivals have very little to do with each other! This year, Hanukkah runs from 10 to 18 DecemberEvery night, another candle is lit. The ninth candle is used to light all the other candles.Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. It lasts eight days, and the hanukkiah is placed in the window. The festival is when Jews commemorate the miracle of the cruse of oil: although there was only one cruse (jug) of oil left for the menorah (a candelabrum with seven candles), the candles burned for eight days!Other major festivals in Judaism are Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and Passover (also known as Pesach).

DreidelA dreidel is a four-sided spinning top that children in particular like to play with during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: nun, gimel, hei and shin. These four letters stand for the Hebrew words Nes Gadól Hayá Sham, translated as "a great miracle happened there". This refers to the miracle of the cruse (jug) of oil, commemorated by the Hanukkah festival.The game involves the dreidel spinning around a pot, in which coins, nuts or chocolate are placed by the players. The players take turns spinning the dreidel. When it stops, one of the letters is facing up. Each letter has a different meaning:Nichts (nothing – you get nothing);Ganz (whole – you get everything);Halb (half – you get half);Shtel arayn (put in – you need to put something into the pot).The game continues until no one has anything left except the winner, who has everything!

Arabic lampThis attractive lamp from the Middle East brings light into the room. Various cultures have festivals in which light plays a key role. In the case of Christmas, Christians see Jesus as the light of the world. At Hanukkah, Jewscelebrate light being stronger than the dark. And during the festival of Diwali, Hindus light special lights for the gods. Meanwhile, Muslims view Allah (God) as the light of the world.This focus on light explains why many people decorate their homes with lights and lamps for their festivities.

CribFor Christians, a crib represents the birth of Jesus. According to Christian tradition, Jesus was born in a manger (a feeding trough for animals) in a stable. The scene shows Jesus and his parents Mary and Joseph and also some other figures: various animals, usually an ox and a donkey, shepherds – often accompanied by a few sheep – and the Three Kings or Three Wise Men.In Belgian homes, the crib is placed next to the foot of the Christmas tree or by the fireplace. But the figure of Jesus shouldn't be added to the stable too early, as he wasn't born until 25 December!

Yule logFor Christians, a traditional Christmas dessert is the Yule log. This tradition goes back to an old custom that existed before Christianity, when a tree stump was set on fire. It had to be kept alight for as long as possible and would bring good luck for the following year.Are you a bit of a chef? Click here for the recipe!

HariraThis is a Moroccan soup that is traditionally eaten during festive moments, such as during Ramadan. The soup is highly nutritious, often containing lentils, chickpeas, lots of vegetables and meat. This is important because during Ramadan, Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset. That means they don't eat anything in that time! During that month, Muslims pay special attention to tolerance and generosity. Other religions too, such as Judaism and Christianity, have traditions involving fasting.Every Moroccan family has its own way of making the soup. Would you like to try it too? Click here for the recipe!

Santa ClausAt Christmas, Santa Claus hands out presents to children. He wears a red outfit and a hat and has a big belly. It is said that he lives at the North Pole and sometimes in Finland, where elves help him to prepare the parcels. At Christmas, he travels around using a sleigh that flies through the sky pulled by reindeer so that he can deliver the presents.Santa Claus is a relative newcomer to Belgium, having been popularised in the United States by Coca Cola. Yes, that's right, the soft drink! Dutch settlers spread the story of Saint Nicholas there many years ago, and Americans turned him into Santa Claus (or Father Christmas)! Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus also look rather similar, don't they? Coca Cola found Father Christmas the ideal mascot, and his red clothes were a perfect way of advertising their drink. And that's why he's now so famous!

Christmas stockingsA Christmas stocking is an empty stocking (a long sock) that is hung up the night before Christmas for Santa Claus to put his presents inside. However, most presents are simply placed under the Christmas tree, at least for adults!The tradition of the Christmas stocking comes from the story of Saint Nicholas bringing presents for children. Seeing their stockings drying over the fireplace, he put the presents in there! The United States took over the story of Saint Nicholas, but the Americans call him 'Santa Claus', and there he comes to visit not on 6 December as in Belgium, but at Christmas on 25 December! Say 'Santa Claus', and you'll notice that it's very similar to 'Saint Nicholas'!

Christmas baublesDo you have a Christmas tree at home?How do you like to decorate it? With baubles, tinsel, lights, candy canes or other things? In the past, candles were used, but they were a bit too dangerous as the Christmas tree could catch fire!A star is often placed at the top of the tree. For Christians, this refers to the story of the birth of Jesus, when the Three Kings or Three Wise Men followed a star that led them to the baby Jesus. Want to learn more about this? Then click on the image of the crib!You can see some wonderful Belgian Christmas baubles at the BELvue Museum! Ajeko was a Belgian glass factory that was world famous for its beautiful mouth-blown, hand-painted Christmas decorations.Photo by Philippe de Formanoir

New YearOn 31 December, New Year's Eve is celebrated in many places around the world. On this last evening of the calendar year, we often gather with friends or family to have a nice meal together. At midnight we wish each other a Happy New Year, accompanied by three kisses. Sometimes there are also fireworks outside! Did you know that in Australia they celebrate New Year first, and only a few hours later in Belgium? That is because of the time difference.In other cultures, New Year is celebrated on a different day. The dating system used in Belgium starts from the birth of Jesus (year 1), but the Islamic system begins with the Hegira (migration) of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, and the Jewish system starts from the year in which, according to Judaism, the world was created.This means that New Year is also celebrated at different times:Islamic New Year (Muharram): 9 August 2021;Jewish New Year at Rosh Hashanah: 7-8 September 2021;Hindu New Year during Holi: 29 March 2021;Mahayana Buddhist New Year: 29 January 2021;Chinese New Year, marking the beginning of the Year of the Ox: 12 February 2021.

