Christmas celebrations vary from continent to continent, but the sentiment remains the same. It’s a time for cheer, giving back and festivities. It’s a moment meant for friends and families across the world. But what do they do in other places that celebrate forms of Christmas? No matter what you celebrate, there’s a reason why your holiday is so special. These are some of the most interesting Christmas traditions around the world, courtesy of Momondo.
Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines
Held on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, The Giant Lantern Festival attracts people from across the globe to witness its glory. Known as the “Christmas capital of the Philippines,” multiple villages participate in trying to basically build the most intricate lantern possible. When the tradition first started out, the designs were simple and materials were minimal. Now, people use a wide range of materials to construct lanterns with incredibly elaborate designs. These things can be up to six metres in size. Electric bulbs illuminate them enough to sparkle like a kaleidoscope in the sun.
Gävle Goat, Sweden
This 13-metre-tall Yule Goat has been the center of Christmas attention in Sweden since 1966. Built in the center of Gävle’s Castle Square for the Advent, this tradition unwittingly started a second tradition–trying to burn down the goat, for whatever reason. The Goat has been successfully burned down at least 29 times since its inception, with the most recent in 2016. If you want to check on the progress of the Goat, check out the live stream here.
Krampus sounds like something out of the Halloween playbook; a scary demon-like monster scaring the daylights out of children and punishing the bad ones. But this is just St. Nicholas’ evil accomplice, dear ol’ Krampus. For Austrians, St. Nicolas is the one who rewards the children while Krampus whisks the naughty ones away in his sack. During the first week of December and on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, men will dress up like Krampus and scare kids with clashing bells and chains.
Kentucky Fried Christmas Dinner, Japan
Christmas isn’t exactly a huge deal out in Japan, being more of a novelty holiday than anything. Sure people will gives gifts and put out some lights. However, it’s really just for show. But with Kentucky Fried Chicken, things have recently changed in a really unique way–just celebrate Christmas Day with a big KFC feast, that’s all. The festive menu is going to be up soon and while the language might not make sense to you, the pictures still do.
The Yule Lads, Iceland
During the 13 days leading to Christmas, there’s 13 troll-like characters who come out for the time being to chill in Iceland. The Yule Lads, also known as jólasveinarnir or jólasveinar in Icelandic, visit the children across the country in those 13 nights prior to Christmas. For each night of Yuletide, children put their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad drops by; bringing gifts for the good children and rotting potatoes for the bad.
Saint Nicholas’ Day, Germany
First things first, this is not the same as Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas). Nikolaus travels by majestic donkey in the middle of the night on December 6, leaving little gifts in his path: coins, chocolates, oranges and toys in the shoes of good children all over Germany, particularly in the Bavarian region. St. Nicholas also visits children in school or at home;in exchange for a treat, they must recite a poem, sing a song or draw a picture. But it’s important to note that this version of St. Nicholas also has an evil alter-ego–Knecht Ruprecht, or Farmhand Rupert is a devil-like character adorned with a whip who is meant to punish naughty children who are put in his path.
Norway is home to one of the most unorthodox Christmas Eve traditions in the world. Here, people hide away their brooms at night. This is because it is believed that witches and evil spirits came out during this time, searching for brooms to ride away on. People still hide their brooms in the safest part of their house to this day to prevent them from being stolen.
If you love to rollerblade, then you need to head down to Caracas, Venezuela this year. Every Christmas Eve is spent with people making their way to the church service–however, they are doing so on roller skates. A tradition so popular that roads are actually shut down for bladers, the night often ends with a helping of tamales.
Day of the Little Candles, Colombia
Little Candles’ Day marks the start of the Christmas season across the country. People place candles and paper lanterns in the windows, balconies or front yards in honor of the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Mary. Entire towns and cities have found themselves completely lit up in different elaborate manners during this season. In Quimbaya, neighborhoods compete to see who can come up with the best possible arrangement.
Cavalcade of Lights, Toronto
The annual Cavalcade of Lights in Toronto marks the start of the holiday season for the country. Beginning in 1967, the first Cavalcade took place in order to show off the new City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square. The square and Christmas tree are totally illuminated with over 300,000 LED lights that are energy-efficient. From dusk until 11 pm, get to enjoy the lights until the New Year. There’s also ice skating and fireworks to enjoy.
What does Christmas mean to you? For many, it’s the act of joy and giving. Sure, Christmas traditions vary around the world. But we’re all here celebrating the same thing, and you don’t have to travel the world to discover more Christmas traditions to indulge in. No matter what side of the world you’re on, you can truly get into the Christmas spirit anywhere.