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
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.
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
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: email@example.com
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Noel in France
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!
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.