This game will tell you more about the various customs associated with the end-of-year festivities in Belgium.What do we all have in common? Well, we all love getting together with family or friends. Often presents are also exchanged. We wear our best clothes!Decorate the festive table as you want by dragging items around. You can drag off the screen any items you don't want. What's a dreidel? And what does the crib represent? When you click on an item, a description with more information will appear. After the game you can take a fun quiz about the festive season!If you enjoy learning about different customs in Belgium, be sure to visit the BELvue Museum in Brussels!

When is Christmas celebrated?

6 December

25 December

1 January

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6 December

25 December

1 January

What is this item?

a nine-branched candelabrum that is lit at Hanukkah

a candle typically used during Ramadan

a special candelabrum for Christmas

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a nine-branched candelabrum that is lit at Hanukkah

a candle typically used during Ramadan

a special candelabrum for Christmas

Which type of Christmas tree is the least environmentally friendly?

a real Christmas tree

an artificial (plastic)Christmas tree

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a real Christmas tree

an artificial (plastic)Christmas tree

Useful fact: It all depends on how long you use the artificial Christmas tree for! Making an artificial tree uses a lot of energy. Many are made in China and then flown by plane to shops in Belgium. When you throw it away, it won't decompose like a real Christmas tree. You should keep an artificial Christmas tree for at least 20 years if you want it to have the same carbon footprint as a real Christmas tree.But if you already have an artificial Christmas tree, it is of course better to use it than to buy a new real Christmas tree every year!

Which symbol is the odd one out?

4

Where does Santa Clause live?

in Spain

sometimes at the North Pole, sometimes in Finland

in Australia

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in Spain

sometimes at the North Pole, sometimes in Finland

in Australia

What do we call this Jewish game?

a greidel

a speidel

a dreidel

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DreidelDe dreidel is een vierzijdig tolletje waar vooral kinderen graag mee spelen tijdens Chanoeka, het joodse feest van het licht.Op de vier zijden van de dreidel staan vier Hebreeuwse letters: noen, giemel, hee en sjien. Deze vier letters staan voor de Hebreeuws woorden Nes Gadol Haja Sjam, vertaald als: 'een groot wonder gebeurde daar'. Met het wonder wordt het wonder van de olie bedoeld, dat bij het Chanoeka feest wordt herdacht.Het spel met de dreidel draait om een pot, waarin munten, noten of chocolade gelegd worden door de deelnemers. Om de beurt draaien de deelnemers aan de dreidel en komt een van de letters aan de bovenkant te liggen. Elke letter heeft een andere betekenis:Nichts (niets - je krijgt niets)Ganz (je krijgt alles)Halb (je krijgt de helft)Shtell arein (stop erin / je moet bijleggen in de pot)Het spel gaat door totdat iedereen blut is, behalve de winnaar, die heeftalles!

a greidel

a speidel

a dreidel

2021 will be the Chinese Year of the …

rat

dog

ox

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Tip: If you don't know, try clicking on 2021 on the homepage!

rat

dog

ox

Where in the world is New Year celebrated first on 1 January?

Belgium

China

Australia

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Belgium

China

Australia

NieuwjaarVolgens de christelijke kalender wordt oudejaarsavond op 31 december gevierd. Op deze avond komen we vaak bijeen met vrienden of familie om samen te eten. Om 12u 's nachts wenst men elkaar een gelukkig nieuwjaar, en krijgt iedereen een kus. Soms is er ook vuurwerk buiten!In verschillende culturen wordt nieuwjaar op een andere dag gevierd. Dat is zo omdat de christelijke kalender begint te tellen vanaf de geboorte van Jezus (het jaar 1), maar de islamitische kalender begint te tellen vanaf de hidjra (migratie) van Mohammed van Mekka naar Medina, en de joodse kalender begint te tellen vanaf het jaar waarin volgens het jodendom de schepping van de wereld heeft plaatsgevonden.Hierdoor wordt nieuwjaar dus op verschillende momenten gevierd:- Islamitisch nieuwjaar (Muharram) valt op 9 augustus 2021.- Joden vieren nieuwjaar op Rosj Hasjana, 7 en 8 september 2021.- Hindoes vieren nieuwjaar tijdens Holi, op 29 maart 2021.- Boeddhistisch nieuwjaar, Mahayana, wordt gevierd op 29 januari 2021.- Chinees nieuwjaar, het jaar van de os, begint op 12 februari 2021.

At New Year, people often make New Year's resolutions. Do you have a New Year's resolution?If not, make one now! 32

1

Happy holidays!