8 Unique Christmas Traditions Around the World
Have you ever traveled abroad and experienced unique Christmas traditions? Children in the United States sometimes believe that Santa Claus travels all around the world in one night. But in many countries, children don’t even know who Santa is or have a different Christmas character completely (and some are honestly terrifying). In other countries, like Australia, December falls in summer families may spend Christmas at the beach.
Here are 8 unique Christmas traditions around the world. How many do you recognize?
1. Christmas Cracker – England
If you find yourself celebrating Christmas in Great Britain with friends or family, you might find a “Christmas cracker” by your dinner plate. The cracker is a cardboard tube, wrapped with decorative paper that is tied at either end. After pulling your cracker open with a bang, you will find inside some treats and usually a joke.
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2. BBQ – Australia
While many of Australia’s Christmas traditions look similar to her friends in the Northern Hemisphere, there is one striking difference. December falls in Australia’s summer. Because of this, many Australians opt to celebrate with a barbeque or swimming. Or, they might save these for the day after Christmas — Boxing Day! Another notable difference is that Santa sometimes gives his reindeer a break when he arrives in Australia. Instead, he might enlist the help of a few local kangaroos.
3. Gävle Goat – Sweden
If you’ve ever felt the misery of doing a seemingly pointless task, maybe you can sympathize with the artists who are commissioned to build Gävle Goat. Gävle Goat is a larger-than-life version of the traditional Swedish Yule Goat made of straw. This immense, festive goat goes on display in Gävle, Sweden each Christmas. Here’s the weird part. It is illegal to burn the straw goat down, carrying a penalty of large fines and even jail time. Even so, it has become somewhat of a Swedish tradition to attempt burning this goat down each year. Despite coating the straw in a flame-retardant solution, security guards, cameras and a fire department within 2 minutes, Gävle Goat has burnt to a crisp 36 of the 50-some years of its existence.
4. Saint Nicholas Day – Germany
Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th — which is the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas, Patron Saint of children. While this holiday has become mostly secularized, it is still widely celebrated in Germany. Children leave their shoes out the night before and wake up to find small toys and treats inside.
5. Rollerblading to Mass – Venezuela
In Venezuela, more specifically in the capital city of Caracas, it is customary to rollerblade to Christmas Mass. The 9 Masses leading up to Christmas, known as Misas de Aguinaldo, take place from December 16th to December 24th. During this time, rollerblading to church is not only allowed, but encouraged by the government. The city blocks vehicles on certain streets until 8 am each morning to allow citizens to safely participate in this unique Christmas tradition.
6. Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul) – Philippines
The Philippine Islands sure know how to throw a great festival. One popular annual festival takes place in San Fernando every year in December. The Giant Lantern Festival (called Ligligan Parul) is so popular it earned San Fernando the title, “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” Giant parol lanterns compete for a prize and the hearts of the attendees.
7. Rice Pudding with Hidden Almond – Scandinavia
No one does Christmas food like Scandinavia… So. Much. Butter. The traditional rice pudding is an exception. It is risengrød in Denmark, risgrøt in Norway, or risgrynsgröt in Sweden. This pudding is simply rice with lots of milk and cream cooked over a long period of time. Scandinavians often serve it with a pat of butter (there it is!) or lingonberry jam. Children will search for an almond hidden in one of the bowls of pudding and the lucky winner gets a wish or a special prize.
8. Las Posadas – México
Las Posadas, translating to “the inns” from Spanish, is a 9-day religious festival celebrating Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn on the night of Christ’s birth. A neighborhood or community will celebrate this by having a party at a different home each night. A procession of the party-goers led by a “Mary and a Joseph” makes its way through the town until they arrive at the designated home. The party festivities include prayer, music, food, piñatas,and fireworks.
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