By Alex Temblador
Families all around the world are gathering this December and January to celebrate the holidays, however, you might find it interesting that the way families celebrate in the United States if vastly different than how they celebrate it in Austria or in other countries. We discovered some interesting and diverse holiday traditions around the world and we’d love to share them with you.
St. Nicholas’ Day, December 6th
Most of Northern Europe celebrates St. Nicholas Day and it’s on December 6th, not December 25th, when St. Nicholas arrives with gifts for children. On St. Nicholas Day, children leave their shoes or stockings out, near the chimney or bedroom door, only to wake in the morning to find gifts from St. Nicholas fill their shoes. Gifts can candies, cookies, nuts, coins, or small toys. Larger presents are sometimes exchanged on December 5th between family members.
Krampus Day, December 5th
Though you may be familiar with the new film Krampus that just hit theaters, did you know that Krampus is a real life legend from Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic? According to the legend, Krampus visits each house and leaves bundles of sticks for bad children or might carry them away to never be seen. On Krampus Day, Krampus parades and parties abound all over the country. Sometimes it involves people dressing up as Krampus and scaring townsfolk or parade goers. In other instances, both Krampus and Santa will visit houses and businesses to see who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
Note: I just celebrated Krampus Day is Dallas, Texas, this year and I had a blast.
Tió de Nadal, The Christmas Log, December 8th
In Spain’s Catalan region, families buy a Christmas log, known as Tió de Nadal. It’s a hollow log with stick legs, a smiling face, and a floppy Santa-like hat. On December 8th, the log is brought out and is “fed” (usually by the children) and kept warm with a blanket until December 24th. What does the Christmas log eat? Fruit, water, and nuts apparently.
On Christmas Eve, children hit the log with a stick while singing the Tió de Nadal song, a way to encourage the log to…go to the bathroom. After the song is over, the kids look under the blanket that’s been keeping the log warm and find presents! The family then burns the log for warmth! Watch this video to see the adorable tradition!
The Night of Radishes, December 23rd
Oaxaca, Mexico, has a wonderful and creative holiday tradition—the Night of the Radishes, or La Noche de los Rabános. Families and artists gather long, large radishes that are common in the region (some get up to 20 inches in length) and carve the radishes into wonderful holiday displays of saints, angels, nativity scenes, animals, and the Virgin Mary. They then display their works of art in the central square for everyone to look at on December 23rd. Long lines, judges, candies, and food are common this evening and the best radish display wins a cash prize and their picture in the paper.
La Befana, January 6th
Santa’s got competition in Italy when it comes to La Befana. La Befana is an old woman with a broom that brings children gifts on January 6th, the day in which the Three Wise Men arrived at the manger of baby Jesus. Apparently, La Befana is an old woman who the Three Wise Men stopped and asked for directions to baby Jesus. She wasn’t able to tell them where to find Christ the child and she denied their offer to join them. Later she changed her mind and looked for the men but could not find them, so instead she handed every child that she met a small gift in hopes it was baby Jesus. Somewhere in the mix, her broom is gifted with the ability to fly. Now every year, she flies around the country and leave gifts to good children on January 6th and lumps of coal for naughty one.
A Cemetery Christmas Eve
On Christmas Eve, most people in Finland will visit a cemetery to place glowing candles on their loved one’s graves. This tradition creates a beautiful and serene scene of reflection all across the country on Christmas Eve.
La Quema de Diablo, December 7th
In Guatemala on December 7th, residents prepare for the holiday season by burning away the devil, or burning all the bad stuff away from the previous year so as to have a “clean” and sacred Christmas season. Guatemalans buy devil figures that are sold in the markets and burn them on this day. Some cities have even larger-than-life devils that are burned in a city celebration. Sometimes firecrackers go off during the burning of the devil, making for a loud, but fun event.
Icleand’s Yule Lads
From December 23rd to January 6th, Iceland children place one of their shoes on their bedroom window sill and awake in the morning to find small gifts or sweets from one of the 13 Yuletide lads who just happen to be trolls. Each Yuletide Lad has their own personality and interests. For instance, one likes to slam doors at night and another likes to steal sausages. If a child behaved naughty that day that a Yuletide Lad is to arrive, they might receive rotting vegetables in their shoes.
Spider Web Trees in Ukraine
Families in Ukraine decorate their Christmas trees with spider webs in honor of an old legend. A poor family grew their own Christmas tree from a pine cone but since they were so poor, they were unable to decorate it. One morning, the family found that spiders had spun their webs around the tree and the webs turned to gold and silver when the sun rose. That is why Ukrainians now decorate their trees with spider webs.
Check out this image from lovehomeswap that shares other interesting holiday tradition tidbits from around the world!