There are plenty of Christmas traditions that are popular throughout North America, like the classic pine or fir Christmas tree, hanging mistletoe, exchanging presents, decorating with Christmas flowers, and enjoying a decadent meal with family. While these traditions define how many Canadians enjoy Christmas, these are only a few ways the holiday is celebrated around the world! Cultures around the globe celebrate in many other ways that are meaningful to them, which connect the holiday with their local landscape and lore. Here are a few of the fascinating ways people celebrate Christmas around the world.
In Italy, Christmas doesn’t end until January 6, the Day of Epiphany. On the evening of January 5, La Befana, or “the Christmas Witch”, delivers toys and treats to good children and lumps of black coal to the naughty ones. She is said to be an excellent housekeeper and sweeps the floor on her way out!
In Germany, every child’s favourite date during the Christmas season is St. Nicholas Day. On December 5th, children polish up their shoes and leave them outside the door in hopes that St. Nicholas will visit and fill their shoes with nuts, fruits, candy, and small gifts. On St. Nicholas Eve, the demon Krampus is said to prowl the streets as well. If children misbehave, they may get a visit from Krampus instead of St. Nicholas.
In the Netherlands, you may hear the Midwinter Horn daily from the beginning of Advent until the day of Epiphany. The Midwinter Horn is a traditional wooden trumpet that’s about 4 feet long. The playing of the horn was traditionally thought to ward off evil spirits and bad weather. The sound can resonate for miles, and it often sounds like players around the region are calling to each other.
For Chinese families, the Lunar New Year near the end of January is a much bigger celebration than Christmas. Many people will use the Christmas season to prepare for Chinese New Year by cleaning their homes, getting a haircut, buying gifts, and bringing lucky blossoms into their homes like Tangerine trees, Pussy Willows, Cherry Blossom branches, and Narcissus.
Filipino people love celebrating Christmas, and they start getting in the spirit as early as September. In the Philippines, Noche Buena, a Christmas feast often featuring ham and cheese, is shared with the whole family at midnight. The meal is traditionally served after hearing Christmas Mass.
Starting 13 days before Christmas, Icelandic kids will leave their best shoe in the windowsill of an open window. Overnight, the Yule Lads who live in the mountains will deliver a treat or gift to each shoe if the child has been good. If they’ve been bad, they might wake up to a potato in their shoe! Books are a big deal in Iceland, and on Christmas Eve, every person in Iceland should receive a book and some chocolate to enjoy at bedtime.
On Christmas Eve, many Argentinians attend Christmas Mass, followed by a feast late at night. Since its summer in the southern hemisphere, the meal might be a large BBQ party. At midnight, lots of fireworks and globos, or illuminated paper lanterns, fill the sky to celebrate the arrival of Christmas Day.
Christmas in Kenya is mostly focused on spending time with family. If a family is all spread out across the country, each family member tries to be home for Christmas Eve. Many families will attend a Christmas service. The family enjoys a large Christmas meal, often featuring nyama choma, a roasted or grilled goat or sheep meat dish.
How do you celebrate Christmas in Powell River? Do you practice cultural traditions from your family ancestry, or have you established your own unique traditions? Share your Christmas tradition stories with us on Facebook or Instagram; we’d love to learn about the unique holiday traditions of our friends and neighbours!
If you share your tradition with us, we’ll enter your name in our Christmas Traditions Draw for a $50 Mother Nature Gift Certificate. We’ll make the draw on December 23, so keep an eye on our social media to find out if you win!