Holiday Traditions Around the World

holiday traditions

Our holiday traditions are passed down from one generation to another, making them a sort of glue that holds us all together. These beloved parts of the season involve everyone from the smallest family members to the eldest among the clan. According to Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas. That’s a lot of traditions, both new and old, that will be brightening up the lives of friends and family each season!

But as we go about our own family traditions, we might rarely think about the celebrations happening across the world. Many of us here in the United States celebrate Christmas as a primary holiday of the season – but what about in other parts of the world? How do they mark the holiday season? What do their feasts, lights, and celebrations look like?

Christmas can look entirely different in other countries and cultures. Here are a few interesting tidbits about Christmas around the world that you can share at the holiday table this year.

Advent Calendars

This is a fun tradition from Switzerland that can extend the Christmas magic by many more days. And it involves gifts! What’s not to love about more gifts? Advent calendars count down the days to Christmas, usually with a tiny gift each day, such as a piece of chocolate or a small token. They are usually made up of 24 days, with the first day starting on December 1. Some are 12-day Advent calendars, while those that have a religious basis can be however many days of Advent occur that year. Though this began as a religious tradition, today the modern tradition is more about building anticipation for the big day.

Stockings on the Bedpost

In England, their stocking game is a bit different. While you might be quite familiar with the American way of stockings, as enshrined in A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore – “the stockings were hung by the chimney with care” – what about those who have no fireplace? It’s not a consideration in Britain, where children hang their stockings on the bedposts. When they wake up, they immediately find a surprise in their stocking.

When you stop to consider the practice, it seems like a genius idea. Playing with what’s in the stocking can keep the kids occupied on Christmas morning and allow parents a little extra sleep!

Kentucky Fried Chicken

It might sound odd but yes, this is a thing. In Japan, Christmas has been widely celebrated only over the last few decades. Rather than being religious in nature, Japanese celebrations of Christmas tend to be more about spreading happiness, and actually look a bit more like Valentine’s Day than what we think of as Christmas. Going out to eat is a big deal in Japan over the Christmas holiday. There is one staple that might surprise you, and that’s KFC.

How did that come about? In 1974, a “Kentucky for Christmas” campaign was launched by KFC in Japan. It was wildly successful[1]. Over the 45 years or so since, ordering KFC for dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day has become a quite popular tradition. Though many in Japan will choose to have a nice dinner out during that time, KFC remains the staple.

Christmas on the Beach

Here in the United States, the holiday season brings colder weather, even in the usually sunny locales of Los Angeles or Miami. But those temperatures have nothing on Australia, where Christmas Day falls right in the middle of a sweltering summer. Bundled-up Santa Clauses are not the norm here – they are more likely to say hello to the kids while wearing board shorts and flip-flops! Playing cricket and having a barbecue on the beach are a few ways that Aussies enjoy the Christmas holiday. So if you’re tired of the cold weather and want to welcome Santa with the sand between your toes, a trip down under might be your new tradition!

Beware of Krampus

If the Grinch makes you a little nervous, you don’t want to meet Krampus. St. Nicholas is the giver of gifts to children who were good throughout the year, but what about those who weren’t good at all? Rather than get coal in their stocking, tradition has it that Krampus comes to drag them away. This is a common tale in Austria and Bavaria, where young children are warned that they might encounter the half-man, half-goat creature[2].

There is even something called the “Krampus Run” during the holiday season, which is a time for men to dress up as Krampus and parade through the streets, scaring the children. It’s all in fun, of course, but it’s a tradition that has likely kept many a child on their best behavior over the decades.

Visit the Holiday Market

Though many churches and organizations in the United States might host a holiday market – in which local artisans can offer their wares as gifts for everyone on your list – Germany goes above and beyond. Their holiday markets are a must-have tradition across the country. These markets can feature not only potential gifts but also copious amounts of food, beer, dancing, and other entertainment.

Though most of our holiday shopping has moved online, with over half of today’s consumers planning to buy gifts through online retailers this year, about four in ten individuals will plan to shop in physical stores[3]. If you want to make a tradition out of the gathering of gifts, look into a local holiday market in your area. In many cases this will be a weekend sale set up at a local church or senior center. Pay attention to your local news to find out when and where these are taking place.

A Variety of Feasts

Though feasting on excellent food is a holiday staple all over the world, some places do it a bit differently than others (we’re looking at you, Japan).

In Poland, the traditional dinner on Christmas Eve begins with the sharing of the Oplatek. This is a wafer made of flour and water that has a Nativity image on one side. The wafer is broken at the table, beginning with the oldest or most respected member of the group, and everyone gets a piece as they give a holiday greeting to those in attendance.

In Central Europe, it’s tradition to eat carp for dinner on Christmas Eve. It’s believed that the carp can bring good luck in the coming year. But it’s not as simple as going to the store to buy one – the long-standing tradition is to let a live carp swim in your bathtub for a few days before it becomes part of the meal[4].

If you’re headed to Mexico for Christmas, you’ll encounter Noche Bueno, which is the traditional celebration that includes an enormous feast. The day of revelry usually ends with breaking a piñata. The kids love the cascade of candy and other treats that falls from the colorful piñatas at the end of the day.

In the United States, the traditional meal is often prepared at home. Family and friends gather to enjoy the food and exchanging gifts. If you’re going to be cooking Christmas dinner this year, it’s a good idea to look into an emergency response solution from Alert1. Why? When you’re on your feet in the kitchen all day, working with knives and other sharp utensils as well as hot pots and pans, your risk of injury goes up. In fact, 350,000 people are injured by kitchen knives each year[5]! It’s a very good idea to have a plan to get help if the worst happens during this most wonderful time of the year. A medical alert system with fall detection can help you get help fast 24/7.

Lights Everywhere

Christmas lights are so much a part of the holiday season that they are incorporated into almost every celebration across the world, but they take a special spotlight in certain countries and cultures. Those in the Philippines include a lighted star lantern, called a Parol, in their holiday traditions[6]. In Singapore, one of the world’s largest displays of Christmas lights is a must-see destination at the Orchard Road shopping district[7]. And in the seafaring country of Greece, lighting up boats is just as much a tradition as lighting up a Christmas tree[8].

Bring these sparkling traditions to life in your neighborhood by creating your own light show on your house or simply driving around to look at what your neighbors are doing with lights this year. When you’re on a chilly winter outing to look at the twinkling lights or hanging up some of your own, it pays to stay safe and secure while doing so.

A mobile medical alert pendant is a great idea whether you are on the go to see the lights or staying at home to put them up. You can press the button at any time to get help fast. If you are on a ladder putting up Christmas lights, keep safety in mind. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 15,000 people go to the emergency room every year for incidents related to Christmas decorating. That’s crazy to think about! And a great reason to look into a medical alert device, just in case.

Give the Gift of Security

While you’re doing your online shopping this year, consider getting a medical alarm for someone you love. A medical alert wireless system can provide peace of mind for you and for the person who wears it. You can be rest assured you are giving a gift that will be used around the clock, every single day. If an accident or emergency occurs, the person wearing the watch or pendant you gave them can get the help they need right away. What better gift to give this holiday season?

Alert1 wishes you and all those you love a happy, healthy holiday season!