Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Christmas Traditions) by Terri Simpson

There are many different Christmas traditions in every area of the globe, and many countries have never heard of St Nick or Father Christmas.

Caracas, Venezuela

From December 16th to December 24th, there’s a very unique tradition that takes place in Caracas, Venezuela. The busy city streets of Caracas are closed off before 8am to any motor traffic. This allows people to use the roads for skating It has been customary in Venezuela to attend Misa de Aguinaldo (Early Morning Mass) and by closing traffic off to bulky cars and buses, everyone can skate to mass on time.

Ukraine

A Ukrainian Christmas tree is usually decorated with spider weds. A folk tale that goes with the tradition says a poor family woke up on Christmas morning to find their once bare tree decorated with spider webs that shined silver and gold in the morning. And now most of Ukraine decorate their tree with sparkly spider webs.

Japan

Unlike the traditional chicken or turkey we are used to seeing during the holidays, many in Japan celebrate by eating fried chicken. By the power of marketing and advertising it has become common practice to eat KFC during Christmas, even though only one per cent of Japanese people are Christian. The meal is also accompanied by a delicious Christmas cake for dessert.

Italy

In Italy, children will go to bed waiting for a magical being to bring presents, and it's not Father Christmas.

In Italian folklore, an old witch delivers  and sweets to children on Epiphany Eve (January 5th). St Nick's competitor, La Befana, is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick, usually covered in soot as she enters homes through chimneys. Very similar to the tradition of leaving cookies and milk for Father Christmas, children will leave wine and food out for the Befana.

Norway

There’s a superstition in Norway that advises households to hide their brooms on Christmas Eve. It is believed that witches and evil spirits will rise from the graves and use the brooms to fly through the sky and create chaos until dawn.

NYC

To celebrate the holiday season, New Yorkers get together dressed up head-to-toe as Christmas characters. The city is filled with reds and greens, as Santa and Elves spread holiday cheer during SantaCon.

Mexico

Radish figures line the central plaza of Oaxaca on December 23rd and 24th. Nativity scenes, conquistadors, dancers, historical and mythological events are sculpted from radishes by Mexican artisans and add to the color holiday celebration. El Festival de los Rabanos (The Festival of Radishes) is a one-of-a-kind festival that features dance, food and delicately carved radishes.

Catalonia

In the principality of Catalonia, it has become customary to decorate the traditional nativity scene with an extra someone. This extra character is known as El Caganer, also known as “the pooper.” While traditionally the ceramic figure has been that of a shepherd, contemporary figures range in all different personalities.

Philippines

The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) is held each year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando – the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” The festival attracts spectators from all over the country and across the globe. Eleven barangays (villages) take part in the festival and competition is fierce as everyone pitches in trying to build the most elaborate lantern. Originally, the lanterns were simple creations around half a metre in diameter, made from ‘papel de hapon’ (Japanese origami paper) and lit by candle. Today, the lanterns are made from a variety of materials and have grown to around six metres in size. They are illuminated by electric bulbs that sparkle in a wide range of patterns.

Sweden

Since 1966, a 13-metre-tall Yule Goat has been built in the centre of Gävle’s Castle Square for the Advent, but this Swedish Christmas tradition has unwittingly led to another “tradition” of sorts – people trying to burn it down. Since 1966 the Goat has been successfully burned down 29 times – the most recent destruction was in 2016.