Studio Brunstrum

Global Holiday Traditions Around the World

December 12, 2018

Explore Studio Brunstrum's favorite holiday traditions from around the world!

I find I’m the happiest when I’m continually learning and discovering something new. I love factory tours, behind-the-scenes videos, and biographies. The “why” behind an idea or item is what fascinates me most. During the holiday season, this passion has piqued my curiosity of other cultures and their holiday traditions and how I can to incorporate these into my own holiday. Hopefully, one or two will become a new tradition for my family!  While trimming our Christmas tree last night, I realized we had not one but FIVE “Christmas Pickle” ornaments. The pickle tradition is one that most people believe started in Germany. After a fair amount of Googling, I discovered some additional, incredibly unique folktales and traditions from around the world that I hope you share with others when around your holiday table.

Japan. Forget ham! The Japanese tradition for a Christmas meal is KFC fried chicken! The line is often so long that you must order in advance to get the meal you actually want. (Source: Why Christmas)

Greece. The Greeks have done away with St. Nick, instead honoring St. Basil as the gift-giver on January 1st.  I wonder if St. Basil has a white beard and laughs like a bowl full of jelly? The Epiphany on January 6th, known as the “Blessing of the Waters” is also a largely celebrated holiday in Greece. Traditionally, young men dive into a cold lake, river, or the sea to honor the occasion.  This sounds a bit like Chicago’s own Polar Bear Plunge! (Source: Why Christmas)

Iceland. During the 13 days prior to Christmas, Icelandic children leave their shoes in the window sill in hopes of receiving a present from a different “Yule Lad” each night. The “Yule Lads” have interesting names and sentiments: Itty Bitty, Pot Licker, Door Slammer, Sausage Snatcher, and Doorway Sniffer are some of my favorites and they remind me a little bit of Snow White’s dwarfs! I think the Yule Lads could make a great Halloween costume…

Sweden. Donald Duck is a Christmas Eve staple for the Swedes! Since 1959, a Donald Duck Christmas special has aired on the popular TV stations.  Almost 50% of the entire population tunes in to watch- that’s a bigger percentage than Americans who watch the Super Bowl! (Source: Why Christmas)

Italy. Santa Claus isn’t considered the “big guy” in Italy, either. The Italians celebrate Befana, an old, kind witch (translating to Giver of Gifts) that brings presents to children on the night of January 5th. Like Santa, children leave Befana treats before they go to bed- often consisting of broccoli, spiced sausage, and a glass of wine! I think Italian parents are a bit smarter than American parents! (Source: Newsweek)

Ukraine. Ukrainians decorate their Christmas trees in spider webs! The tradition is based on an old folktale of a poor family who grew a Christmas tree from a pinecone, but were not able to decorate it. When the family woke up on Christmas morning, they discovered spiders had spun webs around the tree’s branches. The spider webs are now said to bring good luck in the coming year! (Source: Newsweek)

Austria, Germany, Hungary. While naughty children in the US get a lump of coal in their stocking from Santa Claus, the naughty children from these countries get a visit from Krampus. Krampus is a beastly creature that punishes the ill-behaved and is said to kidnap particularly mean and nasty children and steals them away! (Source: Newsweek)

Mexico. In Oaxaca, Mexico, radishes take the center stage for Christmas decorations. December 23rd is the start of a three-day radish festival that exhibits Nativity scenes made from carved radishes. It’s believed this tradition started with shopkeepers, who created the nativity scenes to entice customers to come into their stores. (Source: Newsweek)

Venezuela. In Caracas, Christmas Eve custom dictates that families roller-skate to church! The tradition is so popular, that roads and neighborhoods are often closed to cars that night. After Mass, families all roller-skate to local shops to eat tostadas and coffee together. (Source: Newsweek)

Norway. Norwegians believe that Christmas Eve draws evil spirits into the air. To ward off potential evil spirits, namely witches, it is tradition to lock away all the brooms in your home on December 24th.  I guess there won’t be any visits from Harry Potter or his Hogwarts friends!  (Source: Huffington Post)

Susan Brunstrum
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