Christmas will be here in just 1 week! Can you believe how quickly it comes and goes? Every year it seems to sneak up on us and be gone at the drop of a hat! What does your family do for the holidays? Do you have any weird traditions that none of your friends do? Is there something special you do every year? Whether you have your own traditions with your family or not, these traditions from around the world are sure to make you smile… or scratch your head in wonder! Read on for 10 Christmas traditions from around the world! Putting up Christmas lights and trees, drinking eggnog, eating turkey and singing carols are going to sound pretty mundane after reading the Christmas traditions that happen in other parts of the world!
There may not be a better display of Christmas lights in the world than the ones featured in the Giant Lantern Festival in the Philippines. For the past 111 years at the beginning of December, Philipino designers and electricians team up to build colourful, intricate lanterns. These giant lanterns are then placed in a competition for the best lantern. Then they are exhibited in various places in the city of San Fernando. These lanterns started off as a small showcase of lights, but have evolved into gigantic displays are around 20ft tall! The lanterns are designed to put on a light show set to music and are judged on their outstanding intricate designs. They are on display each year until New Year’s Day. The Philippines sure do have a bright Christmas every year!
Hopefully, you are a good skater if you live in Caracas, Venezuela! Their Christmas tradition takes place every year between December 16th-2th. This is when their special holiday masses are held. Rather than walking, biking or driving over to mass, it is a Venezuelan tradition to strap on a pair of roller skates and skate to Christmas mass! This tradition became so popular with the locals that the government now closes the streets until 8AM so families can safely skate together. Though there is no documentation of where exactly this tradition came from, locals believe it may have derived as an alternative to ice skating or sledding. Since the temperatures in South America are in the high 20’s during December, there is no ice or snow for skating or tobogganing. The Venezuelan locals are skating instead of rocking around the Christmas tree!
The legend of Krampus dates back to the 12 century. The legend says that in early December, the children of Germany would see a terrifying dark-haired creature with horns and fangs. Krampus came for the naughty children and would capture them and bring them back with him to the underworld. That’s a lot worse than a lump of coal! These days, countries such as Germany and Austria have Krampus parades. Locals dress up as devils and chase after children. The Krampus tradition has become so popular that it is also “celebrated” in a few states in the USA as well. You better watch out, you better not pout, because Krampus is coming to town.
Rather than just 1 Santa Claus, The Yule Lads are 13 Father Christmases in Iceland. These Fathers may be merry, but they are also quite the pranksters! These lads take turns visiting children on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. Each night, children will place their shoes on their windowsill. If the children have been good boys and girls, the Yule Lad will leave candy in their shoes for the next morning. If they have been bad, they will leave rotted potatoes instead! The 13 Yule Lad’s do come with names as well. Gully Gawk who steals foam from buckets of cow milk. Sausage Swiper, who loves stolen sausages. Door Sniffer who has an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods. And lastly, Spoon Licker… he’s pretty self-explanatory. Troll the ancient Yule-Lad carol Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.
Frosty the spider, was a jolly happy soul! Did you know that spiders are a Christmas tradition? The most common story explaining the history of the Christmas spider comes from Ukraine. It is said that a widowed mother was too poor to decorate her Christmas tree. A team of friendly spiders stopped by in the middle of the night and spun elaborate webs onto the tree. On Christmas morning, they opened the curtains and the sunlight hit the webs and turned them silver and gold. It is said that this is where tinsel came from! To this day, many Ukrainians decorate their Christmas trees with spider-shaped ornaments and webs. It is also believed that spiders can bring good fortune for the New Year. So the next time you see one of these 8 legged friends in December, let him be, he’s bringing good luck!
Columbians truly love Christmas. They have the Christmas tradition, “Día de las Velitas”, the Day of the Candles. Every year on the evening of December 7th, families and friends of Bogotá get together to light candles and lanterns in parks, malls and offices all over the city. This spiritual tradition derives from the Catholic religion of lighting candles as a symbol of good wishes for yourself and your family and friends. It is a moment to reflect and give thanks. Homes, offices, landmarks and cemeteries are illuminated by these candles and lanterns on the eve of December 8th. The candles are to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception to honour the maternity of the Virgin Mary.
We are starting to see a bit of a similarity between Halloween and Christmas traditions! From evil demons to spiders in a tree to witches. Here we were thinking Christmas was merry and bright! Many Norwegians believe that on Christmas Eve, evil witches and spirits come out to play. For this reason, locals will hide their brooms before they go to sleep. They fear that the witches will come and steal the brooms and take them for a ride during the night. If you wake up this Christmas morning and your cleaning supplies are all gone, at least you will know where they went! Who needs reindeer and a sleigh when you can come in on a broom!
North American’s tend to celebrate Christmas by cooking turkey and enjoying it with the family. Well, it’s almost the same in Japan, except instead they go to their local Kentucky Fried Chicken and eat that for Christmas dinner instead! This tradition stems from great marketing on KFC’s part. Takeshi Okawara managed the first KFC restaurant in Japan and became CEO of the company between 1984-2002. He started the “Christmas party barrel” which was inspired by the North American turkey dinner. Years later KFC has evolved their Christmas meal to not only include a bucket of fried chicken, but also a salad and a Christmas cake! This tradition is so popular that many people of Japan pre-order their Christmas meals so they don’t have to wait in line! Oh, bring us some fried chicken, oh bring us some fried chicken, oh bring us some fried chicken, And bring it right here!
Yule Goats have been a Swedish Christmas tradition for hundreds of years. It is said Santa would ride the goat rather than a sleigh! Goat ornaments are still a very popular Christmas decoration in Sweden. Every December in Gävle, Sweden, a new 42ft, 3-ton straw goat is built and erected in the city. Why don’t they put up the same one every year? Because the tradition of burning down or destroying the straw goat has become just as popular as erecting it in the first place! Locals place bets on how long the straw goat will last before someone destroys it in some way. Every few years the goat will make it all the way to New Year’s Eve. In the past 50 years, the Gävle Yule Goat has been burned down 35 times! Who needs Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, when Sweden has Yule, the Giant Flaming Goat!
Lastly, we have the Christmas pickle tradition. For many years it was thought that this tradition derived from Germany because Woolworth stores began selling glass ornaments in the 1880s and pickles were one of the most popular! However, not many people in Germany seem to have ever heard of this tradition! In this tradition, you hang a pickle ornament on your Christmas tree and the first person to spot it gets a special present or good fortune for the next year! No one seems to know where this tradition came from though there are some rumours: A starving prisoner asking a guard for one last pickle before he died. And 2 Spanish boys stopping at an inn for the night and the evil innkeeper killing the boys and putting them into a pickle barrel. Both of these stories don’t sound very merry to us, but the tradition is fun!
In conclusion, there are tons of different ways to celebrate Christmas. There is way more out there than just Santa and his tiny reindeer. From goats to rollerskates, to giant lanterns, there are many interesting Christmas traditions in different areas of the world. Have a friend who lives in one of these places? Why not reach out to ask them about their unique traditions! Christmas is a great time to wish your family and friends well and good cheer for the New Year.
Looking for some fun things to do to get yourself and your family into the holiday spirit?
Check out our blog post for some fun things to do this weekend!
Happy Holidays from The Susan & Moe Team, we hope you have a safe and Merry Christmas… however you celebrate it!