When I think of Christmas I think of the typical Canadian Christmas- white snow, skiing, sledding, hot chocolate, hanging stockings, and putting up a tree and waiting for Santa Claus to come on the evening of December 24th.
But how do other countries celebrate? I was interested in finding out about some Christmas traditions around the world, and had to share with you!
Christmas traditions around the world
Sweden – The Yule Goat.
Dating back to ancient Pagan festivals, the Yule Goat is a Swedish Christmas symbol. In 1966 someone had the idea to make a giant goat made of straw, which is called the Gavle Goat. The reason? To bring customers over to the shops in the Southern part of the city. Every year the goat gets set up in the same spot. You can even watch it live on webcam. In 1985 the Gavle Goat made Guinness book of world records for being the worlds largest goat.
Philippines– Ligligan Parul (or Giant Lantern Festival)
Every year in the city of San Fernando, the “Christmas capital of The Philippines”, the Ligligan Parul (or Giant Lantern Festival) is held. Held on the Saturday before Christmas eve, the lanterns originally started as small simple lanterns made of Japanese Origami paper. Now, there are competitions for the most elaborate lantern.
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Iceland – The Yule Lads.
Instead of the 12 days of Christmas, in Iceland, in the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 mischievous troll like creatures visit the children of iceland who put their best shoes by the windowsill. The trolls will leave candy and small gifts in the shoes of the good children, but the naughty children get shoes full of rotten potatoes.
Japan – KFC
In Japan, Christmas isn’t a national holiday, but it is the time when families eat KFC for dinner. This is because in 1974, KFC bad a very successful marketing campaign in Japan called Kentucky for Christmas. To this day people will order their boxes months in advance, or stand in line for hours!
Austria – Krampus
A tradition more spooky than jolly, in Austria they recognize Krampus, a beast like demon that punishes the bad children. How, you ask? By carrying them off in his sack of course.
Finland – Breakfast
On Christmas morning, the families will sit down together to eat a breakfast of porridge made from rice and milk. Inside one of the bowls is an almond. Whoever finds the almond wins.
At the end of the day, you can expect to find the families warming up together in a sauna.
Germany– Saint Nikolaus Day.
During the night of December 6th, Saint Nikolaus travels around Germany (particularly the Bavarian region) leaving chocolates, oranges, and little gifts in the shoes of good children. He doesn’t travel alone however. He brings along his friend Knecht Ruprecht, or Early and Rupert. He is dressed in dark clothing covered with bells, and is known for his filthy beard. The children fear him because he carries a small whip or stick to hit naughty children with.
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Poland – Oplatek.
In Poland, Christmas starts early. Beginning on Christmas eve, families will share a wafer, called Oplatek, each breaking off a piece to eat and wishing each other a Merry Christmas. Once the first star appears in the sky they may eat dinner. It is customary to leave an extra table place set, just in case someone uninvited shows up unexpectedly.
Portugal and Brazil – Midnight Mass
Families in both of these countries get together for a late dinner on Christmas eve (think 10 p.m.). On the stroke of midnight they toast each other, and exchange gifts. Many then celebrate midnight mass, which is a great chance to meet up with neighbours and afterwards there are fireworks in the town square.
Norway – Hiding their brooms.
Centuries ago Norwegians believed that witches and other evil spirits would come out at night time on Christmas eve, looking to steal brooms to hide. Thus the traditions of hiding their brooms on Christmas eve.
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49% of Ukraine’s population are Orthodox Christian, thus they observe Christmas day on January 7th by walking through the streets, dressed in traditional Ukranian clothing, singing carols.
For a Christmas eve treat, families eat kutya, a dish made from cookies wheat, mixed with honey, nuts, and poppy seeds. Part of the tradition is to throw a spoonful of the kutya to the ceiling, if it sticks then that calls for a good harvest come the new year.
Mexico – Pastorelas
In Mexico, members of the church put on plays called Pastorelas (Shepherds plays), to retell the story of Christmas. Beginning in early December with a religious march that re-enacts the journey of Mary and Joseph, called Los Posadas.
What does Christmas look like for you? Do any of these Christmas traditions around the world sound familiar?