Inexpensive Old World Holiday Traditions

by Lauren Romano
Inexpensive Old World Holiday Traditions photo

Has your family’s Christmas become too commercial? Rekindle the meaning and spirit of Christmas with these inexpensive Old World holiday traditions.

Christmas has changed quite a bit over the years, primarily in how commercialized it’s become.

It’s not uncommon to walk into stores in September or October and see Christmas decorations intermingled with spooky Halloween decorations and back-to-school items. There is an obvious emphasis on gift giving, and the amount that’s spent on those gifts in addition to what one spends on entertaining, décor, and other odds and ends could easily add up to thousands of dollars.

However, Christmas, even in this modern world, doesn’t have to cost a fortune if we focus on the meaning behind it and the traditions that are part of it.

With that said, let’s talk about some Old World-inspired Christmas traditions to try this year that won’t break the bank.

Drink German Mulled Wine

Known as Gluhwein, German mulled wine is one tradition that you can easily do, and it’s something a little different from simply opening a bottle of wine from the store.

Although it’s often found at the Christmas markets in Germany, you might find it delicious enough to serve in your own home. Comprised of brandy, red wine, and other ingredients, it’s served warm and perfect for those chilly winter evenings.

Go Caroling

Where once it wasn’t uncommon to hear carolers outside your door on or around Christmas, the opposite is now the norm.

Rather than waiting to hear carols in a specific location, consider taking popular Christmas songs to the streets to spread a little cheer. Other than buying sheet music if you don’t already have it, it won’t cost you a thing.

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Celebrate St. Nicholas Day

It’s on December 6 in German-speaking parts of Switzerland that good little boys and girls hope to receive gifts like fruit, cookies, chocolate, and nuts from Samichlaus (aka Saint Nicholas). He also discusses the good and not-so-good aspects of a child’s behavior. His sidekick Schmutzli comes along and kids who have not been on their best behavior might not be happy with his presence. The two travel with a donkey.

Burn a Yule Log

Maybe you’ve seen the yule log burning on television or saw it depicted in movies, but it’s actually a tradition that dates back centuries.

If you’ve never tried the tradition, it’s an opportunity to gather with loved ones, tell stories, and hopefully bring some prosperity, health, and luck for the upcoming year.

Cut Down a Christmas Tree

Nowadays it’s not uncommon to go to a nearby tree lot to get a Christmas tree, go to the attic to get one out of the box, or go to the store to pick up one that’s pre-lit.

Instead of going with one of those options, consider going to a Christmas tree farm and chopping down your own tree. Get together with your family, drink hot chocolate, and walk around until you find the perfect Christmas tree for your home.

Put a Christmas Pickle in the Tree

The Christmas Pickle, also referred to as the Weihnachtsgurke, is hidden in the Christmas tree and whoever finds it gets an extra gift. It’s been said to have German roots although the actual origin is up for debate. However, it’s still a fun tradition to do and it will only cost you the price of a (Christmas) pickle.

Make Christmas Pudding with a Hidden Surprise

Christmas pudding, which also goes by the names of figgy pudding and plum pudding, is made weeks before Christmas.

With this British tradition, little items are mixed in, such as a coin for prosperity and wealth, and whoever gets it is also the recipient of the good luck it brings. Just make sure those who opt for a piece are aware of the item inside so as to not unexpectedly find it while eating.

Make Homemade Gifts

Rather than go out and buy presents, make this year the one where you give homemade Christmas gifts instead.

For example, if you’re skilled at crochet, make a blanket, and if you’re an excellent cook, put together a book of recipes. There are so many different, unique gifts that would be perfect for the holiday, and it’s sure to be a gift the recipient will treasure.

Give Christmas Crackers

The British tradition of Christmas crackers is surprisingly easy to make at home. These crackers have a little joke inside as well as a paper hat and small gift, and when you pull them apart, they create a “pop” noise, which is especially fun for children.

If you’re planning on entertaining, Christmas crackers can make for wonderful party favors and the best part is that in addition to starting a fun tradition, you can also customize them and make them in a cost-efficient manner.

Keep in mind, when it comes to doing Christmas traditions that won’t break the bank, it’s all about staying true to yourself, what you want to do, and your beliefs.

While there are those in your life who will love the idea of cutting down on some of the expense, you may receive some negative feedback, such as from someone who has a super-expensive gift on their Christmas list. However, what’s most important are your loved ones as well as the traditions and meaning behind the holiday and what will make you and your heart happy.

Reviewed November 2022

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