With Christmas festivities just around the corner, and some starting already in many countries, today we’ve brought together some unique Christmas traditions from all over the world to start celebrating this beautiful time of the year.
Celebrated over two days, Spain’s annual Día de los Reyes Magos features colorful street parades, a delicious cake (known as Roscón de Reyes) with little surprises hidden inside and a vibrant display of brightly illuminated costumes.
On January 5th, in anticipation for the arrival of the Three Wise Men (or Three Kings as translated from Spanish), Spanish towns and cities across the country put on spectacular parades. This parade is known as the Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos, (or Three Kings Day parade). The best part of it is watching the Three Kings throw sweets and candy from the floats into the crowds!
According to the Bible, three wise men went to visit the newborn baby Jesus in Bethlehem and came bearing gifts. Their names were Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar, and they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn savior. On the morning of January 6th, children awake to presents brought from the Reyes Magos. Usually this day is spent with family and there is a big lunch to be prepared and enjoyed by all.
In the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 tricksy troll-like characters come out to play in Iceland. Each night before Christmas, Icelandic children are visited by the 13 Yule Lads. According to legend, the Yule Lads are the sons of a troll, named Grýla.
For each night of Yuletide, the little ones place their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts for nice girls and boys… or rotting potatoes for the naughty ones!
Meet the ghoulish creature ‘Krampus’, the Christmas Devil who punishes naughty children. Practiced in Austria, southern Bavaria, South Tyrol, Northern Fruili, Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Repulbic, the Slovak Republic and Croatia, individuals dress up as the Krampus to represent the demonic mythical creature (half-man, half-goat) and scare children into good behavior. The evil accomplice of St Nicholas, is said to wander the streets in search of badly behaved children.
During the month of December, you can expect to see terrifying masked figures out and about scaring kids and adults alike with ghastly pranks.
In Japan, a white-bearded man has become associated with Christmas, and no, it’s not Santa Claus. Every year, millions of families make a beeline for the nearest KFC in Japan and order bucketloads of fried chicken… so it’s KFC’s Colonel Sanders who makes an appearance at millions of Japanese Christmas tables.
Interestingly enough, in the early 1970s, the manager of the first KFC in Japan began marketing a “party barrel” of fried chicken to be sold on Christmas, after it came to him in a dream. He said it was inspired after he overheard foreigners in his restaurant talk about how they missed having turkey for Christmas. He thought a dinner of fried chicken would make a great substitute, and began marketing it as a way to celebrate Christmas. By 1974, KFC took the Christmas marketing plan national across Japan, and it took off. Even today, KFC’s ‘Party Barrels’ remains a Christmas hit in Japan.
If you are looking for some festive sparkle, Philippines is just your place! The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) is held each year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando – the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” The word parol derives from the Spanish farol, meaning lantern or light. Filipinos place much significance on the symbolism of light, the star regarded as a fount of light and a sign of hope in the predominantly Christian country in Asia.
The festival attracts spectators from all over the country and across the globe. Eleven barangays (villages) take part in the festival and competition is fierce as everyone pitches in trying to build the most elaborate lantern.
Originally, the lanterns were simple creations around half a meter in diameter, made from Japanese origami paper and lit by candle. Today, the lanterns are made from a variety of materials and have grown to around six meters in size!
Does your country holds any other interesting Christmas tradition? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Merry Christmas from the YOKO team!