In the UK, we watch the Queen’s speech, settle down for Christmas Lunch (or Dinner) and unwrap presents that have been waiting under the tree. Around the world, Christmas is celebrated differently, and there are some unique traditions that you wouldn’t find in the UK. Victoria Mileson talks us through some of the world’s most intriguing Christmas traditions.
- KFC Christmas Dinner, Japan
Christmas may not be a national holiday in Japan, but that doesn’t mean they don’t join in the fun. The KFC tradition began when a group of foreigners in Japan tried and failed to find a turkey for Christmas, so had to settle for chicken instead. KFC saw a gap in the market and thanks to their 1974 marketing campaign (Kentucky for Christmas), Japan now celebrates the 25th of December with a trip to KFC.
- Watching Donald Duck, Sweden
Every year, families all over Sweden gather at 3pm to watch “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul” or “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas”. Over 40% of Sweden’s population tune in, and the tradition dates back to the 1960s when there were only two TV channels available—one showing Donald Duck.
Nothing spoils Christmas like a broken or missing broom
- Hiding Brooms, Norway
Superstition gets the better of Norwegians around Christmas time. On Christmas Eve, they hide their brooms so that witches and spirits can’t help themselves overnight and sabotage the special day. After all, nothing spoils Christmas like a broken or missing broom.
- Roller-skating to Church, Venezuela
In Caracas, they close off the roads for everyone to roller-skate to mass on Christmas morning. Children are also usually put to bed earlier to give them enough strength to wake up and skate to church.
- Throwing Shoes, Czech Republic
This tradition is a bit like throwing the bouquet at weddings to see who’s going to get married next. In this Christmas tradition, Czech women stand with their backs to the front doors of their houses and the unmarried women throw a shoe over their shoulder. If it lands with the toe pointing towards the door, the woman will supposedly get married in the coming year.
- Radish Carving, Mexico
The Night of the Radishes (Noche de Rábanos) is an annual event in Oaxaca, Mexico, where people carve radishes into scenes. Sometimes they’re Nativity scenes, sometimes they’re not related to Christmas at all, but either way, they’re very impressive. The best ones receive a prize, and the competition attracts over 100 competitors each year.
- The Yule Lads, Iceland
In Iceland, they have a tradition called Yule Lads where in the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 troll-like characters come out at night. They visit children all over the country and each night a different Yule Lad, each with a different personality, will visit and leave sweets in children’s shoes if they’ve been good, and rotten potatoes if they’ve been bad.
Using spider webs to decorate your tree is meant to pass on good luck
- Spider Webs on Christmas Trees, Ukraine
As well as the traditional tinsel, fairy lights and baubles, Ukrainians decorate their trees with artificial spider webs. The tradition originates with a tale of a poor women who couldn’t afford to decorate her tree and awoke on Christmas morning to find a spider had decorated it with its web, which sparkled in the sunlight. Now, using spider webs to decorate your tree is meant to pass on good luck, and the tradition also common in Germany and Poland.
- Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines
Over in the Philippines, on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, there is the Giant Lantern Festival in the city of San Fernando. Spectators gather from all over the country to the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines” and it’s a bit of a competition between villages of who can make the most elaborate lantern. When the festival started, lanterns were around half a metre in diameter. Today, they can be about 6 metres in size.
- Santa Goes to The Beach, Australia
In Australia, Christmas is under the sun. They opt for bikinis and shorts rather than thick Christmas jumpers and often surfers can be found wearing Santa hats while surfing the waves. In 2015, a group of Australian surfers broke the world record for the largest Santa surf lesson with 320 locals all dressed in Santa outfits raising money for mental health by surfing.
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