Magazine

Christmastime Traditions Around the World

Travel Intelligence

While Christmas may have begun solely as a Christian holiday, people from all over the world have embraced the festive season with some most unusual customs. In celebration of these eccentricities, we've picked five of our favourite traditions.

Saint Nicholas Day, Germany
Nikolaus travels by donkey in the middle of the night on December 6th, 'Nikolaus Tag', and leaves coins, chocolate and toys in the shoes of well-behaved children all over the country. He also visits children both in schools and home and, in exchange for sweets or treats, each child must read a poem, sing a song or draw a picture. Sometimes Nikolaus is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, a devil-like character who carries a stick or small whip in hand to punish the naughty children…watch out.

Firecrackers at Dawn, Sri Lanka
While Sri Lanka is predominantly a Buddhist country, people all over the island celebrate the Christian festival and bank holiday. Christmas, or 'Naththala' in the native tongue, officially starts on 1st December when Sri Lankans wake up to perform the ritualistic task of letting off firecrackers at dawn. You will find many homes adorned with fairy lights and festive decorations throughout Advent.

The Three Wise Men, Spain
Traditionally, the 'Reyes Magos' or the Three Wise Men, deliver presents to children on 6th January, the twelfth day of Christmas and the Feast of the Ephiphany. The trio parade down the streets of Spain on 5th January every year, riding on carnival-style floats and throwing sweets and treats to the children. Known as 'Cabalgata', this Spanish spectacle is well worth seeing.

Fried Chicken Feast, Japan
Christmas in Japan is widely celebrated as a period of fun and happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is more often marked than Christmas Day and is spent a little like 'Valentine's Day' in the UK and US; couples spend special time together and exchange cards and gifts. Christmas Day is the busiest time of year for fast-food outlets such as KFC. There was an advertising campaign by the firm in 1974 called 'Kentucky for Christmas!', or 'Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!', which has proved successful to this day; fried chicken is the festive food of choice!

Ngejot, Bali
Christmas Day in Bali sees a tradition called 'Ngejot', where Christians share food with their neighbours as a symbolic gesture of generosity and sharing happiness together. The delicacies are usually delivered in a special container and carried from one neighbour to the next on their head. Although there are differences in religions on the island, there is one thing neighbours can both agree on and enjoy; gratitude and delicious food!

So however you may be celebrating this December, we wish you a happy and healthy Christmastime…

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