While it’s a year for honoring our most beloved Christmas traditions, it’s also a good time to introduce some new ones. Christmas is celebrated in a variety of ways all around the world that go beyond trimming trees, stockings by the fire, and Christmas cookies. These are five international Christmas traditions you might want to integrate into your family’s seasonal celebration.
The Christmas Book Flood, Iceland
Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country (five titles published for every 1,000 Icelanders). One of the nation’s most beloved traditions is Jolabokaflod, the Christmas Book Flood. Every Christmas Eve, loved ones exchange books on Christmas Eve. They spend the rest of the night reading them and eating chocolate.
KFC Christmas, Japan
Since the first KFC opened in Japan in 1970, Japanese celebrators of Christmas have started a new tradition: a Christmas Day feast of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Japan KFCs advertise a special festive feast menu with Christmas-themed standard buckets, special wine, cake, and even premium roast chicken with stuffing. BBC reports that an estimated 3.6 million Japanese families eat KFC during the Christmas season.
The Yule Goat, Sweden
The Yule Goat is a longstanding Swedish symbol of Christmas. It got new life in 1966, when the first giant straw goat, now referred to as the Gävle Goat, was made. Every year, in Sweden, people gather to construct a straw goat on the same spot, over 40 feet high and weighing over three tons. According to the official website, the goat is over 42 feet high, 23 feet wide and weighs 3.6 tons. Construction begins on the first Sunday of Advent and the Goat stands until after the New Year (though often pranksters burn it down early). The whole affair is live-streamed for worldwide participation.
The Night of the Radishes, Oaxaca, Mexico
The Night of the Radishes is a lovely annual Christmas custom in Oaxaca, Mexico that dates back to 1897. On December 23, using large radishes as their canvases, competitors carve nativity scenes, saints, even renditions of Michaelangelo’s Pietà. They then display their creations at the Christmas market. It’s so popular that Oaxaca has land dedicated to cultivating special radishes solely for this event. Some radishes are over a foot long and can weigh almost seven pounds.
Advent Calendars, Switzerland
Most Swiss families make their own advent calendars for the holiday season, counting down until Christmas. Originally, in the 19th Century, advent calendars revolved around receiving a holy picture each day, and now it’s more commercialized. Families fill their advent calendars with chocolates, teas, alcohol, toys: anything a person can imagine. It remains a beloved tradition today and can take many forms. It makes every day of advent special.