By Meghen Jones
Christmas has officially run its course for 2018, and it will soon be time to settle down from the holiday festivities. We admit that there’s nothing quite like the joy indicative of the holiday season, which showers you with good feelings as you partake in lights festivals, gift exchanges, holiday parties, and volunteer opportunities. There’s just so much to lift your spirits this time of year! But, unfortunately, it can leave you reaching once the season abruptly ends.
If anything, your friends at uCribs don’t want you to feel down and out about the merriest time of year passing you by once again. Instead, use this time to reflect not only upon your own traditions come this time of year, but also those celebrated around the globe. So, keeping in the spirit of it all, uCribs has compiled a list of our favorite 8 seasonal traditions from around the world.
Kicking off our list of unique seasonal traditions from around the world, Australia knows how to keep the spirit afloat despite it being the hottest time of the year for the continent. Because of Australia’s location in the southern hemisphere, December falls during the summer months. Instead of gently falling snow, Aussies typically deal with thunderstorms and brush-fires. However, the less-than-satisfying holiday weather conditions do not stop the celebration itself!
Australians get into the spirit by hosting summer-inspired barbecues and outdoor concerts with a seasonal twist! Along with their BBQ spread, signature Christmas dishes like plum pudding are served with ice-cream to help keep everyone cool. Not to mention, citizens make their way to Bondi Beach in Sydney to turn up the festivities a few more notches. Sure, it may not be a traditional white Christmas, but Australians don’t let the warm weather detract from their fun!
Have you ever seen a Christmas celebration quite like a Finnish Christmas celebration? If we’d had to guess, we would say that you probably haven’t, and that’s okay—but you should add it to your bucket list. Located in the northmost region of Finland is a little place called, Lapland, which is known for its vast subarctic wilderness, ski resorts, and natural phenomena including the Northern Lights. We’ve all seen this phenomenon on Instagram at one point or another to know that there’s nothing more beautiful than the Northern Lights during Christmastime—or ever, really.
As tradition has it, Joulupukki, the bearded mythical figure who serves as Santa Claus, and his reindeer roam around Lapland, so the Finnish can experience unforgettable reindeer rides on the bank of the beautiful waterfront. But, that’s not all! At noon on Christmas Eve, the Declaration of Christmas Peace is read in a formal ceremony in South Finland to mark the beginning of the Christmas festivities and serve as a reminder to spend the holiday in harmony. What can we say? Finland goes all out!
Dressed in your finest attire, you attend Christmas Day celebrations in homes decorated with grand Christmas trees, stunning lights, and large tables peppered with stunning China and fragrant candles. Even though we are trying to set the scene for you, it is only a small glimpse into the grand celebration that France puts on each holiday season. Christmas kicks off with Le Reveillion, a lavishly lengthy dinner on Christmas Eve that is sometimes followed by entertainment or dancing.
Once Christmas Day arrives, friends and family gather for yet another multi-course dinner, which often includes wine or champagne alongside an extensive cheese platter, fresh oysters, and delicate desserts. Once the Christmas festivities have simmered down, the French begin preparations for Three Kings Day, or the 12th day of Christmas known as the “Feast of the Epiphany.” The holiday marks the biblical adoration of baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men. Celebrating Christmas, New Year’s, and Three Kings Day, you can tell the French love a good party, and why not? It’s the merriest time of the year, after all.
A country known for its breathtaking scenery inside and out, Greece is jaw-droppingly beautiful every time of year—but especially during the holiday season. As much as we all dream of taking at least one trip to Greece in our lifetime, one thing about Greek Christmas traditions remains constant: they know how to bring the beauty of Christmas to life with their unique seasonal traditions.
In Greece, Saint Nicholas is not merely the man in red whose belly shakes like “a bowl full of jelly” when he laughs. He’s much more than that! St. Nick is the patron saint of sailors in Greek culture with many fellow sailors displaying an icon of Santa somewhere on their ship. He even looks different! Instead of a white beard and red suit, Santa Claus is characterized by a beard dripping with seawater. Sure, it’s not the norm, but that’s what makes their celebration of decorating ships worth seeing once you have the opportunity.
