Can you imagine celebrating Christmas in a swimsuit and sunbathing on the beach? Or eating lentils for dinner on New Year’s Eve? Each country has its own Christmas traditions and you will no doubt be familiar with many of them. However, there may be others that you will enjoy learning about. At Okodia, we love Christmas and so, in addition to our 24 untranslatable words in our advent calendar, we want to tell you about some Christmas traditions that will leave you lost for words.
The best Christmas traditions by country
Serbia: a ‘kidnapping’ to get Christmas presents
In Serbia they have a somewhat special Christmas tradition, especially when it comes to getting presents at this time of year. Two Sundays before 25 December the children of the house kidnap their mother and tie her to a chair to ask for Christmas presents as a ransom. The next day they do the same thing again, but with their father. In other cultures this might seem like a strange tradition, but in Serbia it is considered cute.
Philippines: who can build the best giant lantern?
In the Philippines they have the tradition of the Giant Lantern Festival. This festival is usually held on the Saturday before Christmas Eve. More than a dozen villages take part and the aim is to make the best giant lantern. The tradition of building lanterns has evolved so much that they are now lit up with light bulbs and can even reach 6 metres tall.
Japan: an odd Christmas menu
In Japan, Christmas is usually celebrated in a somewhat different way from other countries, since only 1% of its population is Christian. Even so, its Christmas menu always causes surprise in other countries. That is because in Japan they have the tradition of eating fried chicken from Kentucky Fried Chicken on 23 and 24 December.
New Zealand: a Christmas tree next to the beach
In Northern hemisphere countries Christmas is closely connected to the snow, given the time of year in which it happens. In New Zealand, they have their own version of the Christmas tree. The Pohutukawa, which is their name for it, flowers in December, since for them it is spring, and it generally grows by the sea. It is characterised by its crimson or peach flowers, which is why it is associated with Christmas colours.
Germany: the inventors of the advent calendar
The tradition of advent calendars is now common around the world. However, did you know that the Germans invented this type of calendar to help them count down the days to Christmas Eve? They also have seven official Christmas post offices responsible for answering the letters children write to Father Christmas.
Greenland: this is how Christmas carols are sung
In Greenland, Christmas trees are decorated with candles and bright decorations. Children sing Christmas carols for their families during dinner, but then also go house to house singing them.
Greece: keeping the fire lit for the whole holiday period
In Greece, they have the custom of keeping the fireplace at home lit for the entire holiday period. Do you want to know why? The Greeks go to great lengths to stop the evil spirits they call the kallikantzaroi from entering their houses. How do they try to stop them? They sprinkle a cross with holy water and keep the fireplace lit for the whole Christmas period.
Sweden: from processions to the burning of a goat
Despite being part of Europe, Christmas traditions in Sweden are very different from those in other European countries. To begin with, they begin to celebrate on 13 December, which is Saint Lucy’s Day. On that day they celebrate with processions involving girls dressed in white and a woman representing Saint Lucy is adorned with candles. Saint Lucy no doubt lights up the holidays for the Swedes. Likewise, since the middle of the 20th century, Sweden has had the tradition of building a giant straw goat and putting it in the castle square in Gävle. The public try to do whatever they can to burn it down. They say that the goat has been burned down 26 times.
Which of these Christmas traditions do you find most surprising? We find it impossible to pick just one. 😉