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TOPIC: christmas

Society

What Does Santa Claus Look Like Around The World?

He's making a list, he's checking it twice... But he doesn't always wear a red suit. From Aruba to Finland and Liberia, here's what Christmas looks like around the world.

Across the globe, Santa Claus is recognized as the Christmas gift bearer. But he is not always known as a red-suited jolly man. The tradition of a man bringing gifts to children is traced to stories about the early Greek bishop St. Nicholas of Myra, a small city in modern-day Turkey.

Santa Claus today not only goes by different names, like Father Christmas and Old St. Nick, but is linked to different folktales and cultural practices. Here are lesser known variations of Santa, from the beaches of Aruba to the snow-capped mountains of Finland.

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A Christmas Invitation Lost In Translation

Trasite!

La signora Ernestina is a lovely old lady who lives in a basso near my house. Just outside that tiny street-level studio, she keeps a small altar with the photos of her deceased loved ones, and of those of almost all the neighborhood. When Christmas comes, she adorns it with a thousand lights, baubles and ornaments — enough to compete with any Chinese wholesaler.

The effect is quite picturesque, and in fact yesterday a couple of tourists were standing outside her house to admire the lights.

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No Kindness Under The Christmas Tree

T'is the season for depression ...

"Gennaro, I can't believe it! You always fall into this state of depression around Christmas. There has to be a nice memory that makes you happy again. Think, for example, of back when you were a child. The presents. The whole family gathered together. Tell me, what do you see?"

"I see monsters!"

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Is A Christmas Truce In Ukraine Possible?

Few see reason right now for holiday optimism, though Christmas ceasefires have happened multiple times since the conflict in Donbas started in 2014. A new call by religious leaders has raised hope for at least a pause in the fighting.

Last year at this time, there was good news coming out of Donbas: the simmering seven-year conflict in eastern Ukraine would see a much needed holiday season ceasefire. Negotiators from the Trilateral Contact Group, along with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, had helped seal a Christmas truce. There was even hope that the pause in fighting could lead to a wider de-escalation between pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian troops, and even a lasting peace.

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Of course, we know what happened next. Not only did the ceasefire not last long (like others before it in Donbas), but two months later Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Now, over the past 72 hours, a widening effort is underway for a new Christmas truce in Ukraine.

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Society
Amélie Reichmuth

In Denmark, Beloved Christmas TV Special Cancelled For Blackface Scenes

The director of the 1997 episode complained that TV executives are being "too sensitive."

If there’s one thing Scandinavians take seriously, it’s Christmas. And over the past half-century, in addition to all the family and religious traditions, most Nordic countries share a passion for what's known as the "TV Christmas calendar": 24 nightly television episodes that air between Dec. 1 and Christmas Eve.

Originally, the programs were strictly aimed at children; but over the years, the stories evolved more towards family entertainment, with some Christmas calendars becoming classics that generations of Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and others have watched each year as national and family traditions in their own right.

But this year in Denmark, one vintage episode has been pulled from the air because of a blackface scene.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

War In Ukraine, Day 279: New Kherson Horrors More Than Two Weeks After Russian Withdrawal

While retreating from Kherson, Russian troops forcibly removed more than 2,500 Ukrainians from prison colonies and pre-trial detention centers in the southern region. Those removed included prisoners as well as a large number of civilians who had been held in prisons during the occupation, according to the Ukrainian human rights organization Alliance of Ukrainian Unity.

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The NGO said it has evidence that these Ukrainians were first transferred to Crimea and then distributed to different prisons in Russia. During the transfer of the prisoners, Russian soldiers also reportedly stole valuables and food and mined the building of colony #61.

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In The News
Emma Albright, Renate Mattar, and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Kyiv In The Dark, China’s COVID Record, Stuttgart Christmas Market

👋 Goedemorgen!*

Welcome to Thursday, where 25% of Kyiv remains without power after heavy Russian air strikes on energy infrastructure, China sees record COVID cases, and sorry Thanksgiving, t’is the season for German Christmas markets. Meanwhile, Portuguese news website Mensagem reports from the city of Sintra, in western Portugal, where single parents have banded together to create a new model of joint child care.

[*Flemish]

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In The News
Shaun Lavelle, Anna Akage and Emma Albright

War In Ukraine, Day 265: NATO Escalation Averted After Poland Confirms Missile Strike Was Accident

Warsaw says that the missile that hit Poland was probably a Ukrainian air defense missile that went astray. The Russian-made missile fell on the Polish village of Przewodów, near the border with Ukraine, killing two people late Tuesday.

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Even though the missile was made in Russia, initial US assessments indicated that it had originated in Ukraine.

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Ideas
Susanne Gaschke

For A Holiday Moratorium On Debating COVID

The topic of COVID is dividing siblings, old friends and parents at daycare centers. So maybe we need an experiment and stop sharing opinions, from the dinner table to your local news outlet.

-Essay-

BERLIN — In his first government declaration, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said something about COVID that will be remembered for its understated accuracy: "Nobody is doing so well in these times..." That is a description that also captures the mood of a divided nation that Scholz began leading this month.

Anyone who still claims that there is no polarization over the pandemic either refuses to see it — or has no friends or family members with whom to quarrel.

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In The News
Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

“Milder” Omicron, Tiananmen Statue Dismantled, Dylan’s Decorations

👋 העלא*

Welcome to Thursday where some hopeful reports on the effects of the new COVID variant, a new symbolic crackdown takes place in Hong Kong and the Bard of Malibu phones it in when it comes to Christmas decorations. We also feature a report from Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza on the deteriorating conditions for LGBTQ people in Poland.

🎄⏸️ *Also, a quick heads up: Much of our team will be taking a break next week, so we’ll see you tomorrow for the final edition of Worldcrunch Today of 2021…!

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Ideas
Michela Marzano

Can We Still Say "Merry Christmas"? An Italian Take On The Inclusive Language Debate

The European Commission's efforts to push for more inclusive language are important. But we should be careful and make sure we make room for differences.

-OpEd-

ROME — In Italian, it's Buone feste or Buon Natale? "Happy holidays" or "Merry Christmas"? The controversy triggered over the European Commission's Union of Equality guidelines makes very little sense.

The EU does not prohibit anyone from using the word "Christmas." Such guidelines only serve to highlight the importance of language in preventing inequalities from being perpetuated or worsened.

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Weird
Rozena Crossman

French Antique Tale: A Father’s Christmas Gift From 1946 Cycles Back To Owner

Not your average case of lost and found.

Joseph Carayon was ten years old in 1946, living in the small southern French town of Abeilhan, when his father gave him a bicycle for Christmas. As a newly freed prisoner of war, the father had cobbled the bike together from spare parts, making for a particularly special Christmas gift.

But when he came of age, Joseph began riding a moped and lent the bike to a friend, and never saw it again. Until a brocanteur — a French antiques dealer — regifted the long-lost vehicle to Joseph a month ago.

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