Top 10 Christmas Traditions from Around the World

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As the festive season approaches, there’s a universal excitement that envelops the world. Christmas, a celebration steeped in tradition, varies intriguingly from one country to another. While some customs have spread far and wide, others remain unique to their place of origin, telling tales of history, culture, and shared experiences. The holiday season offers a glimpse into the diverse ways people revel in joy and togetherness. This list explores the Top 10 Christmas Traditions from Around the World, showcasing the rich tapestry of rituals that make the season truly magical. From the enchanting lights of the Philippines to the heartwarming feasts of Italy, let’s embark on a Yuletide journey that spans continents and cultures.

1. The Philippines: Giant Lantern Festival

The Philippines: Giant Lantern Festival

The Giant Lantern Festival, or ‘Ligligan Parul,’ illuminates the city of San Fernando, the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” Artisans compete to build the most elaborate lantern, originally crafted from simple materials and now featuring electric bulbs that dazzle in kaleidoscopic patterns. The festival, held on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, is a spectacle of light symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem.

2. Sweden: Saint Lucia’s Day

Sweden: Saint Lucia's Day

In Sweden, the 13th of December marks Saint Lucia’s Day, a celebration of light during the dark Scandinavian winter. Girls don white gowns with red sashes and a crown of candles to portray Lucia, bringing sweet saffron buns to their families, a gesture that honours the saint’s bringing of food to Christians hiding in catacombs.

3. Germany: Advent Wreaths

Germany: Advent Wreaths

Germans begin celebrating Christmas four Sundays before December 25th with Advent wreaths. These wreaths hold four candles, each lit on consecutive Sundays leading up to Christmas. This tradition symbolizes the light and warmth of the season, bringing families together in anticipation.

4. Iceland: The Yule Lads

Iceland: The Yule Lads

In the 13 days leading up to Christmas, Icelandic children enjoy visits from the 13 Yule Lads. These mischievous characters, stemming from Icelandic folklore, leave gifts for good children and potatoes for the naughty ones. Each Lad has his own personality and name, like Spoon-Licker and Door-Slammer.

5. Japan: Kentucky Fried Christmas

Japan: Kentucky Fried Christmas

Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, but a unique tradition has emerged: eating KFC. It started from a successful marketing campaign in the 1970s and has become a festive custom. Families order their “Christmas Chicken” months in advance to enjoy on Christmas Eve.

6. Norway: Hiding the Brooms

Norway: Hiding the Brooms

Norwegians have a unique tradition of hiding their brooms on Christmas Eve. It’s an ancient belief that witches and evil spirits come out on this night, so hiding brooms, which they could potentially steal for flying, is considered prudent to protect households.

7. Ukraine: Spider Webs on the Christmas Tree

Ukraine: Spider Webs on the Christmas Tree

Ukrainians adorn their Christmas trees with artificial spider webs, a practice rooted in an old folktale. The story tells of a poor widow who couldn’t afford to decorate her tree and woke up on Christmas morning to find spiders had spun beautiful webs that turned to gold and silver in the sunlight, bringing good fortune.

8. Venezuela: Roller Skating to Mass

Venezuela: Roller Skating to Mass

In Caracas, it’s customary for the faithful to roller skate to early morning Christmas Mass. This unique tradition is so popular that roads across the city are closed to cars to allow people to skate safely. After Mass, everyone enjoys togetherness with traditional foods and drinks.

9. Italy: Feast of the Seven Fishes

Italy: Feast of the Seven Fishes

Italians celebrate ‘La Vigilia,’ or Christmas Eve, with a banquet known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes. This tradition, stemming from the Roman Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on the eve of a feast day, involves a series of seafood dishes that can range from seven to more than ten.

10. Austria: Krampus

Austria: Krampus

In stark contrast to the jolly St. Nicholas, Austria has Krampus, a horned figure that punishes naughty children during the Christmas season. Krampusnacht, celebrated on December 5th, is when Krampus roam the streets, and festivities include young men dressing up as Krampus to scare children and adults alike.

Christmas around the world is a mosaic of customs and rituals, each with its own story and significance. From the light-laden celebrations in the Philippines to the unusual yet heartwarming Kentucky Fried feast in Japan, these traditions underline the different facets of the Christmas spirit and the universal themes of joy, family, and community. It’s fascinating to see how various cultures interpret the essence of this holiday in ways that resonate with their historical and cultural narratives.

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We’ve reached the end of our Top 10 countdown, and we’d love to hear from you! Do you agree with our choices, or is there something we missed that you feel deserves a spot on this list? Let’s start a conversation – comment below with your thoughts and ideas. Your input might just influence our next Top 10!

If you like this, you might also enjoy exploring Where are the best cultural festivals held globally?

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