For many, Christmas is the best time of the year. Here in the states, we have our Christmas traditions such as the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, the Lighting of the National Hanukkah Menorah in Washington, DC, and, of course, Santa Claus, who brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve. Why not take a moment to discover some interesting and quirky traditions from around the globe? We’ve pulled together a few intriguing Christmas customs from other countries – take a look!
On Christmas Day in Caracas, it’s a tradition to go to church early in the morning, but on rollerskates! City streets are closed so the residents can skate to church in safety. Afterward, Venezuelans will go home and eat hallaca, a dish that is similar to a Mexican tamale.
The Danish have their big celebration on December 24th (Christmas Eve) rather than on Christmas Day. A common tradition is for the family to walk around their Christmas tree singing carols. They also have their big feast on Christmas eve and open all their presents. Served with the meal is risalamande, the Christmas dessert, which is similar to rice pudding but mixed with vanilla and whipped cream. Within is a single almond and whoever finds it receives a special gift.
On the Saturday before Christmas Eve, people of the Philippines come from all around to attend the Giant Lantern Festival in San Fernando. There are 11 different villages that compete to see who can build the most extravagant giant lantern. The illuminated lanterns are a wonderful display of creativity and originality. Why lanterns? Probably because for the local Philippinos, light is a symbol of hope.
Christmas is celebrated early in The Netherlands as parties, presents, and feasts occur on December 5th. A few days prior to December 5th, people gather at the nearest port to welcome Sinterklaas who arrives by boat from Spain, where he spends the rest of the year. Prior to this date, children will put their shoes by the windowsill or the fire and fill them with carrots and hay for Sinterklaas’s horses. The children also place drawings and poems in their shoes for Sinterklaas himself in the hopes he leaves presents for them in return.
In England, a popular Christmas tradition is to crack Christmas crackers at the table before starting the meal. Christmas crackers are paper tubes with a tab on each end that when pulled, makes a loud cracking sound. Within the tube are small toys, jokes, riddles, and a colored paper hat that must be worn at dinner.
If you’re in Catalonia during the holidays, you will see hundreds of “Caga Tio” logs in the markets. These little logs have 4 tiny legs, a drawn-on face, and a Santa hat. Children must care for their logs by giving it food and covering up with a blanket at night. If they took good care of their Tio log, then they will receive presents on Christmas Day, but, in order to make the gifts appear, the kids must hit the Tio log with a stick while singing a song.
For thirteen days leading up to Christmas, 13 troll-like tricksters, called the “Yule Lads” roam across the country playing pranks and having mischievous fun. Each night, kids will leave their best shoes by the window hoping to get a nice gift from a Yule Lad. But watch out…. If you’ve been a naughty kid, you will be left with rotting potatoes in your shoes.
December is when summer starts in Australia, so Christmas Day is usually pretty warm. Many Aussies spend the day at the beach or by pool grilling shrimp on the barbeque. While at the beach, oftentimes Santa will show up by boat with sweets for the kids.
Decorating Christmas trees with fake spider webs is a popular tradition in Ukraine. This custom originated from a legend of a widow and her children who were too poor to decorate their Christmas tree. Hearing the sobs of the children, spiders spend Christmas Eve spinning elaborate and decorative webs all across the tree. When the children woke up on Christmas morning, they were overjoyed with what they saw. Since then, spider webs, and spiders, represent good luck and good fortune for Ukrainians.