The best season of the year is almost here. Every year, for a few weeks, the world seems to gleam with magic, people look happier, and everything feels cozier.
You undoubtedly have your own set of traditions or customs that help to make the holiday season so memorable, whether you’re celebrating a religious festival like Hanukkah or Christmas or a more secular celebration. Our favorite Christmas customs all throughout the world are brash, proud, and promise a ton of joyous celebration.
Every culture that observes Christmas also has unique festive customs for elevating the occasion. Some of those feature foods or sweets that are seasonal. Some people offer gifts with special significance, while others decorate their homes in a certain way, host festivals, parades, or throw parties to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season.
There are some holiday customs that are universal, such as carol singing, Christmas tree decorating, crafting advent calendars, and indulging in copious amounts of Christmas ham, but we think some Christmas customs from other countries might surprise you.
- Christmas Lights, Singapore
Of course we had to start with the Motherland. The Orchard Road we all know and love in Singapore is constantly bustling, but during the Christmas season, it is illuminated by some of the most stunning Christmas decorations and a stunningly tall Christmas tree. Residents can also view a breathtaking Christmas village show at Gardens on the Bay. With that kind of view, we wouldn’t mind spending time trapped in traffic just to have a few more moments to look at the spectacular lights in awe. One of our favorite things about Orchard Road during the festive season is definitely soaking up the atmosphere and getting lost in the lights and Christmas spirit!
- Gävle Goat, Sweden
A 13-meter-tall Yule Goat has been erected in the middle of Gävle’s Castle Square since 1966 during Advent, but this Swedish Christmas custom has unintentionally spawned another “tradition” of sorts: attempts to burn it down. The Goat has successfully burned down 29 times since 1966; the most recent devastation occurred in 2016.
The Yule Goat has been a part of Swedish Christmas traditions since the early days of paganism. However, in 1966, an enormous straw goat known as the Gävle Goat was created, giving the custom a completely new lease on life. The goat is more than 42 feet high, 23 feet wide, and weighs 3.6 tons. The enormous goat is built in the same location each year. From the first Sunday in Advent until after the New Year, when it is taken down, viewers can even watch a livestream of it.
- Christmas On The Beach, Australia
In Australia, where Christmas falls in the hot heat, many people go to the beach for a BBQ. According to an Insider writer, people might play a rollicking game of backyard cricket and grill up some fresh fish.
- Holy Wafer, Poland
On Christmas Eve, many families in Poland break off a piece of oplatek, an unleavened holy wafer, to wish one another a Merry Christmas. Dinner may not start until the first star rises in the night sky, and customarily, a spare place setting is left at the table in case an unexpected guest shows up.
- Kentucky For Christmas, Japan
In Japan, Christmas has never been a major holiday. Apart from a few minor, secular customs like gift-giving and light displays, Christmas is still essentially an alien concept in the nation. The Colonel’s very own Kentucky Fried Chicken served on Christmas Day has, however, become a new, peculiar “custom” in recent years.
Japanese people still find a unique and delectable way to celebrate Christmas even if it isn’t a national holiday there with only 1% of Japanese being Christians. Families visit their neighborhood Kentucky Fried Chicken on Thanksgiving rather than assembling around the table for a turkey feast. After a hugely successful marketing effort named “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!” the custom started in 1974. Some consumers purchase their boxes months in advance or wait in two-hour lines to obtain their “finger lickin” cuisine as the fast food company has maintained its yuletide popularity.
- Christmas Capital, Philippines
Christmas is a holiday that Filipinos prefer to enjoy for as long as they can! Christmas carols may begin to play in stores as early as September! The first of nine pre-dawn or early morning masses is held on December 16th, marking the official start of the Christmas season. On Christmas Day, there is one final mass. Christmas festivities continue through Epiphany, also known as the Feast of the Three Kings, which is observed on the first Sunday in January.
The early masses celebrated before Christmas are referred to as “Misa de Gallo” or “Simbang Gabi” in Filipino in the Philippines.
Every year, San Fernando hosts the Ligligan Parul, also known as the Giant Lantern Festival, which has glistening parols (lanterns) that represent the Star of Bethlehem. Thousands of rotating lights make up each parol, which illuminates the night sky. San Fernando is now known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines” thanks to the celebration.
- Hide The Brooms! Norway
Norway may have one of the most unusual Christmas Eve customs, when individuals hide their brooms. This custom has its roots in the centuries-old belief that witches and other evil spirits would emerge on Christmas Eve in search of brooms to fly on. Many individuals still keep their brooms hidden in the safest area of the house to prevent theft of them.
- A Rolling Good Time, Venezuela
Every Christmas Eve, early in the morning, the city’s citizens make their way to church – so far, so usual – but for reasons known only to them, they do so while skating. Due to the popularity of this unusual custom, several city streets are closed to traffic so that people can safely skate to church before returning home for an unconventional Christmas dinner.
- Krampus In Austria
According to mythology, the Krampus, a devil-like monster, joins St. Nicholas celebrations on December 6 in Alpine nations like Austria. A list of their good and bad deeds is requested from the kids: Children who behave well receive treats like candy, apples, and nuts, while those who don’t worry about what the Grinch might bring on Christmas morning.
- Yule Lads, Iceland
13 cunning, troll-like characters come out to play in Iceland in the 13 days before Christmas. Over the course of the 13 nights running up to Christmas, the Yule Lads (also known as jólasveinarnir or jólasveinar in Icelandic) visit youngsters all over the nation. Children put their best shoes by the window each Yuletide night, and a different Yule Lad comes to visit, leaving gifts for the good girls and boys and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones.