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  • Writer's pictureMaria Monfreda

Christmas Traditions Around the World

Cover photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With Christmas next week, families are gearing up for their annual traditions. Looking at Christmas lights, baking cookies, and decorating the tree are all traditions most Americans take part in around the Christmas season, but have you ever wondered if these traditions are only true to the U.S. Other countries around the world have really unique traditions to celebrate Christmas that most people aren’t aware of.

The first country is Iceland. Their tradition is similar to the United States' twelve days of Christmas, but theirs is thirteen. Every Christmas Eve, Icelandic children set their shoes by the window. Overnight, they are visited by 13 Yule Lads, and if they are good, they will find candy in their shoes, but if they are bad they receive rotten potatoes.

Most families around the country have a specific food they eat to commemorate the holiday. My family always has homemade lasagna. This tradition is similar to another country, Finland. In Finland, Finnish families eat porridge made with rice and milk topped with cinnamon. An almond is placed inside one bowl and whoever has the bowl with the almond wins bragging rights for the year.

Another country with similar traditions to the U.S. is the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, they celebrate Saint Nicholas day just like we do here, however, theirs is a little bit different. In the Netherlands, St. Nicholas is called Sinterklass. Sinterklass wears a long red cape and red mittens, and he has a long white beard. The kids are visited by this man on December 6th instead of Christmas like in the U.S. On Christmas Eve kids put their shoes by the chimney or back door. On Christmas morning they wake up to find treats like marzipan, gingerbread men, and chocolate.

The next isn’t a country, but it is the continent of Africa. African Christmas traditions vary by region, but most families participate in something called braaing. Braaing is essentially having a big cookout. Marinated steaks or sausage are served as the main course. They are then followed by a customary dessert called Malva pudding. Families also decorate traditional fir trees with a variety of baubles including hean-beaded African ornaments.

Christmas is traditionally celebrated on December 25th in the U.S., but that isn’t the case for all countries. In Ukraine, they celebrate on January 7th, and they do a lot to celebrate. First they dress in traditional Ukrainian garments and walk through the streets singing Ukrainian Christmas carols. They also eat a popular dish called Kutya, which is made of wheat, honey, ground poppy seeds, and sometimes nuts. Some families will throw a spoonful of this dish on the ceiling and if it sticks, they are said to have a good new year.

There are so many other countries with unique traditions, but those are just a few. What tradition did you find most interesting? Which do you think we should adopt here in the U.S.? Comment below!

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