Ever wondered what others get up to around Christmas? Check out these ten traditions from around the world that get the festive season started.
- Cavalcade of Lights, Toronto
Toronto start off their white Christmas with the Cavalcade of lights to mark the official start to the holiday season. The first Cavalcade took place in 1967 to show off Toronto’s newly constructed City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square.
The tradition features the lighting of Toronto’s official Christmas Tree, live musical performances, a spectacular firework display and outdoor ice-skating all for free!
2. Day of the Little Candles, Colombia
Little Candles’ Day marks the start of the Christmas season across Columbia. People place candles and paper lanterns in their windows, balconies and gardens in honour of the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception.
The tradition has grown so popular that some neighbourhoods compete with each other to see who can create the most impressive arrangement!
- Lighting of National Hanukkah Menorah, Washington, D.C. – US
The Jewish Holiday of Hanukkah is celebrated across the United States with one of the most famous events taking place in the Capitol.
Since 1997, a giant nine-metre Menorah has been raised on the White House grounds for eight days and nights of Hanukkah. The Ceremony is visited by thousands includes speeches, music, activities and the lighting of the Menorah.
The first candle is lit at the White House at 4pm – no matter the weather! An additional candle is lit each successive night.
- Norway – Hide your brooms!
Norway’s tradition to hide their brooms on Christmas Eve dates back centuries to when people believed that witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve, looking for brooms to ride on.
- Saint Nicholas’ Day, Germany
Not to be confused with Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas), Nikolaus travels by donkey in the middle of the night on December 6 and leaves little treats like coins, chocolate, oranges and toys in the shoes of good children all over Germany, and particularly in the Bavarian region. St. Nicholas also visits children in schools or at home and in exchange for sweets or a small present each child must recite a poem, sing a song or draw a picture. In short, he’s a great guy.
- The Yule Lads, Iceland
In the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 tricksy troll-like characters come out to play in Iceland.
Similar to Germany, The Yule Lads (jólasveinarnir or jólasveinar in Icelandic) visit the children across the country over the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. For each night of Yuletide, children place their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts for nice girls and boys and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones.
- Kentucky Fried Christmas Dinner, Japan
Christmas has never been a big deal in Japan. Aside from a few small, secular traditions such as gift-giving and light displays, Christmas remains largely a novelty in the country. However, a new, quirky “tradition” has emerged in recent years – a Christmas Day feast of the Colonel’s very own Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The festive menu will soon be advertised on the KFC Japan website and, you will find everything from a Christmas-themed standard bucket to a premium roast-bird feast.
- Krampus, Austria
A beast-like demon creature that roams city streets frightening kids and punishing the bad ones – nope, this isn’t Halloween, but St. Nicholas’ evil accomplice, Krampus.
In Austrian tradition, St. Nicholas rewards nice little boys and girls, while Krampus is said to capture the naughtiest children and whisk them away in his sack. In the first week of December, young men dress up as the Krampus (especially on the eve of St. Nicholas Day) frightening children with clattering chains and bells.
- Gävle Goat, Sweden
Since 1966, a 13-metre-tall Yule Goat has been built in the centre of Gävle’s Castle Square for the Advent, but this Swedish Christmas tradition has unwittingly led to another “tradition” of sorts – people trying to burn it down. Since 1966 the Goat has been successfully burned down 29 times – the most recent destruction was in 2016.
- Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines
The Giant Lantern Festival is held each year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando – the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” The festival attracts spectators from all over the country and across the globe. Eleven villages take part in the festival and competition is fierce as everyone pitches in trying to build the most elaborate lantern.
Originally, the lanterns were simple creations around half a metre in diameter, made from Japanese origami paper and lit by candle. Today, the lanterns are made from a variety of materials and have grown to around six metres in size. They are illuminated by electric bulbs that sparkle in a kaleidoscope of patterns.