Alternative Christmas Traditions from Around the World

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Christmas is coming and you’ll be celebrating sooner than you might think. Every country has its traditions and events that happen this time of the year. Whether you choose to participate in all of them or you have your own family ones, celebrations are the best thing. Who doesn’t enjoy decorating the Christmas tree, baking holiday cookies, and opening Christmas presents? But have you ever wondered what happens on the other side of the planet? Read below to discover alternative Christmas traditions from around the world.

Of course, some rituals remain the same no matter where you live. Singing carols, decorating a Christmas tree, making advent calendars, and enjoying a lot of Christmas food. Nevertheless, we think some Christmas traditions around the world may surprise you. You might love some of them, while others might seem a bit odd. But why not try something different this year? You could definitely incorporate some foreign traditions into your festive activities. Discuss them over the Christmas dinner with your family and friends and have an even more exciting holiday season. Have you ever thought about eating seafood instead of meat on Christmas day? Or going to KFC instead of cooking? Read below to learn where in the world this actually happens.

1. Philippines

Alternative Christmas traditions from around the world

Alternative Christmas traditions from around the world
Christmas lights in the Philippines

Why is Christmas such a big thing here?

If you have the feeling that you overdo it with Christmas decorations each year, maybe you should reconsider. Every year, the city of San Fernando holds The Giant Lantern Festival also known as Ligligan Parul Sampernandu. It starts on the Saturday before Christmas and San Fernando is informally known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” because of it. Thousands of visitors go there every year, from the Philippines and from around the world to witness the magic of lanterns.

Something out of the ordinary to do with family or friends

A competition takes place between eleven barangays (villages). Everyone tries to build the most elaborate and extraordinary lantern they can. Each one of these parols (lanterns) symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem and consists of thousands of spinning lights that illuminate the night sky. At first, the lanterns were simple, around half a meter in diameter, made from ‘papel de hapon’ (Japanese origami paper) and lit by candle. Today, the lanterns are more complex. Made from a variety of materials, they have grown to around six metres in size. Electric bulbs illuminate them and they sparkle in a kaleidoscope of patterns. If you find yourself in San Fernando, you can’t miss your chance to visit the festival. This year, take inspiration from these lanterns and go all out with your decorations as well, why not?

2. Sweden

Alternative Christmas traditions from around the world

Gävle Goat in Sweden

If you are tired of the usual Christmas trees

You might be used to decorating a tree every year but the Swedish take this a step further. It’s not that they don’t put up Christmas trees, because they do. But they also erect a giant goat made out of straw, also known as Gävle Goat. In Sweden, the Yule Goat has been a Christmas symbol dating back to ancient pagan festivals. However, in 1966, the tradition changed its direction after someone came up with the idea of the Gävle Goat. Since that year the goat has been built in the centre of Gävle’s Castle Square for the Advent.

But what happens to the giant goat after the holidays?

As the years passed, the tradition evolved and today people actually try to burn down the goat, because it is made out of straw. This part of the tradition is not successful every year though. Since 1966, the goat has been successfully burned down 29 times and the most recent time was in 2016. The goat itself is 2 feet high, 23 feet wide, and weighs 3.6 tons, which explains why it cannot be burned every year. If you think you’ll be a fan of this tradition you can visit it and see it up close from December 1st. If you cannot attend but want to watch the ceremony anyway, you can follow its progress on the official website through a live video stream. It is usually taken down after the New Year, so that gives you plenty of time to watch it burn.

3. Japan

Tokyo tower and Christmas lights

What if you aren’t keen on cooking?

Christmas is not a big deal in Japan and it is not a national holiday, especially because an estimated one percent of the population is Christian. Japanese people though find it very interesting and still keep some traditions, such as gift-giving and decorating the house. Recently, a new way to celebrate has become very popular among Japanese families, who gather together for dinner just like we do. However, instead of having a turkey dinner, families go out to their local Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The tradition began originally in 1974 after a wildly successful marketing campaign called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!” Since then Japanese families consider it an event and love their traditional dinner in KFC. The fast-food chain has maintained its popularity and some people order their boxes months in advance or stand in two-hour-long lines to get their food.

Have a look at the menu

If you’re eager to try this tradition, as it is very fun and easy to do, you’ll be happy to know that you can find the festive menu on the KFC Japan website. Don’t worry if you don’t understand Japanese, as the pictures will look delicious for sure. From a Christmas-themed standard bucket to a premium roast-bird feast, get ready to order or recreate some of the dishes at home this holiday season.

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