Holiday traditions, we all have them and they tend to vary slightly from family to family. Putting up the Christmas tree, playing board games, exchanging Christmas cards, and advent calendars are all quite common traditions. But there are some other pretty cool traditions from further afield. Christmas and holiday traditions vary quite a bit the world over and everyone has a slightly different idea of how to best celebrate the festive season. I think these 6 are some of the coolest traditions. Who knows, you might even decide you want to incorporate a few into your Christmas routine.
1. Iceland: The tradition of Jolabokaflod and the 13 Yule Lads
Personally, I think this is by far one of the coolest traditions I’ve heard of. In Iceland, the Christmas book flood (Jolabokaflod) is an institution. In fact, “more books are published per capita in Iceland than any other country”. The majority of these books are sold over the Christmas period. This is because, on Christmas Eve, people exchange books and spend the evening reading and eating chocolate. There seems to be no better way to prepare for Christmas Day in my opinion. In the run-up to Christmas (for 13 days) children are visited by the 13 Yule Lads. They are tricksy troll-like characters that only come out around Christmas time. The kids have to place their shoes by the window. If they’ve been good, they’ll wake up to candy or chocolate, and if they’re bad…rotten potatoes.
2. Philippines: Ligligan Parul (The Giant Lantern Festival)
The Giant Lantern Festival is held in San Fernando, Philippines every year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve. It’s a yearly event that is now tradition and draws thousands of spectators. Each village in the region has its own lantern and there is a huge competition between villages to create the most elaborate lantern. These colorful and intricate lights are made from various materials and nowadays, are about six meters tall. They also now make use of electric bulbs. The lanterns are designed to represent the star of Bethlehem. As a result of this festival, San Fernando is known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.”
3. Germany: Saint Nicholas Day
St. Nicholas Day falls on the 6th of December, known as Nikolaus Tag. It’s important to note that Nikolaus is not the same as Weihnachtsmann (Father
Christmas). Instead, this German tradition sees St Nicholas travels on a donkey throughout the night on December 6th. He leaves little treats like coins, chocolate, oranges, and toys in the shoes of good children all over Germany. St Nicholas also visits children at school or at home and in exchange for a gift, the kids need to recite a poem, sing a song or draw a picture. If you were wondering what is supposed to happen to the bad children, with St Nicholas though, comes a devil-like character called Knecht Ruprecht (Farmhand Rupert). He is usually dressed in dark clothes, covered in bells, and sports a dirty beard. He carries a stick or whip which he uses to punish the naughty children.
4. Colombia: The tradition of Día de las Velitas (The day of little candles)
This is the day that traditionally marks the start of the Christmas season across Colombia. Celebrated every year on the 7th of December, the day aims to honor the Virgin Mary and the immaculate conception. In order to do this, people place candles and paper lanterns in their windows, on their balconies, and even in their front yards. In recent years, this tradition has grown exponentially, and entire towns and cities across the country are lit up with elaborate displays.
5. Sweden:The tradition of the Gävle Goat
Every year since 1966 has seen a giant 13-meter-tall Yule Goat built in the center of Gävle’s Castle Square. Unfortunately, this has led to a much less holiday-spirited tradition of trying to burn down the goat. In the years since 1966, it has been burnt down 29 times with the most recent being 2016. The Yule goat itself is a tradition that dates back to the 11th Century. The legend says that a man-sized goat that had the power to control evil was led across Sweden by St Nicholas.
6. Toronto: The Cavalcade of Lights
In Toronto, the cavalcade of lights marks the beginning of the festive season. The first cavalcade took place in 1967 and was done to “show off Toronto’s newly constructed City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square”. Since then, it has become a Toronto tradition. These days, the square itself and the Christmas tree are lit by more than 300,000 energy-efficient LED lights. These lights shine from dusk to 11 pm every day until the New Year. The square also offers amazing fireworks shows and even an ice rink.