Gather round with the family to enjoy a magnificent dinner for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on December 8th, and be sure to bring little Tio de Nadal, the Christmas Log! This log is decorated with legs, a face, and a cute red hat, and is tucked in at the end of the night with a blanket! Be sure to leave some of your feast out for the little log, it’s known to get hungry at night, and in return, you’ll find presents wrapped in the blanket in the morning.
- Oaxaca, Mexico
There will be no porcelain or plastic figures found in a nativity scene in Oaxaca. Every December 23rd, hundreds of carved vegetables are displayed for a radish carving contest, all depicting Christmas-themed or Mexican folklore scenes. Radishes are grown specifically for this event, but in the past it was a simple radish carved by shopkeepers to attract customers. Today, it’s a three-day long festival that attracts thousands of spectators. Sounds rad! Well, rad-ish.
Every Christmas Eve, Norwegians take all of their brooms and hide them due to a tradition leftover from Norway’s pagan days. Legend says witches and evil spirits would come out on that night each year, so brooms were hidden, and when guns became a bit more accessible, it was even common for families to fire a warning shot into the air to deter any ghoulish visitor from dropping in.
It’s rare that a spider becomes the hero in a holiday tale, but the Ukrainian myth decorating the Christmas tree of a poor family has brought on years of tradition. The story says the children of a poor widow wanted to decorate their Christmas tree, but with no money to buy decorations, it would remain barren. The spiders in their house heard the children’s wish and spun intricate webs throughout the tree, and in the morning sun the webs turned to strands of silver and gold. Now, people decorate their Christmas tree with webs to invite good luck in the coming year.
- Caracas, Venezuela
Break out the fireworks before the sun rises and set them off, not to disturb your neighbors, but to help rouse the whole city of Caracas, Venezuela. Everyone pulls out their roller skates and floods the streets, many of which are closed to anticipate the sudden influx of skating residents, as they all make their way to the nearest church for Christmas Mass. This might be the only time your Sunday best includes wheels!
Spring cleaning and season’s greetings collide to become seasons cleanings in Guatemala. On December 7th, the neighborhood collects garbage and refuse, anything on their property they wish to rid themselves of, and piles it in a heap in the middle of the street. At the top of the garbage pile is an effigy of the devil himself, sporting a crown, and then the whole thing is set on fire. Once the devil goes up in flames, taking away all of the negativity and evil spirits that have been cleaned out of the homes with him, the Christmas celebrations can begin!
Those spending the holidays in Italy should abandon hope of seeing the familiar red coat of Old Saint Nick. Instead, keep an eye out for the ugly witch named Befana. In spite of her appearance, Befana, or Giver of Gifts, is a kind witch who flies around the world on her broomstick and delivering toys, clothing and candy to good children, while enjoying a plate of broccoli and spiced sausage with a glass of wine at each house! She visits on the eve of Epiphany, January 5th, to the delight of children all throughout Italy.
According to German tradition, the pickle ornament brings good luck and was the last ornament placed on the Christmas tree. On Christmas morning the first child to find the pickle was rewarded with an extra little gift left by St. Nicholas.
This German tradition encouraged the children to appreciate all the ornaments on the Christmas tree, rather than hurrying to see what St. Nick had left for them.
Because Christmas falls in summer when it’s typically very hot the main meal is normally eaten at lunch time. Most people have a cold Christmas dinner, or a barbecue with seafood such as prawns and lobsters along with the ‘traditional english’ food. On Christmas Eve, fish-markets are often full of people queuing to buy their fresh seafood for Christmas day. Some people like to have the ‘traditional’ Christmas Pudding but there might also be cold desserts like pavlova and trifle.
- Newfoundland, Canada
Mummering is a Christmas-time house-visiting tradition practiced in Newfoundland, Ireland and parts of the United Kingdom. Also known as mumming or janneying, it typically involves a group of friends or family who dress in disguise and visit homes within their community or neighbouring communities during the twelve days of Christmas. If the mummers are welcomed into a house, they often do a variety of informal performances that may include dance, music, jokes, or recitations. The hosts must guess the mummers’ identities before offering them food or drink. They may poke and prod the mummers or ask them questions. To make this a challenge for the hosts, the mummers may stuff their costumes, cross-dress, or speak while inhaling (ingressive speech). Once the mummers have been identified, they remove their disguises, spend some social time with the hosts, and then travel as a group to the next home.