Christmas Traditions Around the World

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Exploring fun Christmas celebrations! Graphic by K. Peechu.

K. Peechu, Staff Writer

Christmas is a time of love and holiday joy, and several places around the world celebrate it differently. Let’s explore a few of these traditions!

The almost 43-feet tall Gävle Goat of Sweden comes from an idea in which someone had an idea to design a humongous version of the traditional Swedish straw goat, with the incentive to attract customers to the businesses in the southern part of Gävle. Today, the goat is built every year as a symbol of Christmastime and is so world-famous that it has made it to the Guinness Book of Records in 1985 for the first time. However, the Gävle Goat has been subjected to several arson attacks over the years, and pranksters have made it their tradition to burn it down each year, despite the efforts to stop it. 

In Caracas, Venezuela, it’s become a unique tradition to roller skate to mass on Christmas Eve. This tradition has become so popular amongst Caracas’ population that roads in the city are closed so that people can skate safely. While the tradition’s origins aren’t clear, many suggest that it could have been used as an alternative to sledding, as December temperatures in Venezuela don’t stray too far from the high thirties. 

Another unorthodox tradition is hiding brooms in Norway, which originates from the belief that witches and evil spirits came out on the eve of Christmas, looking for brooms to ride on. To this day, several Norwegians look for the safest spots in their homes to hide their brooms from being stolen.

The Giant Lantern Festival is an annual festival that takes place in the Philippines. It’s celebrated the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando. The festival has its roots as a simpler activity in Bacolor, but as the provincial capital shifted from Bacolor to San Fernando, the festival followed with it. The religious activity was known as “lubenas”, and the lanterns initially measured around two to three feet made from papel de hapon (Japanese origami paper) and lit with candles, which heavily contrasts the electric bulb-illuminated, sixteen-feet ones today, made with several different materials such as colored plastic and metal frames. To the local Filipinos, the lanterns symbolize unwavering hope, instilling a Christmas spirit in the people. The event is so popular in the Philippines that San Fernando has been declared the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines”. 

Saint Nicholas’ Day in Germany is celebrated on December 6th and is very popular amongst Germany’s youth. On the night of December 5th, children clean and polish their shoes, leaving them outside the door before heading to sleep. When they wake up in the morning, they can find their shoes filled with candies, nuts, and small gifts from St. Nicholas. However, St. Nick also brings along Knecht Ruprecht, or Farmhand Rupert, who is a devil-looking character dressed in dark clothes and bells with a dirty beard. In some traditions, Knecht Ruprecht leaves lumps of coal, stones, and sticks in the shoes of children who misbehave.

While our traditions and celebrations vary, the spirit of Christmastime is clear in every way!