The holidays are the most wonderful and tradition-filled time of the year all around the world. Though Christmas is certainly the most talked about, there are a slew of different celebrations and practices that happen everywhere from England to Ethiopia. Some are adorable and a good portion are shocking, but overall, they’re worth learning about. During this time of reflection and gratitude, it’s important to remember that we’re all just small fish in a very big pond. And though it’s too late to change your holiday travels, it is definitely worth picking out your favorite tradition from another culture and venturing there in 2017 to see it unfold in real time. Here, the 11 most interesting customs from all over the globe.
Once the holidays are over, we’re into our “New Year, New You” mindset and back on our fitness grind. But we absolutely indulge because it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas pudding is a big thing across the pond, with each family member literally having a hand in the confection. A sturdy stirring in a clockwise motion of the mix is an ancient tradition—with a wish being uttered mid-blend.
We don’t need a single reason to go after some fried chicken, but in Japan, KFC is the brand of choice—on Christmas Eve nonetheless. As the holiday isn’t nationally celebrated there, people take to the restaurant and the lines are literally out of the doors all day. The food does seem quintessentially American, so we totally get it.
Starting the day before Christmas Eve, Oaxaca presents a classic vegetable in the coolest way we’ve ever seen: carving radishes into mini art exhibits, like the nativity scene for The Festival of the Radishes. They are specifically grown for the event, a tradition started by local shopkeepers to persuade people to come into their shops and purchase. The festival lasts three days.
Pickles are delicious, aren’t they? Well, if you find one in your Christmas tree in this country on Christmas Eve, then you get a special treat. But this one is only for the kids.
Clearly there’s something about pudding for the holidays! In Sweden, rice pudding is one of the festive desserts served, but it includes a surprise: a peeled almond hidden within the tasty dish. And for the person who finds the nut? Marriage is to come within the next year. Not sure what it means for someone who is already married…more than a few laughs, we presume.
If you’re like us, then you’ve probably sent a letter or two to Santa. And in Canada, you can actually get a response from jolly old Saint Nick (or at least someone from his team). There, this address is registered—Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, HOHOHO. Definitely worth doing for Instagram.
Most of us cringe when we see spider webs because we know exactly who created them. But the wispy weavings have a completely different meaning in Ukraine. There, spider webs are added to Christmas trees for decoration because of a heartwarming legend. To summarize: a group of poor Ukrainian children hoped to take an evergreen tree growing outside of the hut where they lived as their Christmas tree. Their widowed mother had absolutely nothing to decorate the tree with and cried herself to sleep one night because of it. In a Cinderella-esque chain of events, spiders that lived in the hut came to her rescue and covered the tree in spider webs, resulting in luminous threads that shimmered and sparkled once the sun hit them.
We have Santa Claus here in the States, but in Italy, they have Befana, a friendly, broom-riding witch who delivers sweets and toys on January 5.
Who doesn’t love some caroling once Christmas is on the horizon? The feel-good singing is on the agenda for the entire city of Melbourne, aptly called Carols by Candlelight. The tradition started in the late ’30s and includes exactly what the name describes on Christmas Eve—holiday songs sung by candlelight with a big concert-inspired event. The entire country celebrates. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is often the site for Melbourne’s extravaganza, which is televised nationally.
You won’t find a single broom out on Christmas Eve in Norway. The country’s holiday tradition harks back to their pagan days, in which witches and other evil spirits would emerge on the momentous night. And we all know witches’ proclivity for brooms back in the day!
In this landlocked African country, Christmas is celebrated on January 7, as Ethiopians adhere to the ancient Julian calendar. Ganna is the name for the Orthodox Church’s celebration of the birth of Christ, with those who celebrate dressing in all white on the morning of—after a day of fasting on the 6. There is a popular game played on the day that bears the same name as the holiday, similar to American hockey with a round wooden ball and curved sticks.