It’s Christmas Eve! And we’re feeling festive. Today, we’re taking you on a trip around the globe to see some of the unexpected, quirky and cozy Christians traditions from around the world!
Iceland: “The Christmas Book Flood”
Fun fact! Iceland publishes more book per capita than any other country on the world. That being said, it’s no surprise that books play a huge role in Icelandic holiday traditions. Jolabokaflod, which translates to “The Christmas Book Flood,” is celebrated on Christmas Eve, when family members will exchange books and spend the rest of the night reading and eating chocolate. So cozy!
Sweden: St. Lucia’s Day
Christmas traditions begin on December 13th in Sweden. St. Lucia’s Day, the first day of celebrations, honors the patron saint of light. Traditionally on this day, the eldest daughter of a family wakes before sunrise and dresses as “The Queen Of Light” in a long white dress and a crown of leaves. She then will go room to room to serve coffee and treats to each person in the home. An act of service and love.
Japan: Kentucky Fried Christmas Dinner
Most Japanese people will tell you, Christmas is not a widely celebrated holiday. The streets of Japan may be decked with lights and Santa Clauses, but most families do a small gift exchange and do not acknowledge the Christian beliefs tied with the holiday. However, in recent years, a new Christmas tradition has begun! On Christmas Day, people of Japan will feast on none other than Kentucky Fried Chicken! Yep, you read that right. Healthy? Not so much. Quirky? Absolutely.
Philippines: “The Giant Lantern Festival”
Ligligan Parul Sampernandu, or “The Giant Lantern Festival,” is celebrated amongst Philippinos on Christmas Eve in San Fernando. The festival brings families and friends from all over the country to take part in elaborate lantern creation competitions. The lanterns are lit by candle and sparkle throughout the city – illuminating the area and bringing joy and fun to the city.
Colombia: The Day Of Little Candles
Día de las Velitas, or Little Candles’ Day is the start of the Christmas season for Colombians. To honor the Virgin Mary, Colombians adorn their windows, yards and homes with candles and lanterns. But in recent years, the tradition of lighting candles as really exploded. Now, neighborhoods throughout Colombia create incredibly elaborate displays with their candles and lanterns. Some even compete with other neighboring cities to see who can create the most magnificant display! Nothing brings neighbors together like a health competition!
Hawaii: Decorating Palm Trees
Christmas in Hawaii is anything but snowy and cold. But that doesn’t stop the Hawaiians from celebrating the holiday their own way! Although some locals buy imported pine trees from the mainland, others choose to decorate the palm trees surrounding their homes and host a family luau with roast pig and colorful Christmas leis.
Did you know that Ethiopia technically celebrates Christmas on January 7th? On this day, Ethiopians wear white, attend church and look forward to a game of hockey later in the day. Quite like Japan, Christmas is not a widely celebrated holiday in Ethiopia. In fact, most Ethiopians actually call Christmas Day Ganna or Genna after the hockey game they play annually on Christmas afternoon!
Germany: Advent Wreaths
Germany is the home of many Christmas Markets, so there’s no doubt that the country really loves its traditions when it comes to the holiday! However, most people don’t know that four Sundays before Christmas, Germans like to make advent wreaths of pine branches with four colored candles atop. Each Sunday following, they’ll light one candle, sing Christmas carols and eat delicious cookies.
Syria: Gifts From The Wise Men
In Syria, children receive gifts from an unexpected source! According to folklore, the youngest and smallest wise men’s camel fell, exhausted from its long and tiring journey to Bethlehem. This character in the Nativity story is said to push himself, despite his struggles, to make it to see baby Jesus. Today, Syrian children receive gifts one of the camel to honor his loyalty and receive blessings from him.
In Poland, Christmas feasts begin with a “Wigilia” dinner on the eve of Yuletide. At this feast, honored guests invited for the meal begin by sharing a piece of Oplatek, a wafter stamped with holy symbols, and then carry on to a delicious meal of fried carp, fish soup, dumplings, cabbage rolls and more. Bringing guest into their homes, hosts love to share tidings of good joy with those they love most!
The Danish love some good mischief for the holidays! Nisse, an elf, is said to play pranks and practical jokes throughout Christmas. All in good fun, this character is said to live on a farm and wear grey wool clothing. Children of Denmark like to leave a bowl of rice pudding outside on their doorstep so Nisse doesn’t give them much trouble!