5 Unique Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Posted by Bianca Elsworth on

Of all the holidays, Christmas is by far the most loved, and definitely the most fun! It’s a time for giving, receiving, family, festivity and celebration (and food! So much food). The Christmas season is alive with tradition. From candy canes to Christmas carols, around the world Christmas traditions can be vastly different, reflecting local cultures & customs. Here in New Zealand we have a long list of Christmas traditions, some adopted, and some unique to us! Pohutukawa trees, pavlova (back off Australia!), Boxing Day at the beach, Christmas ham, leaving a beer out for Santa, scorched almonds, a post-lunch game of backyard cricket, and we’re lucky to live in a country where we wouldn’t even question it if Santa turned up in jandals! There are so many ways of observing our favourite holiday, so what are some unique Christmas traditions from around the world? Here are some unique cultural twists on Christmas traditions:

1.Japan - Meri Kurisumasu, with a side of chicken…

We all know and love a certain white bearded man that visits at Christmas time, but in Japan a different white bearded fellow has become synonymous with Christmas… None other than Colonel Sanders and his secret recipe! That’s right, forget the Christmas turkey, KFC has become a traditional Japanese Christmas dinner, thanks to a clever festive marketing campaign launched by the fast-food restaurant in the early 1970’s. The campaign's slogan “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” spawned a national tradition that has been thriving ever since, with families from all over Japan heading to their local KFC for Christmas dinner. KFC branches around Japan report queues around the block, and orders for the big red bucket of chicken are taken as early as October! I can’t imagine Christmas KFC being more satisfying than a roast turkey and Mum’s famous pav, but I guess the clean up afterwards is easy!

 

2. Philippines - A merry & bright Maligayang Pasko…

The Philippines has one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world, with celebrations starting as early as September! One of their most beautiful festive traditions is the Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul), which began in the early 1900’s, and is now so popular that thousands of visitors flock to the city of San Fernando (dubbed the Christmas capital of the Philippines) to witness the colourful festive display. Each neighborhood in the city of San Fernando creates its own enormous lantern through a collective community effort. The lanterns (called ‘parols’) have come a long way from those that originally inspired the event. They now measure up to 20 feet tall, and can have up to 10,000 bulbs! They go head-to-head in a competition, before being exhibited in public spaces around the city.>

My yearly attempt at Christmas lights suddenly seems much less impressive!

 

3. Iceland - Gleðileg jól, and 13 merry trolls…

In Iceland, instead of a single Santa Claus, Icelandic children are visited by 13 trolls known as the Yule Lads. Each mischievous Yule Lad has a name and it’s own character, and these merry but naughty fellows start descending from the mountains one by one, taking turns to visit Iceland's kids on the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. On each of these nights, children leave a shoe out on their windowsill; for good boys & girls the Yule Lad will leave either candy or a gift, and for naughty kids they will leave an old potato…
Christmas trolls… What a great way to scare children into good behaviour!

4. Germany - Frohe Weihnachten, with a pickle on top…

On Christmas Eve in Germany (and now adopted in many other countries around the world), a pickle-shaped ornament is hidden somewhere in the branches of the Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, the first to find it will get an extra present, & it’s also believed that the champion pickle finder will be blessed with good luck for the coming year.
The origins of the Christmas pickle remain a mystery, with some claiming it’s not a German tradition at all. One legend says that the Christmas pickle originated in Spain when two young boys were held as prisoners inside a pickle barrel, only to be saved by Saint Nicholas just in time to return home for Christmas. Others say that the Germans exported glass ornaments to America in the 1880’s, there was an over-abundance of pickles and a clever salesman came up with a story about the pickle being an old German tradition as a way to sell more of them. Either way, a Christmas pickle is a fun tradition we can definitely get behind!

5. Venezuela - Feliz Navidad on wheels…

In the week leading up to Christmas in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, the locals attend a daily church service called Misa de Aguinaldo (Early Morning Mass). What’s so unique about that I hear you asking? Well, they travel to church on ROLLER SKATES! Just when you thought Christmas couldn’t get any merrier, the Venezuelans have gone & made mistletoe at the work party look dull! The tradition is so well-established that many of the streets are closed to traffic to make way for the wheeled congregation. It’s even said that children will go to bed with a piece of string tied round their toe and the other end dangling out of the window, and as skaters roll past they give the string a tug to wake the children up so they can, quite literally, get their skates on. It’s been a while since I’ve donned a pair of roller skates, but when in Rome Venezuela! From feasts of KFC to giant lantern competitions, Christmas inspires a whole range of colourful rituals and traditions all around the world. No matter what Xmas traditions you have in your family, whether it’s matching Christmas pajamas, or leaving Santa a Lion Red (which just so happens to be Dad’s favourite beer too), we hope you have a very merry one! As always, we have a huge range of gift boxes to suit any of those pesky hard-to-buy-for family members, and hey, maybe a Christmas gift box could be a brand new tradition in your family? So get in touch with us to help spread some holiday cheer to those you love, and especially to those you can’t see in person this year.

 

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