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Holiday Tradtions from Around The World

Dec 19, 2022 12:31PM ● By Stephanie Hatley
As many of us prepare for the Christmas holiday, there are numerous traditions even within the United States. Some families share a large meal on Christmas Eve night. Other families attend special church services. Still others set out milk and cookies for Santa Claus. All over the world, people in different countries have their own customs, rituals, and traditions.

Let’s take a look at European nations where Christmas is a major winter celebration. In France, children leave their shoes by the fireplace like children hang stockings in the United States. However, in France, this happens on December 5. The Santa figure for the French is called Father Christmas. Across the border, Germans have St. Nicholas. They celebrate Christmas similarly to Americans by singing Christmas carols, opening gifts, and counting down an Advent calendar. In fact, many of our American traditions originated in Germany. Finally, in Spain, the three kings bring gifts to children, not Santa Claus. On the night of January 5, towns host parades where the kings ride through and fill children’s shoes with presents.

Moving on to Central America, a popular celebration is Las Posadas. This festival celebrates the journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. A small child dressed as an angel leads the crowd through the city, looking for a place for Joseph and Mary to sleep. At each lodging stop, there are refreshments, singing, and Scripture readings.

Food is a major part of many Christmas celebrations. In Japan, it’s common for families to eat chicken from KFC. In Greece, a sweet cookie called melomakarona is soaked in sugar syrup and honey. The world-renowned panettone, packed with raisins, candied fruits, and nuts, is a Christmas delicacy in Italy. Finally, borscht, a red beetroot soup, is a traditional starter on Christmas Eve in Poland.

Some of the more unique Christmas traditions ward off evil and bring good luck. In Norway, people used to believe evil spirits and witches came out during this season, so they hid their broomsticks to keep evil from entering their homes. Even today, Norwegians still hide brooms so evil spirits won’t have anything to ride on. In Wales, a sheet is thrown over a horse skull that is mounted on a pole. Someone gets underneath and walks with the skull around town with a group of people, trying to gain entrance into a local pub. Back-and-forth banter and singing between the troop and the people inside the pub go on for a few minutes until the horse skull is permitted inside. After all, this is good luck for the new year.

There are countless more Christmas traditions from around the world that include parades, gift-giving, and family gatherings. And there are quite a few rituals that may make you raise an eyebrow, like Night of the Radishes in Mexico and the Burning of the Devil in Guatemala. This season, as you prepare to celebrate, do you have more orthodox traditions or do you have an eccentric way to enjoy the holidays?

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