Many of us who love to travel and have found a livelihood in this industry have done so because we are curious creatures. We live to learn, to explore and to experience the world around us. We know that the landscape is different in places far from home. We know that there are flavors we have yet to try. We know that there are rich traditions in every culture that, although different, share similarities with those we hold closest to our hearts. Ours is an industry of togetherness, of encouraging understanding, of celebrating the things that make us different and recognizing the humanity we create together.
It's with this curiosity in mind, that I put together a list of nine really interesting ways people around the world celebrate the holidays. Each is pretty different than what most of my friends are used to and they're all awesome in their own way.
The Christmas Log that Poops Presents - Catalonia, Spain
This cute Tió de Nadal (Christmas Log) with an adorable face, stick legs and red hat is the holiday rage in Catalan homes. This happy hunk of wood makes it's first annual appearance at the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. Children are charged with caring for the log by feeding it and keeping it warm so that the happy Tió will "drop" presents on christmas day.
Legend of the Christmas Spider - Ukraine
A poor but hardworking widow once lived in a small hut with her children. One summer day, a pine cone fell on the earthen floor of the hut and took root. The widow's children cared for the tree, excited at the prospect of having a Christmas tree by winter. The tree grew, but when Christmas Eve arrived, they could not afford to decorate it. The children sadly went to bed and fell asleep. Early the next morning, they woke up and saw the tree covered with cobwebs. When they opened the windows, the first rays of sunlight touched the webs and turned them into gold and silver. The widow and her children were overjoyed. From then on, they never lived in poverty again.
Christmas decorations that commemorate this story include a wide variety of sparkling spiders, glitter webs and yes, the introduction of Christmas tinsel that's become a common feature in many unsuspecting homes.
Singing with a Dead Horse - Wales
Run out of fun ideas to wow your neighbors? Grab a horse skull and a few friends and start singing. It's Christmas caroling with a hobbyhorse twist. Folks with decorate their horse scull and mount it on a pole to be marched around town by a singing crowd. At each stop, challenging the families inside their homes to a battle of rhyming Welsh insults. The challenge ends with the group being invited inside the home for food & drink. Without even knowing, you may have sung a Christmas carol about this interesting tradition, "Here We Come A-wassailing." read more
Rollerblade to Church - Venezuela
People of Caracas, Venezuela switch their mode of transport on christmas morning to roller skates and do roller blading in morning to the church and the children tie a string to their foot and the other end through the window to the street below so that their elders passing in the morning would pull it to wake them from sleep.
Many even ride their skates down the center aisle of the church, right to the seat before switching to regular shoes. The celebration is often followed by coffee and savory snacks on the street.
Pub Crawl in Santa Gear - USA
SantaCon... A celebration that started in San Francisco as a nonsense gathering has grown into a worldwide holiday pub crawl.
Participants, men and women dressed as Santa, join together in a well-spirited excursion around major cities. Group guidelines suggest all participants refer to each other as "Santa" and they should bring small gifts or candies to give to any children they may encounter on their way into, out of and between drinking establishments.
In 2017, SantaCon celebrates its 23rd birthday.
Night of the Radishes - Oaxaca, Mexico
While carving pumpkins is a well-known Halloween tradition, in Oaxaca, Mexico, the vegetable carving comes at Christmastime – and instead of a big orange pumpkin, the produce at centre stage is the humble red radish.
Noche de Rabanos, or Night of the Radishes, is a tradition stretching back more than a century. Merchants hoping to attract potential shoppers to the zócolo (town plaza) before and after Christmas church services would carve intricate shapes into the radishes’ ruby skin, sometimes forming little people or decorating the carving with other vegetables for sale. The festive radishes were a hit: locals bought the most intricate offerings for their Christmas centerpieces.
Hide Your Brooms - Norway
Long before Christianity, Norwegians believed that witches and mischievous spirits come out one night a year. That night has since become Christmas Eve. We all know that witches need brooms so homes throughout Norway lock up their brooms on Christmas Eve.
Krampus - Austria, Germany & Hungary
Be good for Santa... if you're not, there's Krampus, a creepy looking, beast-like creature who shows up in order to punish and kidnap the ill-behaved. Rooted in Germanic folklore, today you're likely to find Krampus wandering the streets, scaring young children in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
KFC & Colonel Sanders - Japan
I don't need an excuse to eat fried chicken but the folks in Japan have taken this to a whole new holiday level. There are literally lines out the door at every KFC in Japan on Christmas day. Mind you, Christmas isn't even a national holiday in Japan like it is here. So why KFC? Some clever marketers came up with “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas!) marketing campaign in 1974, linking the jolly Colonel and his delicious chicken with the American celebration. Even the Smithsonian has an article about it.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR...
Stephen Ekstrom is a well-recognized tourism marketing expert whose influence reaches over 500,000,000 travelers every year. He's been profiled by the New York Times and appeared on CBS, NBC and NY1. He is a fixture in the travel trade and has served as a board member, expert panelist, committee chair, mentor and program facilitator. Fire Starter Brands, founded by Ekstrom in 2010, manages a network of nearly 5,500 opted-in global travel trade buyers, advising and assisting smart travel industry suppliers and destination marketers. Stephen currently lives in South Florida with his two dogs, Match & Rudy.