Have you ever experienced unique Christmas traditions while traveling? 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. In other countries, like Australia, December falls in summer and families may spend Christmas at the beach. Here are some of the most unique Christmas traditions around the world. How many do you recognize?
Christmas Crackers – 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 treats and usually a joke inside.
BBQ in Australia
While many of Australia’s Christmas traditions look similar to ours, there is one striking difference. December falls in Australia’s summer, so because of this, many Australians celebrate with a barbeque or swimming. Another notable difference is that Santa sometimes gives his reindeer a break when he arrives in Australia and enlists the help of a few local kangaroos.
Gavle Goat – Sweden
Gavle Goat is a larger-than-life version of the traditional Swedish Yule Goat made of straw. This huge festive goat goes on display in Gavle, Sweden each Christmas. It is illegal to burn the straw goat down, carrying a penalty of large fines and even jail time. But even so, it has become somewhat of a Swedish tradition to attempt to burn the goat down each year. Officials coat the straw in a flame-retardant solution, and use security guards and cameras to deter people from attempting to burn the goat. Even with all the precautions, the Gavle Goat has been burnt 36 of the 50 plus years of its existence.
Saint Nicholas Day – Germany
Saint Nicholas Day is widely celebrated on December 6th, which is the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas, Patron Saint of children. Children leave their shoes out the night before and wake up to find small toys and treats inside. Nicholas also visits children in schools or at home and in exchange for sweets or a small present each child must recite a poem, sing a song, or draw a picture.
Rollerblading to Mass – Venezuela
In Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, it is customary to rollerblade to Christmas Mass. The nine 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.
Giant Lantern Festival – Philippines
The Philippine Islands know how to throw a great festival. One popular annual festival takes place in San Fernando every year in December. The Giant Lantern Festival is so popular it earned San Fernando the title, “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” The festival attracts spectators from all over the country and across the globe. They are illuminated by electric bulbs that sparkle in a kaleidoscope of patterns and they compete for a prize.
Rice Pudding with Hidden Almond – Scandinavia
No one does Christmas food like Scandinavia. The traditional rice pudding is served in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. This pudding is simply rice with lots of milk and cream cooked over a long period of time. Scandinavians serve it with a pat of butter 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.
Las Posadas – Mexico
Las Posadas 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.
The Yule Lads- Iceland
In the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 troll-like characters come out to play in Iceland. The Yule Lads visit the children across the country over the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. For each night of Yuletide, children place their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts for nice girls and boys and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones. Clad in traditional Icelandic costume, these fellas are also known to be pretty mischievous.
Regardless of traditions, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. For a couple of weeks every year the world takes on a magic glow, people seem happier, and even winter feels more cozy.