By M. C. Dutra
As children, we always looked forward to Christmas so we could spend the day with our families, decorate our houses, wait for Santa Claus, and, especially, open our gifts in Christmas morning. In many countries around the world Christmas doesn't stop there – it might have some aspects of the celebration we’re familiar with, but it also includes different (and sometimes really weird) traditions. Here are some of the most interesting Christmas celebrations worldwide:
The Icelandic Yule Lads are troll-like figures from the Icelandic folklore, known to be mischievous pranksters, but they also have a more benevolent role to Santa Claus. There are 13 of them, and in the 13 days before Christmas, all the Yule Lads come out to play. They visit Children across the country, and youngsters place their best shoes by the window each night so that each Yule Lad leaves them a nice gift if they were nice and rotting potatoes if they were naughty!
To mark the start of the Christmas season across Colombia, the country celebrates the Día de las Velitas (Little Candles' Day). On this day, the Colombians place candles and paper lanterns in the front yards, windows, and balconies, in honor of the Virgin Mary (Jesus' mother according to the Bible). Nowadays, the tradition has grown so much that houses across the country are lit up with elaborate displays and there are even competitions. It is surely an amazing way to light-up your festive season with this tradition!
In the Philippines, the Giant Lantern Festival is held yearly on the Saturday before Christmas eve, in San Fernando, a city which is known to be the "Christmas Capital of the Philippines". In this festival, people compete to create the prettiest lantern, and most of them are extravagant and beautiful. Most of these lanterns are made of Japanese origami paper and lit by candles, but they can also be illuminated by electric lightbulbs that sparkle in a patterned kaleidoscope.
In Austrian tradition, St. Nicholas rewards the nice kids, while his evil accomplice, Krampus, is said to capture naughty children and whisk them away in his sack. The Krampus is a beast-like demon creature and many young men dress up as him during December and roam around the streets frightening and punishing children with clattering chains and bells.
According to German tradition, on the month of December Saint Nicholas (a kind of Santa Claus) travels by donkey at night and leaves gifts such as coins, oranges, chocolate, and toys in the shoes of the nice German children, and he also visits children at home or at school to give them sweets or a small gift – but for that, the child needs to either recite a poem, sing a song, or draw a picture and give it to Saint Nicholas. Additionally, he travels with a devil-like character dressed in dark clothes, covered with a dirty beard and bells: Knecht Ruprecht. His job is to punish any children who misbehave with a whip or a stick.
In 1966, a Christmas tradition was created when a Yule Goat statue was built yearly in the center of Gävle's Castle Square for the Advent (season celebrated in many Christian churches as a time of waiting and preparing for the celebration of the Jesus' birth at Christmas as well as Jesus' resuscitation.). Surprisingly, this Christmas tradition led to another ritual: since 1966 people attempt to burn the statue down – and it was successfully burned 29 times having the most recent destruction in 2016.
The Venezuelan start off their Christmas Eve by going to church – which is something normal to do on that day, but it comes with a twist: they do so on roller skates. This is a ritual mostly present in Caracas, Venezuela, and the reason for that is only known to them. During the last few years the tradition became so popular that roads across the city are closed to cars so people can safely roller skate to church and afterwards return home for a less-than-traditional Christmas dinner of 'tamales'.
One of the weirdest Christmas Eve traditions comes from Norway and it involves brooms. During Christmas Eve many Norwegians hide their brooms with the fear of having them stolen. This tradition dates back centuries to the time when people believed that during Christmas witches and evil spirits came out looking for brooms to steal and hide on, and to this day many people still hide their brooms in the safest place in the house to stop them from being stolen.
Since 1967, during Christmas time Toronto holds the annual Cavalcade of Lights to mark the official start of holiday season. The event features the lighting of Toronto's official Christmas tree, fireworks, outdoor ice skating, and musical performances. It is a really fun event and it is really beautiful to see the tree lighting; it is illuminated by more than 300 000 LED lights that shine until the New Year comes.
10. Washington D.C.
Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday, is widely celebrated in the US and one of the biggest events celebrating the holiday takes place in Washington, D.C. The tradition that occurs since 1979 lasts the eight days and nights of Hanukkah, where they raise on the white house grounds a giant nine-meter Menorah. The first candle is lit on the first night, and an additional candle is lit each successive night, and the lighting of the first candle is done in a ceremony filled with music, speeches and activities.
In Japan, Christmas isn't hugely celebrated like it is on the rest of the world, the Japanese just usually give gifts to others on Christmas and that's it. However, a new weird tradition has emerged recently: a Christmas Day feast of KFC. The fast-food chain advertises every holiday season a festive menu with Christmas-themed feasts, and people seem to enjoy it, and it seems to be a really popular tradition. Weird, right?