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The holiday season is upon us and while travel plans, gift-buying, and meal preparation may be getting some folk stressed out, it’s also hard not to get excited about all the traditions we hold dear. As December passes by, we’ve decided to explore some newsworthy holiday traditions from every corner of the globe.
Strasbourg Christmas Market
Known as the Capital of Noel or the Capital of Christmas, Strasbourg hosts a yearly Christmas market consistently called the best in the world. The market was sadly recently struck by tragedy, but the attacks are not expected to deter any future celebrations. The open-air markets stretch across 12 different locations around the city and include over 300 stalls. Sipping hot spiced wine while browsing the many Christmas trinkets for sale is one of the best things to do in Strasbourg, and a tradition that will continue.
Medellín Light Show
Those who have been to Colombia during the holiday season know that Christmas doesn’t start and stop on the 24th and 25th of December. Instead, the entire month is a bit of a party. Medellin, the country’s second largest city, does not hold anything back when it comes to decorations. Every public park around the city is guaranteed to be decked out in thousands of Christmas lights. On top of that, Dia de las Velitas, the seventh of December, Colombians celebrate the Immaculate Conception and honor the Virgin Mary by lighting candles outside of their homes and businesses.
The Swedish Goat Battles
Since 1966, the Swedish town Galve has been a holiday season battleground. The year saw the first construction of the Yule Goat, a large statue shaped like a goat, and made of straw. For reasons unknown, other than fun and a fascination with fire, every year since its inception, a group of people has tried to burn the goat to the ground. This destruction has been counteracted by a task force of locals who stand guard and try to defend the goat. A town divided. However, despite the attempts to preserve the straw construction, it has been damaged for 37 years since 1966. The defensive team won in 2017 when the goat stayed standing.
KFC in Japan
Up until the 70s, Japan did not have a traditional holiday meal to serve around Christmas. Enter Kentucky Fried Chicken. Thanks to a very successful advertising blitz, a bucket of chicken is now a go-to family favorite. Think about it, fill in the Colonel’s beard and he starts to look suspiciously like Santa; it all makes sense now.
Other Christmas meals that may seem peculiar include the traditional, Christmas-colored, fried caterpillars in South Africa, and in Greenland a hollowed out seal stuffed with fermented sea birds, which takes seven months to prepare.
Lanterns in The Philippines
San Fernando, a moderately sized city in the Filipino province of Pampanga, has become known as the Christmas Capital of the Philippines, a country that takes faith and the holiday season very seriously. Villages surrounding the city take part in a competition that brings in spectators from around the world. The main goal is to build the brightest and most beautiful lantern possible. Builders continue to push the limits as these electric displays now often tower over 20 feet.
Made popular by various mentions in pop culture, the Krampus is very much a real holiday season tradition in Austria. For those unfamiliar with the demonic character that immerges during the first week of December, he is more or less the evil version of jolly ole Santa. Saint Nick’s dark partner in crime is rumored to accompany Santa on his present delivery mission to kidnap bad children and take them away in his sack. In towns across Austria, it is common for men to dress up as the dreaded Krampus and scare little kids.
Icelandic Book Exchange
In a pleasantly wholesome exchange, many families and groups of friends in Iceland exchange books on Christmas Eve. Then, those receiving a book spend the remaining evening reading with loved ones and eating chocolate. Sounds cozy in the long Icelandic winter.
Another, stranger tradition, in Iceland are the Yule Lads who deliver naughty children rotting potatoes. Sporting names like Stufur (Stubby), Askasleikir (Bowl-Licker), Bjugnakraekir (Sausage-Swiper), and Gluggagaegir (Window-Peeper); they’re not quite the Santa’s little helpers from storybooks.
Trick-or-Treating Christmas Style
In Lebanon, on Christmas Day, children are allowed to run up to any adult they see and shout “Editi ‘aleik”, which roughly translates to “You have a gift for me”. The goal of the exchange is to find adults with spare gifts or goodies in their pockets. People with extra give children an additional gift to add to their present stash.
Pour One Out in Ghana
In Ghana, it’s a tradition for people to parade the streets and sip from a personal cup. Whenever they take a drink they then pour some of their beverage on the ground to pay respects to their ancestors. Also, in the central region of the country, people celebrate Kakamotobi, also known as the Fancy Dress Festival to non-locals. Extending from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day, people participate in a masquerade. Locals during this time dress up in colorful garments and masks and dance to the brass band music that plays in the streets.
Strange Tree Decorations
Many families have that one — or many — ornaments that might be slightly goofier or stranger than the others but it holds a special place in Christmas lore. In certain countries this is truer than others. In Germany for example, many families hide pickle ornaments in their Christmas tree and the first child to find it wins a special gift. Meanwhile, in Poland, it’s common for trees to be equipped with spider webs. This is because according to their Nativity story, a spider was present for the birth of Jesus and wove Jesus a blanket out of its web.