Here in the United States, holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas are celebrated through traditions like decorating trees with ornaments, lighting candles and wearing special clothing. However, nations around the world have their own rituals for holidays. From hitting hollow logs with sticks, to decorating trees with spider webs, to ordering fried chicken months in advance for a festive feast, here are seven holiday traditions for your family to try this season.
Every year on Dec. 23, Oaxaca, Mexico, celebrates the holiday season with vegetables. But we’re not talking about any old vegetables. Radishes are grown year-round in preparation for this event, which displays them after they are carved and decorated to look like people and events from Mexican folklore. The annual event runs through Christmas Day.
According to the Ukrainian legend, a widow and her children lived in a small house together and witnessed a tree growing outside their door. At Christmas time, the children excitedly wanted to decorate the tree, but due to the family’s lack of money, could not do so. On Christmas Eve night, the spiders that lived in the house spun webs all over the tree as a way to decorate it for the deserving family. On Christmas morning, the family saw the beautiful webs on the tree, and as the sunlight cascaded over them, each one turned into silver and gold. From that day forward, the family never lived in poverty again. Nowadays, Ukrainians decorate trees with spider webs as a reminder to be thankful, as well as a way to wish fortune and good luck for the New Year.
Although Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, families plan for their December feast months in advance anyway – all because of a marketing campaign from 1974. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) started the “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or the “Kentucky for Christmas!” campaign in Japan as a way to promote the brand’s food, which was seen as a good alternative to turkey, a meat that is extremely difficult to find in Japan. Due to the high demand of KFC for Christmas dinner, families often place orders months in advance.
For children in Holland, Christmas traditions start at the beginning of December with Sinterklaas. On Dec. 5, children await the arrival of Sinterklaas, or St Nick, who comes at night, bringing small gifts and treats if the kids have been good all year. However, children don’t look under a tree the next morning, they look in their shoes. Before going to sleep, kids place their shoes near the back door or chimney, where Sinterklaas will find them and fill them with the goodies.
Santa Claus is still the big man in red in Italy, but he is joined by La Befana, the nation’s kind old woman, who delivers presents to children on Jan. 5 every year, the eve of the Epiphany, when it is believed that the three wise men arrived with gifts for the baby Jesus. La Befana is known as a gentle woman, though she has the powers of a witch, as well as a large nose and a broomstick by her side, which she uses to both travel and clean messy homes.
Christmas in Catalonia, Spain, includes a hollow log that families dress up, feed, and then hit with sticks on Dec. 8, the day marked as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Known as the Tio de Nadal, or Christmas Log, families dress a hollow wooden log with legs, a face, and a little red hat. Kids leave food out for the log and cover it with a blanket before bed. The next morning, presents can be found under the blanket, but only after families sing traditional songs as they hit the log with sticks.
Many years ago, families in Norway believed that witches came around to houses on Christmas Eve in search for brooms in which they could ride. In preparation, families would hide every broom in their home, so that the witches could not find them and they would leave them alone. Today, many Norwegians keep up with this tradition by hiding the brooms in their home before going to sleep on Christmas Eve night.
Does your family celebrate the holidays with any special traditions? Tell us about them in the comment section below!
– Hilarey Wojtowicz