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Christmas traditions from around the world

By Ely Schosek

Traditions: every family has its own, some towns have traditions, some countries have traditions, and so on.

Not every tradition is happy though, as is evident in Austria with the tradition of Krampus. St. Nicholas’ evil half is said to take away the naughtiest children in his sack while St. Nick gives the nice children gifts. Although this is just a legend, young men often dress up as Krampus at the start of December and go around scaring the children.

Every year since 1966, a Yule Goat has been constructed in the middle of Gävle’s Castle Square in Sweden. The Yule Goat is over 40 feet tall. What is even more unique about this tradition is that every year, people attempt to burn it down. Since the beginning of the tradition, the Goat has been successfully destroyed a total of 29 times.

In the Philippines, one of their biggest traditions is the Giant Lantern Festival. It is held on the Saturday prior to Christmas Eve every year, always in the city of San Fernando, which is also known as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.”

Eleven villages partake in the competition, all attempting to build the most elaborate lantern. People from all over the world come to see this spectacle each year. The tradition has grown from a half a meter in diameter lit by candle to what they are now, nearly six meters in diameter and lit by electric bulbs.

Iceland has a unique tradition involving troll-like creatures called Yule Lads who visit the children during the 13 nights prior to Christmas. Children put their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits each night, leaving gifts for nice children and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones.

In Toronto, the annual Cavalcade of Lights marks the beginning of the holiday season. The tradition began in 1967 to celebrate the newly built City Hall. The lights shine from dusk till 11 p.m. until the New Year.

Some Christmas traditions are just bizarre, like the newly originated Japanese Christmas tradition of a Kentucky Fried Chicken Christmas dinner. Seeing as Christmas is not widely celebrated in Japan, it is still a rare tradition, if it can even be called that. Only in recent years has it come about.

Yet another bizarre Christmas tradition can be found in Norway which involves people hiding their brooms. This tradition can be traced back centuries to a basis upon superstitions of witches and evil spirits coming out on Christmas Eve in search of brooms to ride on.

Closer to home in Washington, D.C., there’s a tradition of lighting the National Hanukkah Menorah. Since 1979, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah has been celebrated by raising the giant Menorah on the White House grounds for the eight days and nights of Hanukkah. The first candle is lit at 4 p.m. with another lit every night following that.

Many countries have unique traditions, not just the ones described above. Some are happy, some bizarre, some scary, but all are a celebration of this wonderful time of year.

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