Christmas is celebrated around the world in different ways. Local customs and traditions infuse the holiday with a unique twist from an Australian Christmas dinner fresh off the barbie to a giant goat in Sweden to a deadly carnivorous cat in Iceland.
In the land down under, December 25th falls smack dab in the middle of summer vacation. In Canada we may be hoping for a white Christmas but Australians look forward to being outdoors. Often Christmas dinner comes hot off the barbie and, like their British cousins, Aussies eagerly await the arrival of “Father Christmas”.
Ethiopian Christians still use the ancient Julian calendar and celebrates the birth of Christ on January 7th in a celebration called Ganna. Hold the tinsel and the mistletoe, Ganna is a day of piety. Everyone wears white (many wear a shamma, a traditional white cotton garment with brightly coloured ends) and attends church. 12 days after Ganna, Ethiopians celebrate Timkat which commemorates the baptism of Christ.
In Sweden the festivities start on December 13th with St. Lucia’s Day. To celebrate the patron saint of light, the eldest daughter in a family wakes up before dawn and dresses in a long white dress as the “Queen of Light”. Her duties then include singing “Santa Lucia” and serving coffee room by room to each member of the family – usually with the help of other children. A day or two before Christmas the family finally chooses and decorates their Christmas tree. In the town of Gavle a 40 foot straw goat is erected in a yuletide tradition.
4) South Wales
In South Wales locals still celebrate Mari Lwyd, a wassailing custom whereby one lucky local parades a horse’s skull on a stick through town. A white sheet flows down from the back of the horse’s skull and covers the person holding it.
In Guatemala Christmas is a time of cleansing. After conducting a full house clean Guatemalans gather the dust from their homes in a big communal pile, erect a statue of the devil on top of the pile and then burn it. Bad omens and bad luck go up in flames along with the Devil himself.
In Iceland tradition holds that anyone who doesn’t receive new clothes for Christmas will be killed and eaten by a giant yule cat – so be grateful for that new pair of socks you got from Grandma for the third year in a row. The tradition was likely started by farmers hoping to encourage their workers to finish processing wool before Christmas. If the wool was harvested in time the employees would often be given new clothes as a reward.
Ukrainians have a unique decoration adorning their Christmas trees – spiderwebs! This tradition is more than just an excuse to recycle old Halloween decorations. Legend has it that a magical spider spun its web around the undecorated tree of a poor family, and when the morning came the spider’s web had turned into precious metal.
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