I love learning about traditions and tales through the ages. So when better a time to share some beautiful ideas from around the globe than on this Christmas Eve, especially during a year when we perhaps aren’t able to experience them first-hand.
I love the idea of this. Jolabokaflod (roughly translated means “Christmas Book Flood”) is the exchanging of books on Christmas Eve in Iceland. Apparently it dates back to the Second World War, when paper was one of the few things not rationed. The books are given during the day, then the idea is to cosy up and read in the evening.
Another tradition in Iceland is the ‘Yule Lads’. They are 13 troll like characters who visit children in the 13 nights ahead of Christmas Day. They leave gifts for well-behaved children, and rotten potatoes for those who are naughty!
In Gävle, Sweden, each year a 13 metre tall straw goat is erected for Christmas. Based on the traditional Swedish Christmas straw goat and initially intended as publicity for the southern part of the city, this goat weighing approximately 3.5 tonnes is now world famous! You can take a look at it on this dedicated webpage here.
In San Fernando, Philippines, each year there is a Giant Lantern Festival. The roots of this are a little hazy, but thought to stem from a lantern competition held in the early 1900s just before Christmas. Gradually this evolved into the giant lanterns that are created there today. Some are over 6 meters in diameter, and all are made to spread the message of light and hope.
On the subject of light, Little Candles’ Day is celebrated in Colombia each year on 7 December. Households place small paper lanterns or candles on their windowsills in honour of the Virgin Mary. This also marks the start of Christmas.
In Caracas, the capital of Colombia’s neighbour Venezuela, people attend Christmas mass on roller skates. The origins of this tradition are unknown, but it has become so popular that city officials close the streets to vehicles until after 8 am to allow people to travel, or roller skate, in safety.
After mass it is common for Christmas to be welcomed in with a mix of fireworks and Church bells.
Another country using fireworks as part of its annual festivities is Canada, specifically Toronto. Each year there is a Cavalcade of Lights. This has been happening since City Hall was newly opened in 1967 and continues each year to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas period, and the city’s main tree in Nathan Phillips Square. Together the Square and tree are lit with around 300,000 energy saving LED lights.
In the United Kingdom we celebrate many small and bigger Christmas traditions. My personal favourite is hiding a silver coin (traditionally a sixpence although they are harder to come by these days!) in Christmas pudding. Whoever then finds it in their piece of the pudding on Christmas Day is said to enjoy good fortune for the coming year.
What are your favourite Christmas traditions? I’d love to hear about them! Please do drop me a note in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read about the tradition of the Christmas tree.