What never ceases to surprise me about the Christmas season are the special, unique traditions that come with it. When it comes to the worldwide celebration of Christmas, there are interesting and unique ways different cultures celebrate and make merry in December.
As you prepare for your own holiday celebrations this year, consider learning about how different countries and cultures celebrate. Not only can you have greater understanding when you meet people from different cultures, you can appreciate seeing your holiday anew. The website Christmas Around the World offers some great ideas and resources for you to consider adding some new perspectives to your traditions.
Alpine countries like Austria have a legend that a devil-like creature called Krampus joins their St. Nicholas Day festivities on December 6. Children are asked for a list of both their bad and good deeds. Good children are rewarded with sweets, apples, and nuts; meanwhile, bad children worry what Krampus might bring them on Christmas morning!
While many countries around the globe celebrate Christmas with sweet treats, in China, the treat of choice is an apple. More specifically “peace apples.” This tradition came about from the similarity of the Chinese word for apple—ping guo—to the word for Christmas Eve—ping’an ye.
As a result, a popular gift to give in this season for the Chinese are apples, sometimes packaged in pretty boxes or decorated with Christmas messages.
Interestingly enough, Christmas has never been a very big deal in Japan. Aside from gift-giving or light displays, the holiday largely remains a novelty. However, in recent years, a new quirky tradition has arisen—a Christmas Day feast of the Colonel’s very own Kentucky Fried Chicken. The festive menu will be advertised on the KFC Japan website, and even if you don’t speak the language, the pictures will make your mouth water.
This special Mexican tradition has found a home in the Christmas celebrations in the United States. The festival of Las Posadas is celebrated between December 16 and 24. Las Posadas remembers the long journey that Joseph and Mary made to Bethlehem. In search of a safe place for Mary to give birth to Jesus, they were continually turned away from full inns; which led them to the humble stable where Jesus is said to be born.
Las Posadas is Spanish for “the inns” or “shelter.” During the celebration, the characters of Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper are all acted out live. A live procession makes stops from house to house, complete with music and singing. On the last evening, children celebrate by breaking open a pinata filled with toys and sweet goodies. The nine days of the Posadas represent the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus.
The Yule Goat in Sweden has been a Swedish Christmas symbol dating back to ancient pagan festivals. However, since 1966, the tradition came to life in a new way when someone decided to make a giant straw goat, known as the Gavle goat. It stands more than 42 feet high and weighs 3.6 tons. The goat is constructed in the same spot every year.
Do you partake in a little known holiday tradition? We’d love to hear it in the comments.