Seven wonders of Christmas around the world

Christmas is a time when everyone has their own traditions. And, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas itself, there may be things that you do with family and friends at this time of year as so many people are able to take a bit of time away from work, school, and other daily routines of life.

A typical Christmas in the UK may be filled with cards, presents, trees, decorations and turkey, but what about the rest of the world? In the countries that do celebrate Christmas, how do they do that?

In this article we take a look at seven wonders of Christmas around the world. Enjoy!

Sweden’s Yule Goat

For many years an important Swedish Christmas symbol has been the Yule Goat. The concept dates back to ancient pagan festivals but was given a new lease of life in 1966 when an enormous straw goat was created in the Swedish city of Gävle.

The Gävle Goat – also known as Julbocken – is more than 42 feet high, 23 feet wide, and weighs 3.6 tons. In theory the goat appears on the first Sunday of Advent each year and remains until after the New Year. In recent years it has even been live streamed. However, this duration is often shortened due to being burnt down by arsonists, to the extent that how long it survives is now a regular national news story in Sweden..

Catalonia’s pooing peasant

If you happen to visit a Christmas market in Catalonia, look out for “el caganer” among the usual nativity figures. Without a caganer, no true Catalonian nativity is complete. But what is it?

El caganer is in fact a ceramic model of a pooing Catalan peasant! The origin is thought to be that el caganer represents the nativity scene being fertilised, which will guarantee a prosperous year ahead.

El caganer is usually created as a squatting figure with pants around the ankles, and there have been various celebrity versions including Donald Trump and Lady Gaga.

A similar tradition is followed by Catalonian families in the form of a caga tió – ‘defecating log’. A character is created out of a log by drawing on a face and adding a hat. The log is then stuffed daily with fruit, nuts and sweets until Christmas Eve, when the family beats it with sticks until all the treats come out.

Iceland’s Yule Lads

We may sing about the 12 days of Christmas, but in Iceland they celebrate 13 days. However, unlike my true love bearing nice gifts, the Icelandic custom is a shade darker. Children leave their shoes by the window in anticipation of being visited over these 13 days by the Yule Lads, also known as jólasveinar.

The Yule Lads are brothers, and their father was a cruel giant notorious for eating stew made out of naughty children. The Yule Lads each have their own name, including Doorway-Sniffer, Spoon-Licker, Sausage-Swiper, Candle-Stealer, Curd-Gobbler, and Window-Peeper.

The Yule Lads leave gifts for the children in their shoes. If the children have been good they will receive sweets, but if not they will be left rotten potatoes instead. 

Mexico’s inns and radishes

Mexico has some wonderful Christmas celebrations. Between December 16th and 24th the Christmas festival of Las Posadas in cities and towns across the country. Las Posadas is Spanish for “inns” or “shelter” and the festival represents the long journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem and their search for a safe place for Mary to give birth. Children dress in festive robes, and the procession stops at homes representing an inn, to be given refreshments and sing Christmas songs. On the final night, piñatas filled with sweets and toys are broken open and enjoyed.

Then in the Mexican city of Oaxaca, a vegetable carving competition takes place known as the Night of the Radishes. Some incredibly creative designs are produced – including nativity scenes and monsters – carved from chemically enhanced radishes. The event attracts thousands of visitors in the short time frame before the radishes wither away. 

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic holds its main Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve, with a traditional feast, including fried carp – which may have been bought live and looked after by the family themselves.

There is then a special ritual for women looking for love. They need to face away from a door and throw one of their shoes over their shoulder. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing toward the door, it means that they’ll be married within the year. However, if it lands with the heel facing the door, they should not expect anything significant to happen in the coming year.

Japan’s KFC Christmas

One of the major Christmas traditions in Japan is Kentucky Fried Chicken! This originated in the early 1970s, when the manager of the first KFC in Japan realised that foreign residents missed having turkey at Christmas. So he decided to begin marketing a party bucket of fried chicken as a potential substitute, and the idea took off big time.

It is now estimated that over 3.6 million Japanese families celebrate Christmas with this KFC dinner tradition. Demand is so high that a special online ordering service has been created so that families can order their Christmas Family Bucket in advance and have it delivered. And to remind them to do this, during the run-up to Christmas, the Colonel Sanders statues outside all KFC’s Japanese outlets are dressed in Santa gear.

Norway’s brooms

In Norway, there is a traditional belief that Christmas Eve is the time when evil spirits and witches arrive. So to prevent the witches flying around and ruining all the Christmas celebrations, Norwegians hide household brooms before going to bed so that the witches can’t steal them.

A gentler Norwegian Christmas tradition is to serve riskrem – a chilled rice pudding with berry sauce – for dessert. The pudding will also contain a single blanched almond, and whoever finds it will get a small prize, and the promise of good luck in the year ahead.

We hope that this article has enlightened you on some of the ways people celebrate Christmas around the world, and has perhaps inspired you to try something different this year.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to check back here soon for more financial and lifestyle tips from direct lender Munzee Loans.