When we think of Christmas in the states, we think of lavish decoration—both indoor and outdoor. Extravagant evergreen trees, stockings labeled with everyone’s name, and dazzling outdoor lights really breathe light into this dearly beloved holiday. But, have you ever heard of placing shoes on the windowsill?
In Iceland, children put their shoes on a windowsill with the expectation that Yuletide-lads will fill them with treats. Based on Iceland folklore, Yuletide-lads visit children with either gifts or rotting potatoes depending on how they’d behaved that year. Yep, rotting potatoes are the Icelandic equivalent of coal. Good thing you’ve behaved yourself this year because the only potatoes you’re thinking about are those mouthwatering mashed potatoes that your mom prepares for Christmas dinner.
As much as Americas may adore jolly Santa Claus and his team of reindeer, Norway thinks differently. Instead of Santa, their Christmas celebrations center around a yule goat known as Julebukk. Julebukk originated from Norse tradition as the god of thunder, sky, and agriculture—all very important things if you ask us. Even though he’s considered a pre-Christian tradition of the country, he is often celebrated during the Yule holiday when Norwegians build Julebukks out of straw as a homage to their ancient culture.
Continuing to keep the tradition of Julebukk alive, Scandinavians also participate in Julebukking. In other words, festive carolers travel from door-to-door dressed as a Julebukk, often disguising their voices and body language to further the charade. In exchange for singing Christmas carols, these carolers are usually awarded candy at each household. Sure, this may sound a bit like the U.S. tradition of Halloween, but with sweets, songs, and sentiment, it really rings true as a Christmas tradition.
During the holiday season, Portugal embraces the opportunity of spending time with the ones you love most—family. On Christmas Eve, families gather around the table for a meal known as Consoada—a word that means comfort — which consists of codfish with green vegetables as well as boiled potatoes. Soon afterward, Father Christmas arrives with presents for the children that are placed under the Christmas Tree or in shoes by the fireplace. (Hey, wait a minute…this kind of sounds like a mixture of Icelandic and American traditions!)
But, Portugal’s Christmas celebration is uniquely its own due to the Bolo Rei. And no, it’s not a Star Wars character! The Bolo Rei is a Christmas Cake that is similar to the New Orleans’ King Cake. Like the King Cake, Bolo Rei is a rich, cake-like bread that can be eaten as a dessert or breakfast item. Traditionally, a broad bean is hidden in the cake, and whoever finds the bean must purchase next year’s Bolo Rei. Although you might not want to fork over the dough (in either sense of the term), it will be worth the chance to try this delicious holiday sweet treat.
Sweden has celebrated St. Lucy’s Day, or the Feast of Saint Lucy, in conjunction with Christmas for over 400 years. It all begins on December 13th with a procession of light. Young women are encouraged to dress up in white gowns to represent the mystical Queen of Light, who is known for her inner light that glows with beauty, love, and warmth. The Queen of Light pays tribute to Saint Lucy, who brought food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs, using a candle-lit wreath to light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible.
Similar to the young women, young men dress as star boys, who are synonymous with angels. They don white gowns with paper cones on their head as they carry stars mounted on sticks. To cap off the celebration, sweet treats such as saffron buns, or a rich, yeast-leavened sweet bun flavored with saffron and cinnamon, and ginger snaps are served and washed down with a warm cup of coffee. From honoring the memory of the Queen of Light to a wholesome table of sweets, the Swedish definitely know how to keep tradition alive.
No matter where you are in the world or how you choose to celebrate the holiday, every country has its own special way of setting the tone for the season. Whether you choose to spend Christmas on the beach in Australia or venture out to experience the Northern Lights at the Finnish Lapland, these seasonal traditions from around the world showcase the rich culture and heritage of these individual countries—and in Australia’s case, continent.