Celebrating the Holidays Around the Globe

The 2020 Holiday Season will be unlike any other before or after (we hope!). Staying close to home this year, we’re all looking for inspiration on how to make it memorable… and maybe even magical! Here’s a quick peek at a small selection of holiday celebrations around the globe. Who knows - you might find an idea or two to incorporate in your own family traditions! 

Kentucky Fried Christmas, Japan

In Japan, once you get closer to the holidays, you’ll see statues of Colonel Sanders outside Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants dressed up in Santa garb and the chicken inside dressed up in special holiday packaging. Thanks to what was clearly a very effective marketing campaign on the part of KFC, a bucket of fried chicken has become a staple of Christmas dinner for millions of people in Japan.

Spiderweb Decorations, Ukraine

Don’t put those Halloween decorations away just yet! If you find yourself wanting to celebrate the holidays as the Ukrainians do, put those Halloween spiderwebs on your Christmas tree to get in the spirit like the locals do. This tradition comes from an old folk tale in which spiders stepped in and decorated the tree of a family too poor to buy ornaments of their own. The tradition may seem a little dark and spooky at first, but once the morning sunlight comes in, it makes the spiderwebs gleam and twinkle like tinsel.

Carved Radishes, Mexico

If you still have any vegetables left over from your summer gardens, you’re already one step toward celebrating like they do in Mexico. Radishes were introduced to the area years ago by the Spanish, and now there is a “Night of the Radishes” held in Oaxaca every year on December 23rd. Oaxacans celebrate their long history of woodcarving on a slightly different medium, carving large radishes into intricate designs and shapes, such as people, churches, and important Catholic figures, that are then displayed outside shops in the market. There's also an official, government-sponsored competition in which the winner receives a cash prize for the most impressive carved radish display.

Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines

San Fernando is known as “the Christmas capital of the Philippines,” and that’s where every year “The Giant Lantern Festival” is held. Eleven villages (called barangays) take part in the event, which is also a pretty serious competition that attracts spectators from all over the world. It started with much smaller, simpler lanterns but has since grown exponentially in both size and lantern power. Originally, a typical lantern was about half a foot and lit by a small candle inside, but now they’re around six feet, made out of a variety of materials, and fueled by electric bulbs made into all kinds of polychromatic shapes and sizes.

Gävle Goat, Sweden

Starting in the mid-1960s, the people of Sweden have commemorated the Christmas holiday by building an over 40-foot tall straw goat in the middle of Gävle’s Castle Square. What was not originally planned to be part of the tradition is how people started to try their hardest to burn it down every year. It has since been successfully burned down close to 30 times. You can check out the Gävle Goat livestream hereThe goat also has its own Instagram page, naturally. 

Lighting of National Chanukah Menorah, Washington, D.C.

You can find the world’s largest Menorah in the nation’s capital on the Ellipse, across from the White House. The ceremony held in D.C. features speeches, music, activities for kids, and the lighting of the giant over 29-foot tall Menorah. The Menorah is up for eight days, with a new candle lit each night to represent the eight days of Chanukah. If you’re not able to make the trip in person, the annual celebration attracts millions of viewers online from around the world and is referred to as “Virtual Chanukah.”

Tió de Nadal, Catalan

Tió de Nadal translates to “Christmas log.” And that’s exactly what it is. During the holiday season, you’ll find in many homes in the region a hollowed out log, propped up by two to four legs, with a big, smiling face painted on the propped up end. And to top it off, a little red sock cap on its head. The more traditional appearance of the log is significantly more bare, but in recent times, accessories have been added for a little flair. For example, in addition to the cap, which is itself a miniature version of the traditional barretina, a hat that used to be worn commonly by men in the region, often you’ll find logs these days with additional features like a three-dimensional nose. To start, a blankie is placed to keep the grinning log warm during the cold winter, and children are tasked with making sure it is “fed” and comfortable. Then on Christmas Day, the log used to be placed in the fireplace, but nowadays more often the tradition is to beat the log with sticks, while those holding the sticks sing appropriately seasonal songs, and wish for it to drop presents. Thanks to its hollow insides, it’s generally set up to drop treats like candy, nuts, and small toys. For this reason, it is also commonly referred to as “the poo log.” There’s also a traditional song to match if you’re brave enough to google the lyrics!

Beach Parties, Australia

In Australia, Christmas comes smack in the middle of summer, and it can get hot. So instead of the delightful, seasonal scents of cinnamon, clove, and pine, you’re more likely to encounter the aromas of sunscreen and barbecue - though it’s important to note that if you’re a true local, the correct name for barbecue is “barbie” (pronounced “bah-bie”). It’s common to see sprawling beach parties the week of Christmas. And it’s not out of the question to see Santa, known as Father Christmas to Australian children, out surfing the waves instead of tromping across snowy roofs and terrain (it rarely snows in most of Australia to begin with, even in the dead of winter). We’re all for those cozy, Northeastern winters, but trading a sleigh for a surfboard doesn’t sound half bad for a change, does it?

Share your holiday traditions - from near and far - online, and tag us @hellowayb. We can’t wait to see how you holiday!