We all know that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but who knew that Santa looks different across the world, or that one tradition in Catalan is called the ‘poo log’? This article outlines my favourite Christmas traditions all around the Earth.
Maybe I was being slightly ignorant to believe Santa Clause was the same all over the world, a bearded and curvacious older man, flying through the skies with his twelve reindeer.
In Sweden, their Father Christmas is called Jultomten or more simply, Tomten. Although in more modern times, he has been depicted more like the Santa we know and love, Tomten was originally a gnome. Tomten delivers gifts to all the Swedish homes in the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Tomten doesn’t come down the chimney, that’s far too much work! He simply comes through the front door. Tomten is sometimes found carrying a pig around with him and travelling with his goats! Instead of living in the North Pole, Tomten is said to live in different forests!
In France, Père Noël takes a similar look to the Santa we often see but is different in traditions. The young French children leave their shoes by the fireplace instead of Christmas stockings, for Père Noël to fill if you’ve been good of course! Père Noël opts for a long red cloak with a white fur hood and is often left a glass of wine, instead of a glass of milk which is traditional in British culture.
In Japan, the equivalent to Santa is Hoteiosho, a Buddhist Monk who sometimes is said to have eyes in the back of his head. This makes children extra vigilant around Hoteiosho, as he can see who misbehaves when his head is turned! Hoteiosho is one of the seven gods of fortune in Buddhist cultures.
For me, Christmas food makes the day that little bit more special. It is so warming and nothing can beat it!
In Australia, lots of fruit dishes and desserts such as Pavlovas are consumed over the festive period, as they don’t require the same warming dishes that we do. They often pack up all their Christmas delights and head to the beach to enjoy the sunny Christmas! It is also said that some Santa’s are spotted surfing on the Australian shores! Quite the opposite to a white Christmas!
In Japan, Christians only make up around 5% of the population, so the amount of Christmas traditions are lower. Saying this, they have got quite a different traditional Christmas dinner – KFC. In 1974, the brand was marketed as ‘Kentucky For Christmas’ in Japan, and they never looked back. People even pre-order KFC for Christmas Day especially!
In South Africa, they have a Christmas delicacy that I never expected, fried Emperor Moth Caterpillars. Not only is this wiggly treat high in protein, but its harvest system also lines up just in time for Christmas. The treat is said to have a similar flavour to tea!
Decorating the Christmas Tree is a huge part of the beginning of festivities for me. When the tree is up, we can start watching Christmas films! Did you know, the traditional circular glass Christmas ornaments (baubles) were inspired by the shape of apples, symbolizing the Garden of Eden? It is said that the first Christmas tree was brought over to the UK by Prince Albert from Germany, placed in Windsor Castle in 1841. It became very fashionable to decorate with candles originally to symbolise the stars in the night sky when Jesus was born. These have since been replaced with LED lights due to it being a fire hazard.
In Hawaii, trees are imported in on the famous ‘Christmas Tree Ship’. It is very popular for the creative Hawaiian people to decorate palm trees at Christmas time for outdoor displays. They replace Santa’s sleigh and reindeers with a Christmas canoe and dolphins for a more fitting theme! With this in mind, it is no surprise that Santa is sometimes spotted with a Hawaiian shirt on also!
In Poland, Christmas trees are often put up on Christmas Eve with the family gathered but the decoration is what sets Polish trees apart from the rest of the world. Many Christmas trees in Poland are decorated with spider webs. Although spider webs are more commonly seen during the Halloween period, it is said that a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus. Many polish people see spiders as symbols of goodness and prosperity.
In America, it became popular in the 1950s to string popcorn together for a nice (and tasty) Christmas decoration for the tree. It originated with outdoor Christmas trees to feed the birds and wildlife, but became a tradition and is perfect if you find yourself peckish when putting the tree up!
Giving gifts at Christmas time is a tradition for many, but these gift ideas are so fun and definitely something to consider this year!
In Iceland, a tradition that many take part in is the exchange of books on Christmas Eve, called ‘Jolabokaflod’ which translates as ‘the Christmas book flood’. Here, people gift books to each other on Christmas Eve, and for the rest of the day, before Christmas, they cosy up and read! The tradition started during WW2 when the paper was one of the only things that wasn’t rationed. After a study, it was found that there are more writers, more books published, and more books read, per head in Iceland than anywhere else in the world.
In China, the Christian population is low, but one tradition they do keep up is gifting apples! It may seem random to us, but in Mandarin, the word apple sounds just like peace. It is believed that if you eat an apple on Christmas Eve, it’ll bring you a safe and peaceful new year. Sometimes, people even carve images into apples for a personal and creative touch.
In Catalan, the Caga Tió is a huge tradition! The Caga Tió or Catalan log is a wooden hollow log which is filled with sweets every day in the lead up to Christmas from the 8th of December until Christmas Eve. The log is covered by a blanket, and on Christmas Eve, it appears the Caga Tió poo’s out the gifts for the children. This explains why it is sometimes referred to as the ‘poo log’. The occasion is complemented by singing Caga Tió songs, just like campfire traditions.
So there it is, some of the most fascinating Christmas traditions around the world. Remember to be kind to yourself this Christmas. If you have any cool Christmas traditions, let us know on Instagram @TheStudentAspect