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Across the globe, Christmastime is a special season reserved for family and tradition. Everyone celebrates this time of year a bit differently. Some of the customs make sense within the culture, but there are some traditions that seem off the wall to outsiders! For example, in South Africa, deep friend emperor moth caterpillars are considered a Christmas delicacy. Meanwhile, since an extremely effective marketing campaign launched in 1974, many Japanese families eat KFC for Christmas Eve dinner.
These seemingly strange traditions of course do not stop at the food we eat during the holiday. For instance, the Canada Post acknowledges mail sent to Santa Claus’ address and replies to the children as Santa. In Venezuela, native citizens travel to very early Christmas church services on roller skates since often the roads are closed for safety. Even the decorations can be different and have different meanings!
Because there are no pine or fir trees, many families in India use a mango or banana tree in their homes during Christmas. Then, if we jump over into Ukraine, you would find trees covered in spider webs instead of tinsel. Ukrainians believe that long ago, an old widow couldn’t decorate her Christmas tree, so spiders did it for her with their webs. Strange Christmas tree traditions can be found all over Europe and Asia; in Germany, you want to be the first child to the Christmas tree. Why? Because the first one to find the gherkin, the small pickle that your family would hide in the tree, would get a small gift before Father Christmas came!
Who is Father Christmas though? Every culture has a different story or form of “Santa Claus”. In Iceland, children are visited by mischievous trolls called The Yule Lads who leave a gift every night for almost two weeks. Then you have Hoteiosho in Japan. Japanese families pass down the tale of a Buddhist monk with a large belly and sack of toys (sound familiar?). However, Hoteiosho has eyes in the back of his head to see how children behave when no one is watching. Some Italians believe that La Befana, the Italian Christmas Witch, rides a broom and puts sweets and toys in the shoes of good children while leaving coal in the bad ones. There’s Sinterklaas in Luxemburg; he’s very similar to the American version of Santa Claus expect instead of elves, he has the help of Zwarte Piet and he rides a horse instead of a sleigh. The Swedish people also believe in a figure similar to Santa they call Jultomten. He seems to be somewhat of a cross between a goat and a gnome, and he gives gifts to kids much like Santa Claus.
Do you know how to say “Merry Christmas” in any other languages? Check out the infographic to see how people all over the globe are wishing each other a happy, healthy holiday!