We may think of the Holiday season as all Santa Claus and decorated trees, but elsewhere, that’s not quite the case. Click through to learn about holiday traditions across the globe.
Does your family have a special holiday tradition? Tell us about it in the comments section!
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1. Italy: La Befana
Forget jolly old St. Nick — in Italy, christmas gifts are brought by La Befana, a witch on a broomstick! Italian folklore says that the 3 wise men asked the witch to accompany them to the manger. She declined their offer, as well as a shepherd’s offer. That evening, she saw a bright light in the sky and changed her mind, wanting to bring gifts that had once belonged to her deceased child. She never found the group again. Now, she brings gifts to children every year with the hopes of finding Baby Jesus.
Every year, Italian parents leave out a glass of wine and some food for la befana, and children hang their stockings hoping for gifts.
Also Check Out: 6 Tips for Less Stress & More Joy This Season
Image Credit: Square87 via Wikimedia Commons
2. Puerto Rico: Asalto
If you’re home on Christmas Eve in Puerto Rico, expect a group of neighbors and friends to show up at your doorstep unannounced. But that doesn’t mean they’re unwanted — rather, they’re partaking in a traditional Puerto Rican custom known as asaltos. They sing Christmas carols and they’re invited inside to partake in food and drink. Once all the food’s gone, it’s off to the next house, with the host joining in on the fun. With instruments in tow, these asaltos can last until the wee hours of Christmas day! Check out the festivities in this video — sure looks like fun!
3. Sweden: St. Lucy’s Day
Every December 13, people across Scandinavia honor Saint Lucy, a Christian martyr who was sentenced to be burned to death, but she would not be burned or even moved. Families in Sweden honor Saint Lucy with a candle ceremony, the flames representing the flames that wouldn’t take her life. Each St. Lucia’s day, the eldest daughter of the family dresses up as the Saint, in a white robe, a red sash, and a crown candles. She then serves her family traditional buns and coffee or mulled wine.
Image Credit: Claudia Gründer via Wikimedia Commons
4. Japan: New Year’s
To Americans, New Year’s is mostly an excuse to throw or attend a fun party. In Japan, however, New Year’s is one of the biggest holidays of the year. Special foods are served, traditional poetry recited and games played, and Buddhist temples ring bells 108 times, signifying the number of human sins in the Buddhist belief system. The Japanese also send out postcards to loved ones, much like the holiday cards sent out in the U.S.
5. Israel: Hanukkah
Though Jewish people in the United States often give gifts each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, in Israel, that’s not quite the case. If any gifts are given at all, they’re typically sweets, dreidels, or gelt. With the kids out of school for the week, many Israeli families celebrate the festival of lights with making crafts, singing songs, telling stories, and travelling to the sites where the first Hanukkah took place.
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6. India: Diwali
In this Hindu celebration, a five-day long “festival of lights,” special clay lamps are lit that signify the triumph of good over evil. The day falls on Amavasyaa, or when the moon doesn’t rise and they’re constant darkness. Diwali celebrants then light their homes up as much as possible. Fireworks, colorful clothes and meals with friends and family are commonplace during the festival, one of the most important in the Hindu religion.