Go Global: Unique Holiday Traditions to Try from Around the World
I spent all of the early 90s in Germany.
We celebrated our first Christmas there just two weeks after arriving, and I still remember so much of it today.
One thing I remember vividly was a holiday procession where Kris Kringle, who, at the time, I thought was the for-real Santa (because he looked so majestic and magical and authentic in his holiday robes), made an appearance in a sleigh pulled by reindeer (who were probably just brown horses with fake antlers). I remember learning all about how Germans, on Saint Nicholas Day, put their shoes out on their porches at night, so that Kris Kringle could magically fill them with treats.
I remember asking my mom how they keep people from stealing their shoes and how they fit a Walkman inside of them (it was on my list that year).
I like trying new traditions with The Dudes, and since the monumental Elf on the Shelf fail at our house, we're back to some we have done in the past. Here are some great new traditions to try out at your house, inspired by holiday traditions from around the world.
Hide the Pickle.
This is an awesome German tradition that we partake in with The Dudes. German families will hide a pickle in the tree somewhere on Christmas Eve, and the first child to find it in the morning gets a surprise.
Americanized version: We use a pickle ornament gifted to us by a friend, and whoever finds it gets to open the first gift on Christmas morning. We don't put real pickles in our tree, because ew.
The Yule Cat.
This is a Swedish tradition that is meant to celebrate hard work, where this creepy feline trolls about, looking for people in old crusty clothing (a sign that you didn't work hard enough this year, apparently) to devour on Christmas Eve.
Americanized version: We do the new jammies on Christmas Eve tradition in our home so that everyone goes to bed in something new and cozy. It's the least I can do to keep them safe from judgey killer cats.
Stirring of the Pudding.
I'm kind of surprised that we don't have a similar Christmas pudding tradition here in American since Britain is like our granddad. This tradition, actually done a few weeks before Christmas, involves a big batch of this icky-looking pudding. Everyone in the family gathers around, takes a turn stirring it, and wishes for something special. Then they serve it, pour brandy over it, light it on fire, and gobble it up. Basically.
Americanized version: We spend each Christmas Eve with my parents and a steaming pot of clam chowder. No one gets to stir it, we take our brandy in tumblers on the rocks, and the only fire is in the fireplace. But we gather around the table together, say a prayer, share something we are thankful for and hopeful about, and then grub. We top it all off with cinnamon rolls or sweet monkey bread. Pretty much exactly the same thing.
So this is literally one of the scariest holiday traditions of all time. Apparently, Krampus, a distant and very disgruntled relative of St. Nick, who is hideous to look at, is in charge of punishing bad children. When kids put their boots out for treats on St. Nicholas Day, all of the naughty kids, instead of treats for being good, receive a stick — a stick that Krampus will use to beat them when they are abducted by him and dragged to their death at some point in the future. I'm certain that children across Austria with a few bad choices under their belts struggle to sleep at all on December 5.
Americanized version: Oh my gosh, there isn't one! Because, seriously, Google Krampus and see the demon spawn that pops up. We don't get down like that here. A nice lump of coal will do the trick if you really want to show your child the error of his misbehaving ways.
The 12 Days of Christmas, Iceland.
Many countries have traditional celebrations involving the 12 days of Christmas. Iceland's version is one based in joy and happiness wherein children leave their boots on their windowsill each night so that a small treat can be left inside each night.
Americanized version: Go ahead and just copy this one, but if you want a less tooth-rotting idea, fill it with non-candy treats instead. We do a nightly surprise in their stockings leading up to Christmas and, when I'm desperate, everyone winds up with a crisp, delicious, $1 bill!
Paying the mummers.
Mummers, in case you didn't know, are actors or entertainers. In Latvia, mummers go door to door dressed in costume and perform during the holiday season. The expectation is that you pay them for performing for you.
Americanized version: I'm no actor, and my singing is downright frightening, but we have been known to show up on a neighbor's doorstep with a brief rendition on “Jingle Bells.” We always take a DIY Christmas gift though, since paying for bad singing just feels wrong.
What's your favorite holiday tradition from around the world? Share in the comments.Read More