With times already being tight, the advent of the holiday season can add even more stress to a household on a budget. In addition to the expense of family presents and holiday meals, showing your appreciation for the hairdresser, mailman, assorted teachers and tutors and anyone else who comes to mind can leave very little in your wallet to celebrate. Luckily, there are still some holiday traditions that don't cost a thing. I've gone on a virtual trip across Europe to gather some of the best ones for you.
Growing up, one of my best friends would tell me about her family dancing around the Christmas tree while singing wacky songs on a certain day in January. She said on this day everyone would exchange crazy gifts found around the house, like canned corn. She claimed this was a Swedish tradition and called it something that sounded like "Sugar Dot Kanoo." I naturally assumed my friend was making this up in an elaborate scheme to make a fool of me. But sure enough, according to NordicWay.com:
"The Christmas tree is not thrown out before the Twentieth Day Knut, that falls on January 13. And of course this has to be done with a bit of pomp and ceremony. It is fun to throw a party on this day and dance around the Christmas tree for the last time before Ã¬plunderingÃ® it and throwing it out through the window."
If the Swedish plundering of a tree isn't your speed, those of you with fireplaces can keep a Yule Log burning a la the Italians. They used to keep it burning from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day. This tradition comes from a mishmash of the Christian story of Christmas (the log is to be kept lit for Mary to come and warm the baby Jesus by the fire) and old-time pagan purifying for the New Year. I certainly can't responsibly recommend you keep a fire burning for an entire week. But a fire in the fireplace on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve would be a nice way to keep the tradition alive. Or, for us apartment dwellers, there's always the DVD/Blu-ray version.
Free Traditions From Around the Globe I Do Not Recommend
Spain - Hogueras involves people jumping over bonfires on the Winter Solstice in order to keep bad luck and illness away. It does not promise to keep third degree burns away.
Poland - Maybe I'm taking this too personally, but the tradition of the woman of the house sweeping and cleaning all day Christmas Eve doesn't sit well with me. Nor does everyone getting up from the dinner table at the same time, due to the old belief that the first person to rise will die before the next Christmas Eve. Yikes.
Santas.net has loads of other cheap/free traditions for you to borrow from cultures all over the world. Weigh in with your own unusual (and unusually cheap) holiday traditions below!