Continental festivities include chocolate logs in Paris, tree-cutting in Norway and plenty of fish: eel in Naples, carp in Prague and fermented skate in Iceland
As Orthodox Christians, Ukrainians celebrate Christmas in January starting with a 12-dish feast called Svyatyi Vechir (Holy Evening) on January 6. On the morning of January 7, singers go from house to house wearing colourful embroidered clothes and carrying the star of Bethlehem to symbolise the birth of Jesus. The procession is often accompanied by a traditional vertep (a portable wooden puppet theatre that first appeared in the 17th century). I remember the thrill of participating in the carol singing when I was a child. I was regularly cast as an angel in the nativity plays on the streets of my hometown, Uzhhorod in western Ukraine. South of Kiev, the open-air Pyrohiv Museum of Folk Architecture and Life showcases the traditions of Ukrainian Christmas among old village houses and windmills. On 7 January the museum recreates a typical Ukrainian rural Christmas celebration with carols, food tastings and a church service. For a more urban experience, St Sophia’s Square in central Kiev holds a procession of Bethlehem stars.