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Christmas Traditions Around the World

Christmas is a festival of joy, lights, peace, and enthusiasm, which is celebrated on the 25th December every year. It is one of the biggest festivals in the world, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. The festival marks the beginning of Christmastide also known as the Christmas Season, which lasts till ten days from the day of Christmas.

Christmas celebrations are traditionally characterized by mince pies, tinsel-decorated trees, present-giving, and a turkey dinner. It is the time when families and relatives come together to eat, drink, and create beautiful memories with their loved ones. On the occasion of Christmas, people around the world exchange gifts with their close ones and follow different Christmas traditions. The Christmas celebrations vary around the world and here are some countries which follow unique Christmas traditions.

The Yule Lads, Iceland: The Christmas celebration starts in Iceland thirteen days before and 13 tricksy troll-like characters visit different places in the country and do mischievous acts. The Yule lads surprise the children with gifts. For each night of Yuletide, children keep their best shoes by the window, and a different Yule lad pays a visit and leaves gifts for nice boys and girls. And the naughty ones get rotten potatoes as Christmas gifts. The Yule lads dress up in traditional Icelandic costume and celebrate Christmas in a unique way.

Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines: The Giant Lantern Festival is a popular Christmas tradition of the Philippines. It attracts people from across the globe every year to come and watch the great lantern competition. Around 11 barangays (villages) take part in the festival, and whichever village builds the most elaborate lantern will win the competition. Traditionally, the size of the lanterns was half a meter in diameter and they were made from a Japanese origami paper. But gradually, the tradition changed as the lanterns nowadays are made from a variety of materials and have grown to around six meters in size. They are decorated with electric bulbs and illuminate in a kaleidoscope of patterns.

Gävle Goat, Sweden: Gävle Goat’s story started in 1966 in Sweden, when someone decided to design a giant version of the traditional straw goat. The idea behind such a creation was to attract customers to the shops and restaurants in the southern part of the city. It has become a Christmas symbol and is placed in the center of Gävle’s Castle Square. This Swedish Christmas tradition is celebrated differently over the past few decades by burning down the giant goat effigy during Christmas.

Kentucky Fried Christmas Dinner, Japan: The Christmas celebration in Japan took a new and quirky form in recent years. Japanese celebrates the Christmas Day by having Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas dinner. Christmas is celebrated in a simple way in Japan. Apart from following a few small, secular traditions of Christmas such as light displays and gift-giving, Japan has always casually celebrated the occasion. Every year, KFC comes up with a wide range of Christmas-themed delicacies for the Japanese people.

Saint Nicholas’ Day, Germany: The Christmas tradition in Germany is different. Before Christmas, on December 6, Nicholas travels by donkey in the middle of the night to surprise children by leaving little treats such as chocolate, oranges, coins, and toys in the shoes for good children. In exchange for sweets or little treats, St. Nicholas asks children to recite a poem, draw a picture or sing a song. Moreover, he often brings a devil-like character known as Knecht Ruprecht to punish any children who misbehave.

Julebord, Norway: It’s one of the most unique Christmas Eve traditions in Norway that dates back to centuries. The Norwegians believe that witches and evil spirits come out on Christmas Eve in search of brooms to ride on. Thus, on Christmas Eve, people hide their brooms in the safest place in the house.

Shoes by the fire, The Netherlands: Sinterklass, a Dutch name for Saint Nicholas, is viewed to be the gift giver during the Advent season. On Christmas Eve day, he pays nocturnal visits to provide gifts to the children. Children leave their shoes by the chimney or back door with a hope to find treats like gingerbread men, chocolates, letters and many more on the morning of 6th December.

Brazilian Christmas Dinner: Brazilians start their Christmas celebration with a midnight mass known as Missa Do Galo (Rooster Mass). They meet up with neighbors and wish them well for Christmastide. Children leave their socks near the window in the hope that Papai Noel or Bom Velhinho, which means Good Old Man, will come and leave gifts for them in exchange for their socks. The popular tradition of a Brazilian Christmas Dinner is full of Portuguese dishes such as rice, nuts and fruits.

Grand Market Event, Jamaica: Christmas in Jamaica is celebrated in a unique way full of joy and happiness. Every town hosts a Grand Market event where people get an array of shopping options, enjoy eating and dance to their hearts’ content on Christmas Eve. A typical Jamaican Christmas dinner is a must which includes rice, chicken, oxtail, curry goat, roast ham and rum-soaked fruit cake.

Krampus, Austria: In Austria and across the German-speaking Alpine region, Santa’s demonic companion – Krampus is a crucial part of the Christmas celebration. On 6th December, children are asked for a list of their good and bad deeds, where the good children are rewarded with apples, sweets, nuts and the bad ones worry about Krampus.

Thus, this Christmas season plan your holiday, book your hotels and travel around the world effortlessly with Reservations.com to find out more about different Christmas traditions.

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