Is there anything more magical than Christmas? Love it or hate it, no one can deny that it is a time of year that conjures up strong emotional feelings. Did you know that whilst there is a huge amount of people in the world who don’t celebrate Christmas, there are also dozens of countries around the globe who have festive traditions you might not have heard of before…
In Iceland, many people exchange books on Christmas Eve; they will then spend the rest of the night eating chocolate whilst reading them – definitely a tradition we could happily get behind! The season as a whole is called Jolabokaflod, or “The Christmas Book Flood”, and this is one of the reasons Iceland produces more books per capita than any other country! Most of these are sold between the months of September and November.
Lebanese children have an almost “Halloween trick or treat” type tradition: on Christmas Day, they can go up to any adult and say “Editi ‘aleik!”, meaning “You have a gift for me!” If the adult does have one available, then the children can have it to add to their own personal collection.
On the Saturday before Christmas Eve, the city of San Fernando (also known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”) lights up every year. They have “Ligligan Parul Sampernandu”: The Giant Lantern Festival. Eleven villages get involved in a competition to make the most impressive and elaborate lantern. The festival not only attracts masses of Filipinos, but also people from around the world, all coming to see lanterns that are illuminated by bulbs in a beautiful kaleidoscope of patterns and which, in recent years, have grown to around six metres high.
Starting in 1966, a 13 meter-tall goat has been constructed in the Gävle Castle Square for the Christmas period. However, this yearly tradition has led to another tradition (if you can call it that…?) – people will attempt to burn it down! Since its inception, the goat has been burnt down 29 times, even as recently as last year! Here’s hoping it has more fireproof success this year!
There is a traditional Christmas character that I think we will have all heard of: St Nicholas (or “Nikolaus”). Contrary to what some might think, he is actually a different individual to “Weihnachtsmann” (Santa Claus) who visits on Christmas Eve. Nikolaus actually travels by donkey and visits during the night on 6th December and leaves small treats like chocolate, oranges, coins and little toys in the shoes for the good children in Germany – more specifically in the Bavarian region.
It isn’t all happiness and sweets though – Nikolaus is often accompanied by “Knecht Ruprecht” (Farmhand Rupert), he is a dark clothed, devil-like individual with a dirty beard. He carries with him a small whip or stick that he can use to punish any of the children that fall onto the “naughty list”.
One country that puts a bit of fun into the journey to church on Christmas Eve is VenezuelaIn the city of Caracas, many roads across the city are closed so that people can make the trek to Mass in their roller skates! In addition to this, According to MSN, “vehicular access to the city is blocked off in many areas before 8 a.m. to allow this unconventional commute to take place, and the night before, children will tie one end of a string to their big toe and hang the other out of the window — allowing the passing roller skaters to offer a friendly tug as they pass in the morning.”
Poland – Chairs
Finally, we thought it would be remiss if we didn’t have at least one tradition that involved chairs! In Poland, they have a huge number of fascinating traditions, and one of the most practiced is to leave an empty chair and plate at their table. It is said that this is so that if anyone comes to the door, that they will be welcome and have a place with them. This regularly observed tradition is very in-keeping with the Polish hospitality – an attribute of their culture which they are very proud of.
Perhaps they could get a lovely Comfort HSL Chair for their next Christmas!