All around the world, everyone is getting ready to celebrate the holidays. While we all have our family traditions at this time of year, we tend to forget that not everyone celebrates in the same way – or even on the same day. Here are some of the more unique holiday traditions in other countries:
Philippines. The Saturday before Christmas Eve, the Philippines holds their Giant Lantern Festival in the city of San Fernando which is known as the Christmas Capital of the Philippines. Eleven villages take part in the competition, trying to outbuild the others as they race to create the most elaborate lantern. Originally, the lanterns were made of origami paper, lit by candle and measuring no more than 3 feet across. Today, they are incredible displays of art made of electric lights and other materials and can measure up to 16 feet across. Started over 100 years ago, the festival is a celebration of light which symbolizes unwavering hope to the Filipinos.
Norway. One of the more unusual holiday traditions is the hiding of brooms in Norway on Christmas Eve. This centuries-old tradition goes back to when people believed that witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve looking for brooms to ride on. To this day Norwegians will hide all their brooms, so you better get your cleaning done beforehand!
Sweden. Dating back to ancient pagan festivals, the Yule Goat is one of Sweden’s Christmas traditions. In 1966, they upped the ante when someone decided to make a giant straw goat. Today, this goat is known as the Gävle Goat, and measures over 42 feet tall, 23 feet wide and weighs in at about 3.6 tons. It’s set up in Castle Square the first Sunday in Advent, and has even made the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest straw goat.
New Zealand. While many associate Christmas with a winter wonderland, down under it is actually summer. Their Christmas celebrations usually entail family gatherings around the barbie (grill) and you’ll probably see Santa in sandals and a rugby shirt on the beach. Kiwis also have their own special Christmas Tree, the Pohutukawa, which blooms a bright-red color in December.
Germany. It’s thought that the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree started in Germany in the 16th century. One of the more interesting Christmas tree traditions Germans have is hiding an ornamental pickle in the tree and whichever child finds it gets a present. Full disclosure: there are other stories that have circulated that this tradition could have started in Spain when two young boys were held prisoners in a pickle barrel and Saint Nicholas rescued them.
Mexico. In Mexico, Christmas is centered around the Posadas. In Spanish, a posada is an inn or place of lodging and the Posadas celebrate the Christmas story. Held each evening from December 16th to December 24th they commemorate the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph’s search for a place to stay where Jesus could be born. Posadas in Mexico feature hot food and drinks, sweets, music, and piñatas.
Iceland. In Iceland, you’ll hear tell of the Yule Cat that roams the streets only one time per year. This is not your cuddly kitty-cat, though: It’s said to be a ferocious creature that will eat anyone who doesn’t have new clothes by Christmas Eve. You see, the Yule Cat is the “good behavior enforcer” – children who did their chores before Christmas would get new clothes (i.e., socks) and those that didn’t complete their chores would be fair game for the Yule Cat. It’s also used to inspire generosity – giving to those who don’t have “new clothes” so they can avoid the “consequences”.
Want to celebrate other holiday traditions around the world? Give Luxury Destinations Concierge a call at (805) 236-4437 to start planning your dream vacation today.
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