What other countries do for Christmas
Roller skate to Church (Venezuala)
Like Catholics across the globe, the people of Caracas head to Mass on Christmas morning. They just opt for a rather unique way of getting there: they roller skate!
It’s unclear why this practice arose, but these days it’s become so popular that they close the city’s streets to vehicles for safety reasons. Kids are snuggled in bed extra-specially early the night before and are reported to tie strings around their toes. These strings are dangled out of the window and come the morning, skaters can tug them to rouse any still-sleeping children to call them to church.
Venezuelans are pretty big on Christmas Eve as well. Like most Latin American countries, on the night of Christmas Eve they celebrate ‘Nochebuena’
with a festive family meal, scoffing ‘hallaca’s’
which are a form of dumpling stuffed with meat stew.
Start their celebrations early (Phillipines)
Another country that celebrates Nochebuena is the Philippines - the only Asian country to observe it.
This predominantly Christian country is really really into Christmas
. So into are the Filipinos in fact, that they usually start their festivities at the beginning of September! It’s not unusual to hear Christmas Carols on September 1st or see decorations in the shops as early as August!
That sort of puts the frustration of seeing Santa hats on the shelves on bonfire night in to perspective, doesn’t it?
Share books (Iceland)
And perhaps our favourite fun Christmas tradition, is ‘The Christmas Book Flood’ (or Jolabokaflod)
This is the wonderful practice of giving your loved ones books on Christmas Eve
. Almost as important is getting snuggled up with a fluffy blanket, a scalding drink and delving into the pages for a few hours before bed.
This tradition has rather bittersweet roots. It started during WW2, simply because the most easily acquired gifts were those made of paper. Over the years, it has snowballed into a full-on festive phenomenon and according to Guide to Iceland,
up to 80% of the country’s publishing revenue is generated in the run up to Christmas.
Scoff fried chicken (Japan)
Fast food addicts looking for festive inspiration might like to look to Japan, where their most traditional Christmas meal consists of Colonel Sanders finest.
With very few Christian citizens, Christmas is an understated affair in Japan. It’s not actually even a holiday so no one is slaving over a hot stove trying to turn out a perfect crispy-skinned and tender-fleshed turkey.
This goes some of the way to explain the origins of the tradition. It started with one man overhearing two foreigners lamenting a lack of Christmas turkey. That man was Takeshi Okawara, owner of Tokyo’s first KFC, and in response, a festive menu was rolled out across the restaurant.
Now, Japanese KFC Christmas dinner
daily sales have increased by nearly 10 times in December and queues that stretch into hours on the big day itself. Turns out Kentucky Fried Chicken is the festive feast you never knew you wanted.
Hide from Krampus (Austria and Germany)
We all know how Santa rewards kids who are nice, but his punishment for the naughty ones on his list is left vague.
In Austria though, it is made abundantly clear what happens to the kids too bad to get presents: they are left to Krampus, the country’s mythical Christmas devil.
Half-goat and all demon, Krampus is an interesting choice as a festive figurehead. Originally a pagan legend, Krampus at Christmas rose to popularity at the turn of last century, when he started to feature on postcards. He has enjoyed an even bigger boost recently, and now has a Hollywood movie
to his name!
The horned, hairy, nightmarish creature is said to stalk the streets on the 6th December (known in the country as Krampusnacht
or Krampus night) and terrorizes naughty children. Mythically, the punishments for misbehavior can vary from being beaten, kidnapped or even dragged away to hell. Most commonly (and less terrifyingly!) he is pictured with a bundle of birch twigs which he uses to beat bad kids.
It certainly puts the punishment of a sad empty stocking into perspective, huh?
That’s our brief look at how Christmas is celebrated across the globe. Perhaps this year you might want to rethink your choice of Christmas dinner or spend the night before Christmas in bed with a good book.
Whatever your traditions are, whether they’re special to your country, or simply to your family, we hope you enjoyed their magic this festive season!