The holiday season is “the most wonderful time of the year” not only in the United States but globally as well. People seem a little happier; things feel brighter as everything basks in the glow of holiday lights that adorn homes, trees, streets, and more. During the holiday season, people seem to return to traditions that have been passed down over the years from family and friends. In the United States, food features prominently, as do garish and ugly sweaters, candles, music, and singing, and gatherings and visits with friends and loved ones, are all part of the holiday season.
Beyond the commercial holiday traditions are the religious ones where many of the largest world religions celebrate a major religious event within the holiday season. Whether you’re celebrating a religious event, like Christmas or Hanukkah, or a more secular one, traditions, customs, and rituals are the centerpiece of the holiday season and are what make it such a special time. Around the world, how people choose to celebrate the holiday season range from the wacky to the weird to the wonderful. Here are a few examples from around the world of off the beaten path holiday festivals and events.
Austria – Krampus
One look at Krampus makes you wonder if you’ve somehow traveled back in time a couple of months to Halloween because Krampus is a beast-like demonic creature whose sole purpose is to scare kids onto the straight and narrow. Very Halloween-esque, no? However, the way it works in Austria is, Krampus roams the streets in search of naughty children to frighten and punish them and may go so far as to capture the naughtiest children and take them away in his sack.
Meanwhile, his “partner-in-crime” Saint Nicholas aka Santa is giving out gifts from his sack to the most deserving and well-behaved children. Over the years, the Krampus tradition has expanded to include young men dressing up as Krampus during the first week of December, especially the eve of St. Nicholas Day, roaming the streets scaring children with bells and chains. There have even been some bad movies made about Krampus over the years, Google them if you are into B movies and want to see Krampus in action.
Venezuela – Roller Skate Christmas
What’s the first thing you think of when Venezuela crosses your mind? For me, it most certainly isn’t roller skating. Every year in Caracas, between December 16-24, the streets are closed to allow citizens to roller skate their way to early morning Christmas mass. Legend dictates that the night before, children tie a long string to their big toe and dangle the string out the window so that when the skaters roll by, the will tug on the string letting the children know it is time to get up and put their skates on too. When the Christmas mass is over, parishioners once again take to the streets and each other’s houses to celebrate with food, dance, and music.
Czech Republic – Christmas Love Connections
Since Christmas takes place near the end of the calendar year, many people often find themselves thinking about what they want from the year to come. In the Czech Republic, there is neat tradition women use during the Christmas season to predict if they will find love in the coming year. Women looking for love will stand with their backs to their front doors where they will then toss shoes over their shoulders. If the shoe lands in a position with the toe facing the door, the woman will find love within the coming year. What do you think, is this a good way to find love? How accurate is this method in predicting love, I guess you’ll have to try it to find out?
Japan – KFC Christmas
Japanese culture does not typically embrace Christmas the way other countries do, however in Japan, there is a rapidly growing holiday trend wherein Japanese families eat KFC for dinner on Christmas day. In 2017, over 3.6 million families had a KFC Christmas … and the immediate question is why? The seeds for this tradition were planted in 1970 when the first KFC in Japan opened. To promote KFC food products, they started a “party barrel” campaign that replaced eating an “American turkey dinner” for the holidays with eating KFC fried chicken. This campaign went national in 1974 using the slogan “Kentucky for Christmas.” Fast forward to the present where participants often wait in line for hours at KFCs nationwide if they don’t plan ahead and pre-order their meal.
There are so many more interesting holiday traditions out there in the world to be experienced and explored. My wish for you this holiday season is that you get out there to see and explore them for yourselves. Happy Holidays and “Festivus for the Restivus”!