9 mind blowing holiday traditions around the world
Christmas is, without a doubt, the most magical time of the year, but there are many holiday traditions around the world. In fact, each country has its own customs and these are really different from each other, from the witch who brings gifts to children in Italy to the longest festivities in the world in Puerto Rico. If you are a Christmas lover and want to discover the most surprising traditions around the planet, keep reading and don't miss any!
Holiday traditions around the world that will surprise you
1. Italy - The witch Befana
In Italy, gifts to the little ones are not brought by Santa Claus, Father Christmas, or the Three Wise Men, they are brought by Befana. This word means 'witch' in Italian and, in fact, it is a witch who distributes the gifts on January 6, Epiphany Day. This tradition has pagan origins, as ancient Romans celebrated rites for agricultural abundance for 12 days after December 25th. It was believed that in those days witches flew over the fields with their brooms to promote good harvests during the year. In the Middle Ages this tradition merged with the Epiphany and the popular belief was established that the Befana had been an assistant to the Three Wise Men.
2. UK - Christmas Crakers
Do you know this typical tradition of Christmas dinners in the United Kingdom? Christmas crackers are tubular-shaped firecrackers that are set off during Christmas gatherings. Each person crosses their arms and grabs their cracker with their right hand and their neighbor's with their left, forming a large circle, so that all the crackers open at the same time. When they explode, they reveal their contents: a paper crown, a small toy and a piece of paper with a joke or a riddle. Without a doubt one of the best-known English holiday traditions around the world, which then continues to enjoy dinner with the paper crown on.
3. Germany - The night of the Krampus
No child is safe on the night of December 5-6 in Germany! In what is known as 'the night of the krampus' (Krampusnacht in German), this demonic-looking creature, a kind of faun with horns, black hair and a long red tongue, walks through the streets in search of those children who have misbehaved. He rings chains and cowbells to warn of his presence and carries a sack on his back, where he takes bad children to the underworld to devour them. This tradition is not exclusive to Germany, it is also celebrated in other alpine countries in the area such as Switzerland or Austria.
4. USA - Boxing Day
Christmas is extended one more day in the United States, as well as in many other countries that were under the British Empire. It is the day after Christmas, December 26, known as 'Boxing Day'. The term comes from the Middle Ages, in which the day after Christmas money, gifts or food were collected for the poorest. Currently, in the United States it is a shopping day, with discounts that sometimes exceed those of Black Friday, in which the population takes advantage to get the best bargains or to return to their cities after meeting with the family for Christmas.
5. Mexico - Carry a suitcase on New Year
If you are passionate about traveling, you will love this New Year's tradition. In Mexico, it is customary for people who want to travel during the new year to take a suitcase and walk around the house, as a symbol of their desire to visit new places. There are also people who go out with their suitcase and walk around the block. If you want to try this very original tradition to welcome the new year, you should know that it is not necessary to fill your suitcase to go around, it will be time to pack when you finally go on a trip!
6. Puerto Rico - The longest Christmas in the world
Did you know that Puerto Rico celebrates the longest Christmas in the world? The starting signal for the Christmas festivities is Thanksgiving Day, at the end of November, and, from this moment, the streets and houses are embellished with lights and decorations. You could imagine that the festivities end on New Year's or Epiphany, on January 6, as happens in other countries with a Catholic tradition, but in Puerto Rico they last until the third week of January. The final point is the San Sebastián Street Festival, a great parade with live music and dancing, the best way to say goodbye to Christmas in style.
7. France - The origin of Christmas balls
In case you didn't know, one of the most popular holiday traditions around the world has its origins in France, we are talking about decorating a fir tree for Christmas. Traditionally, in France they were decorated with apples, but in 1858 there was a great drought that caused a shortage of this fruit, so the fir trees were left without their decorations. But a glassblower from the Lorraine region had the idea of blowing balls to decorate Christmas trees, an idea that became so popular that it has survived to this day.
8. Norway - The nisse, the home protector
One of the most traditional Christmas characters in Norway is the nisse, a mythological creature similar to a gnome that comes from Scandinavian folklore. He is depicted with a long white beard and wearing a conical-shaped cap. Popular culture says that the nisse are the guardians of the house, formerly of farms, barns and stables. If you treat them well by leaving them food, the nisse will fulfill their protective function, but if not, they will cause mischief such as breaking or stealing things from the house.
9. Trinidad & Tobago - Parang Music
Although the official language of Trinidad & Tobago is English and it is the most used language in the country's daily life, Christmas songs are sung in Spanish. It is a Venezuelan-Trinidadian music called 'parang' in which various instruments are used, from guitars to maracas and violins. Those known as “parranderos” go from house to house singing these traditional songs and are normally invited to Christmas food and drinks, such as paime, cream punch or ginger beer.
10. BONUS Spain - New Year’s 12 lucky grapes
Do you know how the New Year is received in Spain? Well, in a very peculiar way, eating a grape for each of the 12 chimes of the clock that mark the beginning of the new year. Families and friends gather in the squares in front of churches and bell towers or in front of the television to eat the grapes. Tradition says that if you manage to eat a grape for each chime in a synchronized manner, you will have good luck during the coming year. No cheating allowed!
Now that you know the most surprising holiday traditions around the world, which one is your favorite?