On what day do you have the time of your life, sit by the crackling fire and laugh your heart out by the fireplace, and embellish and put up ornaments and stockings? Well, on none other than Christmas! All over the world Christmas is celebrated in many different ways, each of them similar to a Disney movie making them magical and beautiful.
Great Lantern Festival
In San Fernando, Philippines there is a competition between 12 teams to make the biggest, most beautiful lantern at the festival. The lanterns started in a way to commemorate the Filipino Catholic tradition of lighting lanterns on Christmas Eve. Today, these giant lanterns stand at an astonishing 20 feet tall and can have around 10,000 light bulbs. Originally, these lanterns were made of Japanese origami paper and lit with a candle, much like the lanterns you see in the movie Tangled.
The Yule Lads
Remember the game you used to play in Elementary school - the elf on the shelf? Well, in Iceland they have a life size version of this scavenger hunt. During the thirteen days leading up to Christmas, thirteen elf-like figures visit children all over the country. Each night leading up to Christmas, kids put their dress shoes on the windows and these elves surprise the kids with treats. Similar to stockings, the “good” kids get gifts while the “mischievous” kids get potatoes. These thirteen elves are very similar to Snow White’s seven dwarves, each with adorable names like Stubby or Candle Stealer.
Here we find a bit of an interesting tradition compared to those seen in Iceland or the Philippines. In Norway, people hide their brooms, so witches won’t be able to find them. This tradition dates back centuries ago, when people used to think that witches hunt for brooms on Christmas Eve. Other Scandinavian countries follow similar practices, such as hiding prized possessions like goats, so they aren’t stolen on Christmas Day.
Following Norway is New Zealand, a country in the Southern Hemisphere where seasons get a bit tricky. While Christmas is still observed on December 25th, in New Zealand, it occurs during the summer. Here, Santa suits are swapped for sandals and shorts and can often be found barbecuing. In New Zealand, kids leave out carrots on their windows for the reindeer to eat, and pineapple and beer for Santa. New Zealand also has an interesting take on the Christmas tree. Instead of the fir we’re used to seeing in the U.S, Kiwi’s have a very special tree known as the Pōhutukawa. These beautiful tall trees have small red, carnation-type flowers which are associated with the Christmas holidays.
In Greece, caroling takes a different twist. While it is a worldwide tradition observed near the holiday seasons, the Greek have a unique spin on caroling. On Christmas Eve, young boys go out caroling, playing drums and triangles while they sing. These boys will typically carry small wooden boats, known as Karavaki, which is painted gold and adorned with nuts. The Karavaki symbolizes the new life of Jesus’s birth as the long awaited horizon.
In Costa Rica, Christmas break is the end of students’ school year and marks the start of their vacation. Because of the beautiful flora found around this time, many people in Costa Rica like to decorate their home with tropical flowers, fruits, and the nativity scene. Instead of the typical plums and hazelnuts, vendors in Costa Rica stock up on apples for the holiday season. The next few days after Christmas in Costa Rica are full of festivities. On December 26th, people gather to see a horseback parade known as the Rope and on December 27th, there is a huge Carnival with huge floats and lots of dancing.
While Christmas isn't a national holiday in Japan, the Japanese have a very unique way to celebrate the holidays. A very special tradition that the Japanese have on Christmas day is eating fried chicken. On Christmas day, fast food chains like KFC are extremely busy and even allow customers to buy their meal in advance. Another tasty meal enjoyed by the Japanese is their beloved shortcake. Made with a delicate sponge and adorned with whipped cream and strawberries, the Japanese shortcake is a perfect Christmas treat. Although Christmas has been commercialized by Disney and other big brands, Japan’s love for music fosters Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the famous “Ode to Joy”, which are commonly associated with Christmas in Western countries.
The Holidays are a special time all over the world, and Christmas marks the start of a new year, a continuation of generational traditions and the meaning of family and being together.