We love our Holiday traditions at my house. Feasts, ornaments and activities that have been in our family for years and years bring us both comfort and connection with their very existence. But not all families are the same or share the same heritage much less traditions, so what seems familiar and comforting to me will probably seem just a little “off” to someone from another family or from another part of the world.
Here are just a few Holiday traditions from around the world that you may find strange just as I do — or you may even find the origins of your own deeply rooted Holiday traditions.
Night of the Radishes
Every Dec. 23, the Mexican state of Oaxaca presents the most impressive display of carved vegetables in the world. The radishes are grown especially for this event, and remain on display through Christmas day. The miniature exhibits depict the Nativity scene and other events from Mexican folklore. Originally, shopkeepers who wanted to entice people into their stores did the tradition of radish carving. Today, it’s a three-day festival.
Santa Con Pub Crawl
What began as a nonsensical gathering of San Franciscans dressed as Santa Claus has become a worldwide pub-crawl. Now celebrating its 22nd anniversary, the official website describes it as “conventions of Santas — groups of men and women — dressed as Santa.” That’s all it takes? No! There are rules in the very important guidelines, stating among other things that one cannot merely show up in a Santa hat. And that one must address every single participant as “Santa.” Check your nearest large city (around the world) to see the dates for this year’s Santa Con in your area. This should be a fun one!
Fried Chicken on Christmas Eve — In Japan!
Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, so it must be something about the “Americanness” of the KFC meal. Fried chicken on Christmas Eve sounds like a good idea. Sure, but why KFC? Every establishment has a long line trailing out the door. This tradition (and good marketing) goes back to the 1970s and the tradition still holds strong. There’s even a Smithsonian Magazine article about it.
Caroling With a Dead Horse
In Wales, on no particular day or time, but sometime from Christmas to late January, Mari Lwyd is a ritual of old, meant to bring good luck. One person dresses up as a horse, using an actual decorated and embellished horse skull, and is accompanied by a group of people. Together they go from house to house and sing in the hopes that they will be rewarded with food and drink. This is not as foreign a tradition as you might think, as it is referenced in “The Christmas Carol “as “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” Some believe this ritual has a pre-Christian genesis dating waaay back in the Welsh countryside.
Krampus – A Beast of a Creature
For good children, there is Santa Claus; but for bad children, there is Krampus — a beast of a creature — who shows up in order to punish the ill behaved. Just the sight of him is punishing indeed! Krampus has roots in Germanic folklore. Today, young people dress up as Krampus and roam the streets in Austria, Romania, Bavaria, and other Balkan countries to frighten young children during the holidays.
Legend of the Holiday Spider
Ever wondered about the origin of tinsel on Christmas trees? The tradition is said to have begun in the Ukraine with the folk tale of the Christmas Spider. As the story goes, there was an impoverished family that had nothing with which to decorate their small pine tree. The children sadly went to bed, only to awake Christmas morning to see the tree covered in cobwebs. When the morning sun lit the branches, the cobwebs turned into gold and silver, enriching the family’s spirits and coffers. Thus, the custom of adorning Christmas trees with tinsel was born.
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