At this time of year, people are coming together throughout the world to celebrate their favorite traditions with friends, family, and sometimes even complete strangers. Communities across the globe have different traditions for Christmas, as well as other celebrations, and we think that it will be fun to explore a few of them.
So, sip that hot chocolate, eat that frosted cookie, and enjoy reading about holidays around the world.
Japan- A Southern Fried Christmas
You may not know this but, the American fried chicken restaurant KFC is very popular in Japan. Christmas is not a national holiday in the land of the rising sun, but it is a time of festive celebration. One of their most popular traditions is to eat some of the Colonel's fried chicken every Christmas night.
The tradition began in the 1970's as a way to provide visitors with a traditional holiday meal. The promotion did not only attract visitors, but locals came in droves as well. A word of advice; if you plan on enjoying Japan's favorite holiday tradition in the future, be sure to pre-order your meal to avoid waiting in line.
Mexico- Bring on the Radishes
Every December 23rd the people of Oaxaca, Mexico, gather to celebrate the Night of the Radishes. The city has a rich history of wood carving and when radishes were introduced to Mexico many people decided to use their carving skills on the newly arrived vegetable as a way to attract people to the city's Christmas market. The works of art are kept on display through Christmas day and they often depict the nativity and other Mexican folktales.
The event has grown into a competition that attracts more than 100 contestants and thousands of visitors each year. The city takes the event so seriously that they set aside a special area in which to grow the radishes and supervise them year round.
Ecuador- A Pocket Full of Lentils
New Year's in Ecuador is a big celebration and a chance to forget the bad and look forward to the good. One of Ecuador's year end traditions is meant to cleanse bad memories of the old year and start the new year with a clean slate. The tradition is to create a doll that represents the bad parts of the preceding year. People sometimes dress up the dolls to look like characters, or other cultural figures. They then burn these dolls at midnight to say goodbye to the old year and hello to the possibilities of the new year.
Other Ecuadorian New Year's traditions include,
- Wearing red or yellow underwear- This tradition is meant to bring good luck in the coming year.
- A pocket full of lentils- Ecuadorians fill their pockets with lentils to symbolize prosperity in the new year.
- Lighting different colored candles- Blue for peace, red for passion, yellow for abundance, and orange for intelligence.
Spain- Pooping Logs
This Spanish tradition involves a hollow log with legs, a face, and a little red hat. The log is placed out on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Children pay close attention to the log because tradition states that it will "poop" out presents on Christmas morning.
Spain is also known for their elaborate Beléns (nativity scenes). These nativities are often massive and include depictions of houses, farms, and marketplaces in addition to the manger scene.
Kwanzaa- Keeping Tradition Alive
Kwanzaa was created in 1966 as a way for African Americans to celebrate their heritage. Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, it is a way for Americans with African ancestry to keep the tradition of the year end harvest celebration alive. In fact, "Kwanzaa" comes from a Swahili term which translates to "first fruits of the harvest".
Kwanzaa lasts 7 days and each day symbolizes a principle that is believed to be the key to developing strong productive families in Africa. The seven principles are,
- Collective work and responsibility
- Cooperative economics
- A sense of purpose
Norway- Hide Those Brooms
In Norway, people hide their brooms on Christmas Eve. Tradition states that witches and other spirits come out on Christmas. The people of Norway hide their brooms to prevent these spirits from stealing them.
Another Norwegian tradition is to gather around the TV to watch a comedy sketch called Dinner for One. This sketch shows a 90 year old woman who holds a birthday party for herself every year and invites all of her friends. Unfortunately, all of the woman's friend have passed away. Fortunately, her dedicated butler is willing to impersonate each of them and drink all of their drinks.
England- A London Festival of Lights
London's large Jewish community comes together every year in Trafalgar Square. Thousands of people gather each year to watch the lighting of the giant menorah. They continue the night with dancing, music, and other festivities. The celebration continues for the entirety of Hanukkah when communities get together for large meals and nights of celebrations.
Venezuela- Rolling to Church
Venezuela takes Christmas seriously. Every year, people in Venezuela's capital roller skate to Christmas mass. The origin of the tradition isn't exactly known, other than children are supposed to go to sleep with one foot hanging out of the window with a string tied to their toe. When roller skaters glide by and tug on the string, the children know that it is time to get their skates on and get to church. When church is over, the people roller skate back to their homes to celebrate Christmas with food and friends.
Venezuela's traditions result from a rare mix of cultures. The country includes major influences from Spain, Italy, Portugal, and other countries. This results in a country with unique celebrations and traditions.
Celebrating Our Differences
No matter how different our celebrations are, we all celebrate the holidays with our own customs. Knowing the traditions of people throughout the world can expand our horizons and even enhance our own celebrations. This holiday season, enjoy your traditions and encourage others to enjoy theirs. No matter what your background, this season is about friendship and community.