With the holiday season upon us, many families are putting up trees and hanging ornaments to celebrate Christmas or preparing to light candles for Hanukkah. But, there are many unique traditions celebrated around the world during the winter months. Following are just a few variations on the traditional holiday season.
Night of the Radishes – Mexico
Beginning on December 23rd – and celebrated over the course of three days – Oaxaca, Mexico presents one of the most impressive showcases of carved vegetables in the world. Intricately-detailed miniature exhibits made of radishes, which are grown especially for the event, show the Nativity scene and other events from Mexican folklore. Originally performed by shopkeepers to entice people into their stores, radish carving is now an annual tradition.
Lucia Day – Sweden and Norway
Each year, on December 13th, Sweden and Norway celebrate a festival of lights. Seen as the start of the Christmas season, this festival and feast commemorates Saint Lucy, who brought food and protection during a time of persecution. Girls dress in white gowns and red sashes and wear wreaths of candles on their heads. They visit local hospitals and homeless shelters to deliver treats, while people sing songs and perform group dances in the street.
La Befana – Italy
In Italy, Santa Claus is not the main attraction. Instead, a kind old witch known as Befana distributes gifts. On January 5th, or the eve of Epiphany, parents leave Befana a glass of wine and a plate of broccoli with spiced sausage. According to tradition, the good witch flies around on her broom and enters homes through a chimney, bringing toys, clothing and candy to deserving children. On January 6th, the children wake up to find the gifts in their stockings.
– United States
Kwanzaa, which means “First Fruits,” is based on ancient African harvest festivals. From December 26th to January 1st, millions of African Americans adorn themselves in special clothes, decorate their homes with fruits and vegetables, and light a candle holder called a kinara to celebrate family life, community and unity.
KFC Dinner – Japan
In Japan, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) on December 25th in place of a homemade Christmas dinner is a longstanding tradition. The fried chicken is so popular that customers are asked to place their orders at least two months prior to Christmas. The feast had its beginnings in 1974 when it was offered to visitors to Japan who wanted a dinner resembling a traditional holiday meal. The idea also appealed to locals, and is still practiced 40 years later.
No matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays, we wish you and your family season’s greetings and good cheer!