Traditions leading up to Christmas Day
In the Netherlands, children look forward to Dec. 5, when St. Nicholas (or Sinterklaas) brings presents to children who've been well-behaved in the past year.
Sinterklaas (which is where "Santa Claus" originated) leaves gifts in clogs or shoes left by the fireplace or windowsill. Some clever children may leave carrots and hay in their shoes, in hopes of luring Sinterklaas' horse to their houses. Naughty children, as the tale goes, get something a lot worse than coal. Instead, they are kidnapped to Spain for a year, where they'll be taught a thing or two about good manners!
If you're in Indonesia, it's common to see Christmas trees made from chicken feathers. These Balinese trees are commonly handmade and shipped worldwide. Perhaps you even have one in your own home! In Venezuela, Christmas celebrations begin on Dec. 16 with many masses leading up to Christmas Day. In its capital Caracas, it's tradition to wake up early Christmas Day to rollerskate to church! The roads are closed to vehicles beginning at 8 a.m. so people can safely skate their way through the streets.
Christmas Eve traditions around the worldIn Argentina, fireworks ring in Christmas Day at midnight. And that's not all that lights up the skies. Families release "globos," lighted paper lanterns shortly after midnight. It's a sight to behold! In Austria, Christmas Day celebrations begin around 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve. During this time, each town's Christmas tree is lit, and families gather to sing carols in the town square. The most popular carol is "Silent Night," or "Stille Nacht," which was written in Austria in 1818. With only one percent of Christians in China, Christmas is not a well-celebrated holiday. However, over recent years, the practice of gifting fancy wrapped apples on Christmas Eve has become increasingly popular. This is because Christmas Eve is called "Ping An Ye" or silent night, which sounds similar to "Ping Guo" or apple. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, long and elaborate nativity plays are acted out on Christmas Eve -- sometimes featuring six choirs! Since the religious aspect of the holiday is honored here, gifts are generally not exchanged. In Finland, Christmas Eve traditions are aplenty. One practice that's particularly nice involves families visiting the graves of their loved ones and leaving white lanterns by tombstones.
Christmas Day traditions around the worldChristmas falls in the middle of summer for the Land Down Under, so Australians are known to celebrate with a cold Christmas dinner or light seafood spread. The main meal is actually eaten during lunchtime, and can be a garden BBQ, picnic or even served on the beach! For the single ladies (and gentlemen) this holiday, there's a superstition in the Czech Republic that says if you throw a shoe over your shoulder on Christmas Day and the toe points towards the door, you'll soon be wed.
Santa-who?The mythos of Santa Claus seems ubiquitous, but he's not the premier gift-giver in Italy. Italian children look forward to Epiphany, a Christian Feast Day that falls 12 days after Christmas (Jan. 6). On the eve of this day, an ugly but kindhearted witch named Befana flies on her broomstick to visit the homes of good children. It's told that she gave shelter to the Three Wise Men as they followed the star to find baby Jesus. The wise men invited La Befana to join their quest, but she declined; however, after her guests departed, the old woman changed her mind. By that time the star disappeared, so she was never able to present her gifts to the new king. To this day, she visits the homes of children, hoping one is the baby Jesus. For good children, she leaves candies and small gifts. To the bad kids, a lump of coal. A similar story of the Babushka is told to Russian children as well.
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Which are you most excited to pass on to your children? Share below!