The Spanish are accustomed to the arrival of the Three Kings every January 5, eating turrón nougat to the tune of Christmas carols, or eating the twelve grapes of luck every New Year’s Eve in time with the tolling of the bell, but the truth is that there are other Christmas traditions that are quite peculiar found all over the world which, despite globalization and the arrival of Santa Claus to all four corners of the globe, continue to be celebrated. Here’s some Christmas trivia by country that you should know about.
Iceland: The Christmas holidays in this country are suspense-filled holidays! Icelanders have a tradition of lighting their houses with candles in December until Christmas day. But… beware! None should go outthough, because otherwise, the family will not be complete the following year… The little ones in the family don’t get off the hook either and should take care to be on their best behavior from December 1 onwards because Jolasveinn (Santa Claus) can show up anytime between December 1 and 24 with gifts for everyone, including those who misbehave, who’ll get a potato for their efforts.
United Kingdom: If in Spain we leave cookies for the Three Kings, the English leave Santa Claus a glass of whisky on Christmas Day to “liven up” the evening. Another Christmas tradition that is much more widespread involves mistletoe, whereby people who find themselves under its green leaves must kiss whoever’s closest to them at the time.
Holland: Dutch children get their gifts on the evening of December 5 from Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, who comes from faraway… Spain. According to Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas arrives on a steamboat from Madrid (strange indeed) to the Netherlands, weighed down with gifts for children and accompanied by the Zwarte Pieten (“Black Petes”), his helpers.
Philippines: The Christmas holidays begin in September and end at the end of January… A predominantly Catholic country, a Filipino Christmas is deeply rooted in religion. From December 16 onwards, Filipinos attend the Misa de Gallo mass at four o’clock in the morning. Once the mass is over, it is customary for them to buy bibingka (rice cake with salted egg and desiccated coconut) and puto bumbong (sticky purple rice steamed in bamboo tubes) to eat. On December 24, they reenact the Panunuluyan: a couple representing Mary and Joseph goes to the houses in the vicinity seeking shelter.
Australia: Whoever said that Christmas was synonymous with the cold and snow? In Australia, as this celebration arrives in the height of summer, Australians tend to open their gifts early on Christmas morning and then they go to the beach to spend the day, go on a picnic or engage in an outdoor activity. Bondi Beach in Sydney is a popular spot where people go to celebrate this day.
Whatever you do and wherever you are, happy holidays!