In the UK, our Christmas traditions are so ingrained that it is easy to forget that other countries have completely different approaches to the festive season. Emma Burnett explores different Christmas traditions around the globe.
Famous for their festive markets, Germans know how to make a magical Christmas. Thousands of Christmas markets are held across Germany each year, as well as in countries across the rest of Europe which have picked up on this tradition. These markets often sell traditional German goods such as flammkuchen flatbread pizza and mulled wine, as well as Christmas decorations and crafts. The markets are typically flooded with twinkling lights and dizzying fairground rides.
However, there is a dark side to a German Christmas, with Krampusnacht or ‘Krampus Night’: a dark counterpart to the day of St Nicholas. Krampus is supposed to be a goat-like demon figure who punishes naughty children, as an alternative to St Nicholas who rewards ‘good’ children. In some parts of Germany, adults take part in Krampuslauf or the ‘Krampus Run’, where they dress up as the devilish figure and run through the streets.
Christmas dinner in Japan is strikingly different to the UK’s traditional roast dinner, taking the form of a bucket of fried chicken from KFC
With a very small Christian population, Christmas in Japan is nothing less than unique. Although there is the conventional exchanging of gifts, a Japanese Christmas is seemingly driven by commercialism rather than religious celebration. Towns and cities are decorated with trees and illuminations, but supposedly this is more about the attraction of tourists as opposed to the religious significance of the holiday. Christmas dinner in Japan is strikingly different to the UK’s traditional roast dinner, taking the form of a bucket of fried chicken from KFC. Introduced by the 1974 KFC Campaign ‘Kentucky for Christmas’, this tradition is certainly a contender for most bizarre.
For our friends on the other side of the world, the festive season falls in the dead of summer. Now that’s a contrast to a British Christmas if I’ve ever heard one! Aussies swap a White Christmas for Christmas on the beach, with their festive meal of choice being cooked on ‘the barbie’. Thousands of people flock to Bondi Beach each Christmas, often donning Santa hats and costumes, to spend their days surfing and playing volleyball. Traditions in Australia aren’t completely different to the UK, however, as decorating a Christmas tree, exchanging gifts and singing carols are still staples of the yuletide period.
if you catch your pets deep in conversation this Christmas – don’t just write it off as a side effect of your drunken imagination
Known as Bo?e Narodzenie (‘Birth of God’) in Polish, Christmas is, similar to the UK, one of the most important holidays of the year in Poland. The festive season officially starts on the 6th of December, when Mikolaj or ‘Day of Santa Claus’ is celebrated by leaving a pair of boots outside your room or house for Santa to fill with small gifts (such as fruit, sweets and toys). On Christmas Eve, Poles will traditionally take part in a feast of twelve dishes which represent each month of the year, as well as the twelve Apostles of Jesus. Unusually, this feast is completely meatless, and is laid out over a white tablecloth and hay which represents the birth of Jesus in the stable. Another interesting aspect of Polish Christmas Eve is the belief that, on this day in particular, all animals are given the ability to take on a human voice, as a gift for their presence during the birth of Christ. So, if you catch your pets deep in conversation this Christmas – don’t just write it off as a side effect of your drunken imagination!
next Christmas, forget decorating the house, Christmas crackers, figgy pudding and sprouts
Over in South America, Christmas celebrations in Mexico are similarly centred around the religious significance of the holiday. From the 16th to the 24th of December, Mexico’s Las Posadas tradition has it that children take to the streets with candles, singing and begging for shelter, in homage to Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn in the Nativity story. Mexicans also celebrate Los Santos Inocentes (Day of Innocent Saints) on December 28, which honours the babies killed by King Herod in the biblical Christmas story. This tradition involves telling bare-faced lies and pulling pranks – who knew Mexico had their own ‘April Fool’s Day’?
So, next Christmas, forget decorating the house, Christmas crackers, figgy pudding and sprouts – how about incorporating some of these unique traditions from across the world in your celebrations?
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