From Gift Wrapped Apples to the Yule Goat!
Shannon Jones is a Guest Writer with KeeKee’s Big Adventures
We love learning about different traditions and customs from other countries and cultures. The holiday season is the perfect time to explore some of them.
Check out these fun facts and traditions from around the world with your family and learn how to say “Seasons Greetings / Merry Christmas” in several languages.
United Kingdom – Greeting Cards & Christmas Crackers
The tradition of sending Christmas cards began in the United Kingdom in 1843. The Christmas crackers were invented here a few years later in 1847 and are still a fun part of British Christmas celebrations. These brightly decorated cardboard tubes are pulled apart with a cracking noise. Inside you’ll find a small prize, a joke or riddle, and a paper crown. The tradition of wearing the festive crown is believed to date back to the Saturnalia celebrations in Roman times. Happy Christmas!
Netherlands – Sinterklaas
Sinterklaas is the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas and is celebrated on December 5th, the eve of Saint Nicholas Day. Children leave their shoes (or traditional clogs) by the fireplace or door filled with hay or carrots for Sinterklaas’ white horse, Amerigo, hoping that small gifts will be left in return. Vrolijk Kerstfeest!
Germany – Tannenbaum
The first Christmas tree, Tannenbaum, was produced in Germany. On Heiligabend (Christmas Eve), German parents secretly decorate the Tannenbaum with candies, nuts, ornaments, and lights. A bell is rung, the Tannenbaum is presented, and the children race to open presents and take goodies from the tree. Fröhliche Weihnachten!
Sweden – The Yule Goat
In Sweden, the Yule Goat is a tradition. Stories range from the goat delivering presents to Santa Claus riding the goat instead of his sleigh. Miniature goats made of straw are still one of the most popular Christmas decorations. And in the town of Gävle, a 43 feet tall straw goat is built yearly. God Jul!
Italy – La Befana
On the eve of the Epiphany (January 5th) in Italy, La Befana, the good-hearted witch, climbs down chimneys to fill good children’s shoes with treats. Buon Natale!
Greece – Christmas Boats
Decorating boats with strings of lights is as popular as decorating Christmas trees in Greece. Saint Nicholas is considered the patron saint of sailors, which is probably why boats are decorated on December 6th, Saint Nicholas Day. Kalá Christoúyenna!
China – Gift Wrapped Apples
The tradition of giving apples wrapped in colorful paper on Christmas Eve has become popular in China. It’s believed the tradition comes from the similarity of the Chinese word for apple, ping guo, to the Chinese word for Christmas Eve, Ping’an Ye, meaning peaceful evening. Shèng dàn jié kuàilè!
Philippines – Paról
The Philippines has a unique tradition of having a Christmas lantern called paról. Made of bamboo and paper, they decorate the towns and villages throughout the season. Maligayang Pasko!
New Zealand – Pōhutukawa
In New Zealand, they have their own Christmas Tree — the Pōhutukawa. The trees grow very tall and full of bright red flowers. They are featured on greeting cards and in songs. Meri Kirihimete!
Mexico – Las Posadas
Mexico’s main celebration is the nine-days preceding Christmas Eve, Las Posadas (meaning The Inns). It’s a celebration of Joseph and Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem before the birth of the baby Jesus. The celebration commemorates their search for a room at the inn. With nightly candlelight processions full of singing and children dressed like angels, it concludes with breaking the candy-filled piñata. Feliz Navidad!
Season’s Greetings to you and your family!