People say Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. From hanging stockings above the fireplace, to picking out the perfect Christmas tree, there’s so much happiness to celebrate. But the fun part about the holidays that makes them extra special are the smaller family traditions that carry over from generation to generation. Whether your family celebrates a religious festival, like Christmas or Hanukkah, or a more secular occasion, every family is sure to have their own set of rituals or customs that make the holiday season so special.
With Christmas right around the corner, here are some of the more unique ways children and families around the world celebrate this special time of year.
Philippines: Giant Lantern Festival
Known in Spanish as the Ligligan Parul Sampernandu, each year in the city of San Fernando on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, a Giant Lantern Festival takes place. The festival attracts viewers from all over the country and even across the world. Eleven villages throughout the capital take part in the festival as they try to build the most elaborate and complex lantern. When this festival originated, the lanterns were simply small creations made from Japanese origami paper, however, over the years the festival has evolved into an artistic competition and today’s lanterns are made from a variety of different materials and are even illuminated by electric lights.
Iceland: 13 Yule Lads of the Land
Why have just one Santa Claus when you can have 13? That’s what the children of Iceland sure do believe! On the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 troll-like characters come out to play. Known as the ‘Yule Lads’, these creatures travel all across the country visiting the children of the land. For each night of Yuletide, children place their best shoes out on the window sill in hopes that a different Yule Lad will pay them a visit leaving gifts for the nice girls and boys and rotting potatoes for those who are naughty.
Oaxaca, Mexico: Smashing of the Plates
In the popular city of Oaxaca, Mexico, a tradition known in Spanish as a ‘posada’ takes place. On Christmas eve, door to door processions occur in which residents reenact Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter. At the end of the parade near the cathedral, the traditional breaking of the plates begins. People in the city buy plates of crispy donuts topped with sugar and syrup from pop up stands throughout the town and smash the ceramic plates on the ground in order to signify the end of the old year and the start of something new. For the finale of the ceremony, the sky explodes with a beautiful display of fireworks.
Ukraine: The Legend of the Spider Web
In the Ukraine, legend has it that there was once a poor widow who found a Christmas tree growing in her yard in the middle of the summer. Her family never had money to afford a Christmas tree and therefore her children were thrilled to finally have a tree, yet she had no money to spend on decorations. When the family awoke on Christmas morning, to their surprise, a spider had spun a web all around the tree, decorating it for them. When the youngest child opened the window on Christmas morning and let the light shine through the window onto the web, it turned into silver and gold. Based on that legend, families in the Ukraine hide toy spider webs in their trees and believe that whoever finds the web on Christmas day will have a year filled with good luck and fortune.
Venezuela: Rollerblading Through the Streets
On Christmas morning in Caracas, Venezuela the streets are closed to cars so that local residents can rollerblade their way to church. For reasons known only to them, they head to Christmas mass on roller skates. This unique tradition has become so popular that roads across the city are closed down for cars so that people can safely skate to Christmas mass, often dressed in their favorite Santa Claus apparel.
Christmas is a holiday that is celebrated all over the world, yet every community has developed their own traditions for the holiday. These were some of our favorites from around the globe. What does your family do each year?
We wish you a very merry Christmas and a safe and healthy New Year!