Dyed and Gone to Heaven – An Online Magazine and Needlework Resource  

Christmas in July

Travel with us as we uncover Christmas Needlework Traditions from Different Cultures
around the World. Join us in December when we continue our feature with Holiday Traditions in other countries.

by Rita Vainius

Navidad in Mexico

In Mexico Christmas has two faces - the age-old traditional the more recent one. The older includes observances of religious holidays. The most popular motifs employed are Christmas stars, angels, bells, candles and the Virgin. The newer celebrations are more secular and decorations depicting Santa Claus, Christmas trees, candy canes and stockings make their appearance.

The most common stitching techniques used are cross stitch and surface embroidery. Needlepoint has increased in popularity since it is now more widely available. Most frequently made are table runners, tablecloths, mantle decorations and door hangings. The stocking has also become very popular.



The Christmas season begins on Dec.12, Dia de Guadalupe, the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This holiday is commemorated with pilgrimages to the shrine of Guadalupe. Endless processions of Mexicans can be seen on all roads from the countryside to the capital, dressed in their magnificently embroidered folk costumes in typically bright colors, carrying banners, flowers and candles. Following this, the Posada season is celebrated between Dec.16 to 24, encompassing nine days of festivities at which the participants re-enact the arrival of the Holy Family at Bethlehem. During these, beautiful tablecloths are used along with other Christmas decorations, usually depicting religious themes. Children take part and their procession usually ends with the famous breaking of the traditional piñata, often in the shape of a 10 pointed star.

Christmas dinner is traditionally celebrated on the night of Dec.24. The decor for this event includes items also depicting secular motifs. Jan. 6, King´s Day, the traditional gift-giving day mirrors the presentation of gifts by the three kings to the baby Jesus. The Rosca de Reyes, King Cake, is served on this occasion and has a small doll in it. Whoever receives the piece of cake containing the doll is obliged to give a party for all present on the Dia de Candlelaria, Feb.2 (Candlemas). The night of Dec.24, when the entire family assembles, is quickly becoming a major gift giving occasion.

Information and stitched examples furnished by Sonya Fitzgerald of L'Aguja Loca in Mexico City, Mexico
e mail: agualoc@mpsnet.com.mx


Weihnachten in Germany

In Germany needlework is popular for holiday decorations such as "ribbons" for the doors, made of linen banding and embroidered in cross stitch with seasonal motifs of wreaths, bells, candles, snowmen, St. Nikolaus, angels and stars. Christmas trees are well loved, as are stars and snowy scenes of all sorts. Every variation of the Santa figure is popular including Santa Teddy bears, Santa kittens etc. - just imagine any animal or character "Santa-rized!" Traditionally, special table linens, placemats, napkins, runners or tablecloths with Christmas motifs are most often used for holiday celebrations.

The most popular technique used for needlework is cross stitch. Needlepoint is still commonly regarded as a "granny's pastime." Surface embroidery is also employed enthusiastically – satin stitched items are well loved, frequently accented by metallic threads. You will always see a few items employing Hardanger, crochet, knitting etc. but those are few in comparison. Secular motifs are by far the more popularly used, especially in central to north Germany. In south Germany you can still find the Holy Family and Baby Jesus in the manger and other religious holiday themes.

The Christmas season starts off with St. Martin's Day (eve of Nov.11) when children go singing in the streets with homemade lanterns. During Advent, wreaths and Advent calendars are hung. St. Nikolaus Day is an especially well loved festivity as he brings surprises at night, except for disobedient children, who are threatened with the "switch." The "shock" of this punishment is most often a cure for misbehavior! Additionally, Dec.24, Heilig Abend (Holy Evening) is an important family occasion to gather for dinner. Christmas is celebrated for 2 days, Dec.25 and 26. Ending the season is the feast of the Epiphany (Epiphania), the visit of the Three Kings on Jan.6.


Information and stitched examples provided by Martina Weber of Chatelaine, Duisburg, Germany
e mail: chatelaine@mail.isis.de
Website: http://www.chatelaine.net


Noel in France

Decorating for the Christmas holidays in France is a fairly recent phenomenon. Favorite items made with needlework are tablecloths and napkins. Lots of linen or aida bands with holiday messages are hung on doors, windows and cupboards. For dinner guests, linen bands are used as napkin holders which the guests take home with them. Little stockings and stitched Christmas balls adorn the tree or fire place. Small decorations of all shapes share space with greeting cards on the ''poêle en faience" (fire place). Small cushions and sachets are stitched to hold Christmas spices. Embroideries executed in round, diamond, triangle and other suitable shapes fill large glass bowls. Cross stitch combined with patchwork are popular technique used to make decorations. Cushions and sachets are executed in needlepoint or made combining stenciling with cross stitch. Tree decorations are often done with crochet and surface embroidery is widely used to embellish all manner of decorations. Beautiful boxes covered with fabric and decorated with cross stitch on the top are made as gifts. On occasion clothing is embroidered with seasonal motifs for the children of the family. A gift item to delight a "little one" might be a bear dressed in a needlework outfit.

If religious themes are employed, the most popular are angels and cribs. The most common secular motifs include Santas and Christmas trees. The pine and hearts design is especially loved in the Strasbourg area. The Christmas tree tradition originated in Alsace, France. Curiously, in former times, the tree was displayed the other way round- with the trunk end hung from the ceiling!

As baking lots of wonderful cookies, called "bredele," is integral to the festivities, special linen bags decorated with holiday motifs are made to hold them, often to give as gifts. Another delightful gift is a bottle of wine between two linen bands and finished off with bows. On wreaths, which can be constructed from straw, pine or even different shapes of crystal, small embroidery items are integrated. These wreaths are commonly hung indoors. Recently, one needleworker used an old iron wreath covering it with numerous stitched items and decorated her garden tree with gingerbread shape embroideries.

In Lorraine, close to Alsace, St Nicolas is the honored visitor, where he goes through the streets to spoil the children. In former times children put out their wooden shoes. Next morning they were full of sweets. For Christmas Eve the feminine version of Santa, "Christkindel," arrives to bring gifts for very nice children, while for others, Santa brings the presents for them to find the next morning. Christmas day, Dec. 25, is celebrated with the family, when good food in the company of loved ones is of primary importance.

Information and stitched examples furnished by Beatrice Orriere of Fils du Temps in Strasbourg, France
e mail: FILSDUTEMPS@wanadoo.fr

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: No part of this feature story nor the included designs can be reproduced or distributed in any form (including electronic) or used as a teaching tool without the prior written permission of the CARON Collection Ltd. or the featured designers.



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