When it comes to celebrating the holidays, we all do things a little bit differently. Every family, region, country and culture has a unique way of celebrating the time of year that to many means family, love and coming together as a community.
Growing up in New Zealand Christmas looked like: Summer, water fights, BBQs and beach visits all featuring heavily throughout the season. This contrasts hugely to the UK where all things cosy, sparkly and comforting are celebrated. It got me thinking – if the way in which we celebrate is so different between two commonwealth countries, what does Christmas look like in other parts of the world?
The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) is held each year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”, the city of San Fernando. The aim of the festival is to build the most elaborate lantern, attracting spectators from all over. Originally, the lanterns (that symbolise the Star of Bethlehem) were simple builds around half a metre in diameter, made from Japanese origami paper and lit by a candle. If you were to visit the festival today you’d find lanterns made from a variety of materials, up to around SIX metres in size and lit by electric bulbs.
Finland’s traditions sound like something that I could get behind: on Christmas morning, Finish families traditionally eat a porridge made of rice and milk topped with cinnamon, milk, or butter. The special part? One bowl will have an almond hidden inside, and whoever finds the almond “wins”. At the end of the day, it is customary to warm up in a sauna together – something that I feel like we should maybe adopt here in Scotland!
This one dates back to ancient pagan festivals: The Yule Goat or Gävle Goat. In 1966, the tradition was renewed when someone came up with the idea to make a giant goat out of straw. According to the official website, the goat is 13 metres (42.6 feet) high, seven metres long and weighs 3.6 tonnes. Each year, the massive goat is constructed in the same spot, with the objective to bring people together. There’s even a webcam livestream from the first Sunday of Advent until after the New Year when it’s taken down.
Much like TMC, Gavle Goat likes to communicate and he is a big fan of social media. During his stay in Gävle each year, he uses Twitter and Instagram. You can also send him an email at: email@example.com.
Christmas has never been a big deal in Japan – in fact it’s not even a national holiday. With an estimated one percent of the population Christian, aside from a few small, secular traditions such as gift-giving and light displays, Christmas remains largely a novelty in the country. However, Japan’s citizens have found their own unique way to celebrate: with KFC! The tradition began in 1974 after a wildly successful marketing campaign called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!
This is one that I didn’t know about, and kind of love: Irish leave a tall red candle in a front window overnight, a welcoming symbol of warmth and shelter for the holiday season.
This tradition takes Christmas to a whole new level. With roller-blading. Yes, you read that correctly, rollerblading. Every Christmas Eve, Caracas’ residents head to church in the early morning – seems about norma, right? – yes, but church with a twist: they attend morning mass on roller skates. The city even closes roads for that people can skate to church safely. I wonder what our local church would think if we turned up on skates? Though, know Scotland, they’d probably be ice skates!
This is only a small sampling of the amazing traditions across the globe – what are some of your favourites? Share them in the comments below!