Christmas is a holiday that is embraced by countries all over the world who have infused this holiday with their own unique and wonderful cultural traditions. Here in the states, we have Santa Claus, elves, presents, and large feasts, while other countries have Christmas customs that are wildly different.
The Philippines – Giant Lanterns
Each December, Filipinos in the city of San Fernando celebrate Christmas with the Giant Lantern Festival. Giant lanterns illuminated by light and decorated with brightly colored elaborate designs are built by several surrounding communities in a friendly competition to create the most extravagant lantern. Light is symbolic to the Filipinos and this beautiful festival symbolizes hope and love through the holiday season.
Ukraine – Spider Webs in the Tree
A popular tradition in Ukraine is to decorate their Christmas tree with fake spiders and spider webs. Stemming from an old legend about a poor woman whose children were upset because they didn’t have any money to buy decorations for their tree, the spiders in the home spun intricate and decorative webs across the tree while the family slept. On Christmas morning, the children awoke to find a beautifully decorated tree that glistened silver and gold in the morning light. Since then, spiders have been considered a sign of good luck and fortune.
Japan – KFC Christmas Dinner
Families in Japan have been enjoying KFC chicken for their Christmas dinner since 1974 when a very successful marketing campaign promoted a bucket of the Colonel’s golden fried best as the perfect Christmas meal. This tradition has really gained steam as more than 3.6 million people enjoy fried chicken on December 25th in Japan. Orders must be put in months in advance.
Germany – Boots by the Door
Christmas is very big in Germany and they have many traditions across the country. One of the more popular ones is for kids to place their cleanest, nicest pair of boots outside their bedroom door on December 5th, the night before St. Nicholas’s arrival. In the morning when they wake, they will find their boots stuffed with candy, nuts, and small gifts.
Austria – Krampus
The biggest Christmas tradition in Austria is to dress up as Krampus rattling chains and clanking bells to terrify children who have been naughty. Based on an old pre-Christian myth, Krampus is a goat-like demon who wanders the streets looking for children who misbehave and stuffing them in his sack to whisk them down into Hell. Each year across Austria men dress as Krampus and walk in parades down city streets.
Italy – La Befana
One of Italy’s more unique Christmas traditions comes in the form of a witch, Le Befana. A tale that dates back to the 13th Century, Le Befana will ride her broom down your chimney to leave presents for well-behaved children who leave food and wine for her. Her visits take place after Christmas though, on January 5th, Eve of the Epiphany.
Iceland – Yule Lads
In the 13 nights leading up to Christmas, each child in Iceland is visited by each of the troll-like tricksters called the Yule Lads. Wreaking harmless chaos across the land, these tricksters will leave candy in the shoes of kids who have been well-behaved and leave rotting potatoes for those kids who have not. With names like “Sausage-Swiper,” “Door-Slammer,” and “Pot-Scraper,” these lads have tons of fun.
England – Christmas Crackers
Christmas in England is very similar to Christmas in the states with one tradition that hasn’t caught on here yet which are Christmas crackers. Placed by everyone’s plate during the Christmas meal, crackers are paper tubes wrapped in Christmas paper with a tab at each end. When the tabs are pulled apart, a large cracking sound will be heard as confetti, candy, and little trinkets fall out. Oftentimes, riddles and jokes are included as well as a paper hat which must be worn by everyone while eating dinner.
One tradition we know that everyone loves is… receiving flowers. Flowers are universally enjoyed by everyone, so spruce up your holiday home or send to someone who’s hard to shop for – flowers always make the perfect gift.