A Wonderful World

Holiday Traditions and Celebrations from Around the Globe

Holiday Traditions and Celebrations from Around the Globe
 A globe ornament hanging from a christmas tree Generative AI image

By Mimi Greenwood Knight

Years ago, after my daughter completed a college semester in England, I thought I’d surprise her with a traditional English Christmas. It was fun researching the holiday customs of another culture, but it was no easy task finding a Christmas goose in a U.S. grocery store. If you’d like to shake up your traditional U.S. Christmas, here are some fun alternatives from other cultures.

Deck The Halls

Ever notice how families decorate their Christmas trees on Christmas Eve in movies and TV shows? Who does that? Folks in Austria and Germany, that’s who. In those countries, it’s traditional to decorate the tree on Christmas Eve morning and then wait to turn on the lights that night. Whenever you decide to put up your tree, consider including ornament options from other countries. In Germany, a pickle ornament is hidden somewhere within the tree. The first child who spots it either receives a small gift or the honor of opening the first gift on Christmas morning. You might also include woven paper hearts from Denmark, lucky spider-web ornaments from Ukraine, or straw “Yule goats” from Sweden.

Shake up Your Menu

In Central and South America, Hanukkah festivities often include dishes of fried plantain, whereas, in India, they conclude the Hanukkah meal with a dish of burfi, a dessert of milk and fruit, and jelly doughnuts known as sufganiyot. Enjoy a Parisian-style Christmas Eve feast known as Reveillon, which includes foie gras, oysters, and 13 desserts, including canned fruit, marzipan, and a Yule log cake. If you’re a fish lover, celebrate Christmas Italian style with a seafood-heavy meal known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes. In Portugal, families enjoy a small Christmas Eve meal called Consoada with codfish, potatoes, and a variety of puddings. Italians and Peruvians both enjoy homemade fruit cake. The traditional Christmas dish in Costa Rica is tamales. And in Africa, the Kwanzaa meal is usually synonymous with curry.

Other Fun Traditions

Here’s a tradition I love: in Iceland, exchanging books on Christmas Eve is traditional, then snuggling up somewhere to eat chocolate and enjoy your new read. (Yes, please!) In Japan, families give their homes a good, deep cleaning during the holidays to get a fresh start for the new year. In Ireland, it’s traditional to leave a candle in the window — day or night, to welcome your guests. And in the Netherlands and Germany, children put out their shoes, rather than their stockings, to be filled with treats.

Miscellaneous Holiday Happenings

I haven’t even gotten to the pooping Christmas log of Catalonia, skating to Christmas mass in Venezuela, surfing Santas in Australia, hiding the brooms on Christmas Eve in Norway, nativity scene radishes in Oaxaca, Mexico, or Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Eve in Japan. However you choose to celebrate your holidays — whether you stick with your own traditions or try out some new ones — may your special days be filled with family, friends, and fun.

How They Celebrate

Around the globe, families celebrate much more than Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, Including:

  • Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated in many countries each December 6 with the exchange of small gifts and stockings full of candy and treats.
  • Saint Lucia Day is a Swedish holiday during which children wear white, carry candles, and provide their families with sweet treats.
  • The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, is December 21. In Japan, it’s traditional to enjoy a hot bath infused with citrus fruit to help ward off colds and flu.
  • Little Christmas Eve is celebrated in Norway on December 23 as a time to gather with immediate family and have fun making and decorating gingerbread houses.
  • Three Kings Day is celebrated in Venezuela and the Philippines on January 6 with celebration, gift exchange, and feasting.
  • In Louisiana and other places celebrating Mardi Gras, king cake is eaten on January 6 in honor of the epiphany, said to be when the three wise men visited Baby Jesus. A plastic baby is hidden inside the cake, and whoever gets the doll is responsible for throwing the next king cake party, continuing until Lent begins the day after Mardi Gras.  

    Read more about how to Celebrate Christmas on LivingMagazine.net: CLICK HERE

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