Unusual Christmas traditions around the world

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  • Traditions vary across culture, countries and continents as does Santa's name, his mode of transport and his fashion.

    Ever imagined 13 Father Christmases delivering presents or hanging cobwebs on your Christmas tree?

    Father Christmas’ delivery system, festive dates and family games differ across the globe, and no household’s special day is the same – as these traditions prove…


    Christmas Eve customs see large parties gather under firework displays where they toast to Christmas. Children are then invited to open presents at midnight before releasing ‘globos’ – paper lanterns with a tea light inside – up into the sky.


    A recent tradition in China has seen apples wrapped extravagantly and adorned in pretty paper and twirling ribbons and gifted on Christmas Eve. Why, you say? Christmas Eve is called ‘Pin An Ye’ in China and the word for apple is ‘Ping Guo’. The close translation has seen the birth of a new practice for Chinese citizens.


    Germans are famed for receiving and opening their presents the day before Christmas Day. Nikolaus (our version of cheery, chunky Santa)
    and a companion who will punish children if they have been bad deliver these gifts. The identity of his evil elf changes across the country: in some regions he is called Krampus, a big horned monster clothed in rags.


    Christmas in Mexico is celebrated with their most famed game – the piñata. It is often shaped into a ball with seven peaks protruding from its exterior that represent the seven deadly sins. Bashing them whilst blindfolded is a great game for all the family and you can never have enough chocolate at Christmas.


    Midnight Mass is a popular custom in Venezuela that is celebrated every night between 16th
    and 24th December, however their mode of transport is anything but traditional. The roads of Caracas, the capital, are closed in the mornings so that locals can rollerblade together to church. People leave long, colourful ribbons hanging from their windows so that if they sleep in skaters can tug the strings and wake them up.


    Good children receive presents from Sinterklaas, but bad children get put in a sack and taken to Spain for a year to teach them how to behave! Every year the mythical figure that is Sinterklass arrives in Holland via boat on December 5th so children wake to chocolate and presents on December 6th.


    Ukrainian Christmas symbols include garlic, goats and even spiders. Traditional folk stories claim that once upon a time a poor family had nothing to decorate their tree with so a spider visited that night and spun webs between its branches that shimmered and sparkled on Christmas morning – and thus tinsel was born. Now this metallic garland and baubles with cobwebs adorn Ukrainian trees.


    The day before Christmas is spent fasting in preparation for the big day. Come Christmas lunch, the Polish table consists of 12 dishes, providing good luck for the next 12 months and representing Jesus’12 disciples.
    The meal is often free of meat to remember the animals in the barn at Jesus’
    birth and some even say animals gain the power of speech at Christmas time.


    Spaniards celebrate Christmas on December 25, and on January 6 they have a second festival called Epiphany. The festival celebrates the Three Wise Men that brought presents to Jesus’ manger and while children receive some presents on Christmas Day, most are received at this second celebration. Children write letters to The Three Wise Men on Boxing Day asking for presents that they have not yet received and leave shoes to be filled by the kings on the eve of January 5.


    One Father Christmas wasn’t enough for Iceland, so they have 13. An unlucky number for some, this country has different names, identities and personalities for the chaps who deliver presents or rotten potatoes, depending whether you made the naughty or nice list. The Yule Lads slip down the mountains on the run up to Christmas and hide gifts round the house.

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