10 Amazing Christmas Traditions From Around The World
Christmas is a time of year marked by visits to Santa, light displays, and Christmas decorations. Many of us sing along to well-known carols and drink delicious hot chocolate when cuddling by a fire. While many Christmas celebrations are similar the world over, there are a few traditions unique to different countries. These traditions are vibrant and rich cultural experiences, making Christmas a special holiday filled with meaning and history.
1- Iceland’s Yule Lads
Iceland’s popular Christmas tradition begins thirteen days before Christmas with 13-troll-like characters named the Yule Lads. They’re mischievous creatures who love to play pranks and each one is named after their favorite way to engage in mischief. Children leave a shoe in the window, and when the Yule Lads come they’ll leave small gifts in the shoes. If the child has been bad, they’ll wake up to potatoes instead.
2- Philippines’ giant lantern festival
In the Philippines, the Christmas season comes with lots of light and color. On the Saturday before Christmas Eve, people gather in the San Fernando––the Christmas capital of the Philippines––to watch and participate in the giant lantern festival. The festival is marked with displays of huge parol lanterns, some as large as fifteen to twenty feet in diameter and lit with as many as 5,000 lights. The display goes from December 14th to January 2nd and is marked with prizes for the best lantern on Christmas Eve.
3- Best Dress in Barbados
Instead of sitting in front of the Christmas tree or heading to various homes to celebrate the day with friends and family, on Christmas morning the people of Barbados head to Queen’s Park. Women wear elaborate dresses while men dress in bespoke suits made specifically for the event. This casual fashion show has become so popular, it’s televised on local Barbados stations and the individuals donned best dressed get their photos featured in the newspaper the next day.
4- Day of the Little Candles in Colombia
Also known as Little Candles Day, this is a widely celebrated holiday tradition in Columbia. It’s observed on the eve of the Immaculate Conception, which is a public holiday, and Day of the Little Candles is considered the start to the holiday season. People light candles or place paper lanterns in their windows, on their balconies or doorsteps, lining their streets, and in public squares. Many streets close to traffic, allowing people to stroll through neighborhoods to admire the displays.
5- The Yule goat of Sweden
While the Yule goat is popular throughout many Scandanavian countries, there are unique ways the tradition has evolved in each country. In Sweden for example, it was believed the Yule goat was a spirit that made sure each home prepared for Yule appropriately. These visits were symbolized by leaving objects of wood or straw shaped like a goat. Today, it’s popular to hang a wooden Yule goat ornament on the tree, while towns and cities erect large Yule goat made of straw and wrapped in red ribbons.
6- Orthodox Christmas in Ukraine
Ukraine isn’t alone in celebrating Christmas on December 7th. As many countries with the Orthodox Church as their main Church, they follow the ancient Julian calendar. Their main Christmas meal is eaten on Christmas Eve, and no one can eat until the first star appears in the night sky. There are traditionally twelve courses for the twelve disciples and afterward, people sing carols either around their tables or out in the streets.
7- Milk and Cookies for Santa in America
The tradition of leaving treats for Santa is one evolved from many different traditions. Some believe it comes from Germanic traditions of edible Paradise Trees, where Santa would nibble on the edible decorations. Other traditions from Norway, Belgium, Denmark, and more, have children leaving Santa treats hoping they’ll receive gifts in return. The tradition of leaving milk and cookies as the specific treats in America began during the Great Depression when generosity and sharing what little they had was emphasized.
8- The Swiss Advent calendar
Using an Advent calendar is a popular tradition around the world. These calendars usually come with chocolates or small trinkets inside, counting down the days to Christmas starting on December 1st. But Advent calendars in Switzerland are more than a simple countdown. Families often make the calendars as a family activity, making special gifts or filling bags with thoughtful treats for every day and every family member. Some families use acts of kindness as their gift or use other creative ways to connect with one another, truly embodying the giving element of the season.
9- El Salvador’s Christmas fireworks
If spending Christmas in El Salvador, don’t expect a silent night on Christmas Eve––or any night in December. Lighting up the night sky with fireworks, firecrackers, sparklers, and lots of music is how the people of El Salvador celebrate the holiday. While fireworks can be lit anywhere and at any time during the month, the main display is on Christmas Eve. These explosive displays light up cities all over the country, all while friends and families spend the entire night, often well into Christmas Day, dancing and eating special holiday dishes made just for the celebration.
10- The Krampus of Austria
The Austrian tradition of the Krampus is one borne from the Middle Ages. Where St. Nicholas will bring children treats for being good, the Krampus will take naughty children away. Traditionally, the Krampus appears on December 4, the night before the Feast of St. Nicholas. Processions of people dressed in Krampus costumes will go through the streets, clanging pots and wearing chains or bells to scare naughty children into behaving.