Christmas traditions are wonderful and sometimes wonderfully weird. These are some of our favourites that are guaranteed to put you in the festive spirit.
Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines
The Giant Lantern Festival is held each year on the last Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando. San Fernando is known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” Ligligan Parul Sampernandu, as its known to locals, attracts spectators from all over the country and across the globe. It’s a competitive festival between 11 participating villages. Local citizens pitch in to build the most elaborate lanterns. These lanterns were originally simple, paper lanterns not measuring more than 1m in diameter. Today they’re over 6m and made of all kinds of materials and illuminated.
Gävle Goat, Sweden
In the center of Gävle’s Castle Square a 13-metre-tall Yule Goat has been centre of attention since 1966. It arrives for advent and stays until Christmas…if it’s not burned down that is. The display of this goat has led to another ‘tradition’ of trying to burn it down. Since the beginning of this tradition, the goat has been successfully torched 29 times.
This is likely one of the most frightening Christmas traditions. Krampus is a demon-like creature that frightens kids and punishes the bad ones. He is St. Nicholas’ evil accomplice. Good little boys and girls are rewarded with treats by St. Nicholas but if you’ve been naughty then look out. Krampus captures the naughtiest children and whisks them away in his sack.
Kentucky Fried Christmas Dinner, Japan
Christmas is not traditional to celebrate in Japan. There are some small, secular traditions such as gift-giving and light displays, but this holiday is mostly a novelty in the country. However, in recent years, a quirky “tradition” has emerged. On Christmas Day many indulge in Kentucky Fried Chicken. There are special Christmas-themed buckets to a premium roast-bird feast on the KFC menu at this time of year.
The Yule Lads, Iceland
Thirteen troll-like characters come out to play in Iceland 13 days before Christmas. They are the Yule Lads and they visit the children across the country over the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. Children clean and place their best shoes by the window and each night a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts for the good girls and boys. Those that weren’t so good receive rotting potatoes.
Saint Nicholas’ Day, Germany
Not to be confused with Father Christmas, Nikolaus travels by donkey in the middle of the night on December 6. He leaves little treats like coins, chocolate, oranges and toys in the shoes of good children all over Germany. This is a tradition celebrated particularly in the Bavarian region.
Norway may just have the most unorthodox Christmas Eve traditions. The Norwegian people hide their brooms. This tradition dates back centuries to when people believed that witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve looking for brooms to ride on. Even today, people still hide their brooms in safe places so that they can’t be found.
Lighting of National Hanukkah Menorah, Washington, D.C. – US
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is normally celebrated around the same time as Christmas. In Washington a giant nine-metre Menorah has been raised on the grounds of the White House for the eight days and nights of Hanukkah. In addition to the menorah there are festivities with music, activities for kids, and, of course, the lighting of the Menorah.
In Caracas, Venezuela they think roller blading adds a little extra something to Christmas. Every Christmas Eve, the city’s residents attend church service in the early morning. However, for reasons known only to them, they do this on roller skates. This tradition became so popular that the city has closed its’ roads so that people can skate to church in safety. Traditional Christmas dinner here are ‘tamales’ (a wrap made out of cornmeal dough and stuffed with meat, then steamed).
Day of the Little Candles, Colombia
Little Candles’ Day is the day that begins the Christmas season across Colombia. People place candles and paper lanterns in their windows or balconies to honour the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception. Now that the tradition has grown there are some elaborate displays with the best normally found in Quimbaya.
Cavalcade of Lights, Toronto
Toronto starts the holiday season with the Cavalcade of Lights. This light show started in 1967 to show off the newly constructed City Hall in Toronto. There is a large Christmas tree illuminated by more than 300,000 energy-efficient LED lights that shine from dusk until 11 pm until the New Year. In addition, people can have fun ice skating in the square.
For many people this is the most wonderful time of the year. In December, every year the world takes on a magic glow, people seem a little jollier and even winter somehow feels cosy. It doesn’t matter if you are celebrating a religious festival, like Hanukkah or Christmas, or a more secular occasion. You likely have some of your own special customs that make the holiday season special.