Unusual Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Christmas tree image from Fanpop

It’s my favorite time of year again! Huzzah for Christmas trees, egg nog, stockings hung on the fireplace, and a general spirit of goodwill to all humankind! Christmas is celebrated by billions of people all around the world – there are only 35 countries around the world that don’t recognize the holiday. Of course, with so many people in so many countries celebrating the day, it is only natural that there are a multitude of regional and local traditions that have become a part of Christmastime in one particular place. Here are a few holiday traditions from around the world that I find the most interesting.

Santa Claus is a Canadian (according to Canada)

Image from Operation Letter To Santa

How seriously does Canada take Christmas? They take it so seriously, they gave Canadian citizenship to Santa Claus. Jason Kenney, Canada’s former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, declared Santa to be a Canadian in 2008. On top of that, Canada’s postal service tells children around the world to send their Christmas lists to Santa via his Canadian post code they assigned just for him: HOH OHO.

This all may sound like jolly fun, but there is a serious side to it. Canada currently claims the North Pole is part of its sovereign territory, a claim that is disputed by other nations with ambitions to lay their hands on Arctic oil and fisheries, such as Russia and Denmark. Earlier this month, when Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of “combat-ready” Arctic military units, Canada’s government vowed to “defend the North Pole and Santa Claus”.

Sheesh, what happened to “Peace on Earth”, Canada?

The Philippines has a really, really long Christmas season

Paskong Pinoy image from the Philippine Embassy to the USA

When it comes to taking Christmas seriously, though, it’s hard to top the Philippines, whose Christmas season is the world’s longest. It begins in September and doesn’t end until the third Sunday in January!

Just like Neiman Marcus!

Just like Neiman Marcus!

The festivities begin with Christmas carols and parties, and the hanging of star-shaped decorations called paróls that represent the Star of Bethlehem. The more religious will participate in daily pre-dawn masses known as Simbang Gabi that could start as early as 3 a.m. and last from December 16 to Christmas Eve. Even after Christmas Day, there is still plenty of celebrating to do: there’s Holy Innocents’ Day on December 28, which children celebrate by playing pranks on each other; Three Kings’ Day on January 6, where children receive gifts in shoes that they leave out overnight; and The Feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9, which is marked with religious parades. The final end to the months of celebration is The Feast of Santo Niño on the third Sunday in January.

I love Christmas, but boy does that all sound exhausting.

In Eastern Europe, Santa has a Devilish Companion

That's okay, I didn't need to sleep tonight.

That’s okay, I didn’t need to sleep tonight.

Meet Krampus, the anti-Santa that haunts the nightmares of children across eastern Europe. While Saint Nick gives gifts and presents to all the good boys and girls, Krampus’s job is to punish all the bad boys and girls who have misbehaved throughout the year. Children are told that Krampus will beat them with a birch stick or with chains, then snatch them up into his basket to be taken down to you-know-where.

In some European cities, a special festival is held in Krampus’s honor, known as Krampusknacht. Adult party-goers will dress up in their best Krampus costumes and parade through the streets, sometimes carrying torches for extra-scary effect. Now that’s a much more menacing threat than coal in your stocking.

The City of Medellín, Colombia, Puts your Christmas Lights to Shame

Lights of Medellin 1 from Alejandra Zapata

In 1955, the new electrical power company for the city of Medellín, Colombia decided to decorate the streets with Christmas lights to celebrate the holidays. Ever since, the “Lighting of Medellín” has become a bigger and bigger deal, to the point of absolute insanity. Just look at some of these:

Lighting of Medellin 2 from SajoR

Lights of Medellin 3 from SajoR

Lights of Medellin 4 from SajoR

This year alone, the city was adorned with 27 million bulbs hanging from 472 miles of wire. No wonder the city made National Geographic’s list of Top 10 Places to see Holiday Lights, and the city receives tens of thousands of tourists in December! Consider my mind blown.

Merry Christmas, everyone, no matter how you celebrate it!

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One Response to Unusual Christmas Traditions from Around the World

  1. AuntLeesie says:

    Just…wow. :-O

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