In our last post, we discovered some unusual and different Christmas traditions from around the world. This week we will continue looking at how different cultures celebrate the Christian holiday, whether it’s radish carving or beach picnics, we hope these add a little spark to your festive traditions!
In Iceland, the Yule cat, known as the Jólakötturinn, is a giant feline that stalks the countryside during Christmas. It’s said that this giant cat will eat bad children, so Icelandic children are told not to go outside at night—especially on Christmas Eve. Icelandic children are told to keep up with their chores and behave to scare off this terrifying creature and ensure good luck throughout the following year. In the past, children would be rewarded for completing their chores with new clothes. Today, children will ask for new clothes and do their chores to ensure the Yule cat doesn’t eat them.
In Poland, the Christmas dinner, usually held on the evening of the 24th, cannot start until the first star appears. Children will sit by the window as the sunsets and wait for the first star to appear in the sky. This is believed to be the ‘star of Bethlehem’, which guided the three wise men used to Jesus when he was born.
Before starting the food, Polish parties will each break off a piece of a wafer typically embossed with stars to represent the Star of Bethlehem.
12 Course Meal
In Ukraine, on the evening of the 24th, they will prepare and enjoy a 12-course meal! Each course is dedicated to one of Jesus’ 12 apostles. The meal can last up to four hours and can include up to 40 dishes! The first course of the meal is usually soup or borscht. Borscht is made from fresh beets, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions cooked together in water until tender. It will also feature a fish course of carp or pike and at least one meat course with pork. Other dishes like pierogies and cabbage rolls are served as a course in this incredible feast. Dessert includes pastries filled with fruit preserves and topped with whipped cream. There is so much food that usually, Christmas day is spent eating the delicious leftovers from the evening before.
Christmas brings a special delicacy in South Africa: deep-fried caterpillars of Emperor Moths! The moths are fried in oil, garlic, and salt. The moths are fried in butter and garlic and then served with a lemon wedge. They’re often served with chips or French fries as an appetiser. The larvae are crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle, similar to popcorn or potato chips. They have an earthy flavour that some people describe as mushroomy. If you’re not into bugs, there are plenty of other Christmas traditions in South Africa that you can join in on.
When you think of Finland, you might imagine the coldest place on Earth. The country’s national sport is ice hockey, and its people are known for their thick coats, furry hats, and mittens. But a tradition in Finland may surprise you: Christmas sauna!
Saunas have been popular in Finland since the 1800s and remain so today. During the holidays—especially Christmas Eve—Finns will gather together to take a sauna before celebrating Christmas with their families or visiting friends and relatives at home throughout the country. The idea behind this tradition is that it helps bring people together physically as well as spiritually before celebrating togetherness through family dinners or going out into town with friends for New Year’s Eve parties (which usually include plenty of alcohol).
Surfing and Picnics
In Australia, Christmas is celebrated in the summertime. While that may sound strange, it actually makes perfect sense. After all, there’s nothing like spending your holidays at the beach or in a park with family and friends— these aren’t exactly things you can do in winter! Australians will usually have garden parties, beach picnics, and even go for a Christmas surf! This sounds strange to those from the Northern hemisphere, but anyone in the Southern hemisphere will know that Christmas is all about enjoying the summer weather!
There’s a particular area of Mexico that takes its radish carving very seriously: the town of San Juan de la Huerta. On the 23rd of December, residents of this small town in Oaxaca, Mexico, will participate in radish carving competitions and festivities. A competition takes place to see who can carve the most beautiful nativity scene or Christmas design into a radish. During the Christmas season, the radish sculptures are displayed to everyone who visits. It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1800s and is still strong and alive today.
In Caracas, Venezuela, hundreds and thousands of people take to the streets on Christmas morning in their roller skates. The tradition has become so big that other cities have also started participating. Instead of driving to church, all the roads are closed to allow the churchgoers to go in their rollerskates. It is said that children will sleep with one lace tied to their toe and their rollerskate sitting outside the window so that their friends can wake them up to roller skate together.
Hopefully, we’ve enlightened you a little more on Christmas traditions worldwide. Even if you don’t celebrate these holidays yourself, it’s fun to see how different cultures mark the passage of time. And who knows? Maybe one of these traditions will inspire you to start your own!