Sparkling Christmas trees, festive dinners, and gifts wrapped up in fancy packagings are some of the things that pop up in every person’s mind at the sound of the word Christmas. Each country has its own Christmas traditions and customs and while in some cases they are very similar to the rest, there are a few events around the globe that are utterly unique and completely extraordinary.
Exciting Christmas traditions #1
The Yule Lads, Iceland
Yule Lads are 13 Christmas creatures which, according to the Icelandic folk tradition, visit kids’ houses during the 13 days leading up to Christmas. Children leave one shoe on their bedroom windowpane expecting each one of the 13 creatures to come at night and fill it with a little something. What they’ll find in the morning though, depends on their behavior throughout the year. According to the tradition, good kids get a present while those who have been naughty only get a couple of rotting potatoes. In the Icelandic folk tradition, Yule lads were originally portrayed as mischievous trolls who would appear during the Christmas holidays with the not so gracious intention of playing wacky tricks on people. Each one of them has a different name which indicates exactly what kind of trouble it is known for.
Exciting Christmas traditions #2Day of the Little Candles, Colombia
The Day of the Little Candles (Día de las velitas) on the 7th of December unofficially marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Colombia. On that day, locals honor the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary by placing candles and paper lanterns on their houses’ windowsills and balconies as well as in public spaces such as parks, streets and squares. Numerous special events take place on that day, while in some cities museums and other public spaces stay open until late at night. Locals walk around with family and friends to witness the spectacular decorations and attend the festive shows. Even though The Day of the Little Candles is a traditional holiday celebrated in every city around Colombia, celebrations vary across different regions.
Exciting Christmas traditions #3Christmas Carols, Greece
On Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and Epiphany Eve (January 5th), kids in Greece go door to door to sing Christmas carols (Greek:Kalanda). They usually accompany their singing with metallic triangles or even musical instruments like guitars and accordions. Locals know that their doorbells will start ringing from as soon as the sun rises, so they make sure to have prepared a bunch of goodies such as Christmas cookies and candies to give their little visitors. Nowadays, it is also very common to give a small amount of money in coins to the children singing the carols. Of course, it isn’t obligatory to let every kid knocking on the door sing the ‘Kalanda’, but as the lyrics contain wishes for the landlord and his household, it’s considered good luck for the new year.
Exciting Christmas traditions #4Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines
The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul) is an annual event that has been taking place in the City of San Fernando in the Philippines since 1931. From mid-December until the 1st of January huge colorful lanterns made by local communities are placed throughout the city to light up the night. The lanterns can be as big as 20 feet tall, are made of steel, fiberglass and thousands of LED lights and the best one wins a prize. Star Lantern is a Christmas symbol for Filipinos, so it has become a tradition to create lanterns long before the Giant Lantern Festival takes place. Before 1931 though, lanterns were much smaller than they are today and they were mostly made out of bamboo. San Fernando has become known as the ‘Christmas Capital of the Philippines’ because both locals and tourists gather there for this spectacular event.
Exciting Christmas traditions #5Yule Goat, Sweden
In the town of Gävle in Sweden, the beginning of the Christmas season is marked by the installation of a giant goat made of straw. Known as The Gävle Goat (Swedish: Gävlebocken), the huge statue is displayed in the center of the city on the first day of Advent and stays there until Christmas Day. That is, if it makes it until then. Because since 1966, when the tradition took place for the first time, Yule Goat has been vandalized or burnt no less than 35 times. Therefore some locals have added their own little tradition for the Yule Goat which is betting whether the statue will remain intact until Christmas Day. And if you’re wondering why Swedes have decided to start their Christmas season with a huge goat, the answer is that according to their tradition, Santa Claus was coming in town on the back of a goat.
Exciting Christmas traditions #6Santa Claus Parade, Toronto
Every year on the third Sunday of November, the streets in Toronto get filled with Santa Clauses, reindeers and elves: it’s the Santa Claus Parade. Millions of people gather in Toronto’s city center to watch the dozens of floats passing by and to keep a tradition that has been taking place for over 100 years. With 25 floats, 20-25 bands and around 1,700 participants, it is no wonder Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade is considered one of the largest annual parades worldwide.
Exciting Christmas traditions #7Las Posadas, Mexico
One of the most important Christmas celebrations in Mexico is Las Posadas. Posada translates to “inn” or “shelter” and during this tradition locals reenact Mary’s and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. For the 9 days prior to Christmas Eve, processions take place all over the country with those participating in it holding candles and singing Christmas carols.
Once the procession reaches the home of the family holding the Posada, the people outside the house start singing the traditional Posada song (Canto Para Pedir Posada, which translates to song to ask for shelter) along with the people who are inside the house. Just before the final verse, the door opens and those outside enter the house to join their hosts in singing the final verse. Once the procession is over, families hold a large dinner with plenty of food and drink and of course the traditional piñatas.