‘Twas the night before Christmas and around the world, people are doing strange and unusual things. While Americans might be having a drink with friends or setting out the milk and cookies for Santa, a host of quirky Christmas Eve activities are taking place in every corner of the earth.
Most Americans associate Christmas with cold. But December is summer in the southern hemisphere, so those who live in the land down under tend to go to the beach on Christmas Eve. People in Australia and New Zealand love their water activities, and what better way to celebrate the night before Christmas than to catch a party wave or two?
In Caracas, Venezuela, Christians roller skate to church on Christmas Eve. Most streets are closed to traffic because so many families are rolling their way to Mass.
For 13 days leading up to Christmas, trolls visit folks in Iceland. Children put their shoes by the window, and a Yule Lad comes by to drop off gifts each day. Trolls may sound like an odd tradition, but it’s nothing compared to what goes on in Norway, where the Christmas Eve custom is for people to hide brooms. This has been going on for centuries because people thought evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve and, as everyone knows, witches and evil spirits ride on brooms.
In San Fernando, the Christmas capital of the Philippines, an exotic lantern festival is held during the Advent season. What began with making simple little candle-lit globes has become an elaborate competition. Many of these lanterns look like giant kaleidoscopes and are lit by hundreds of electric lights.
It could be said Santa comes early if you live closer to the North Pole. In Canada, “why wait?” is the motto. Most Canadians open at least one gift on Christmas Eve – some go all the way. Canada isn’t the only country to do this but opening at least something is widely practiced by our neighbors to the north.
It is unclear how “hiding the Christmas pickle” began – but that’s what many Germans do on Christmas Eve. German parents hide a glass pickle under the tree. The child who finds the pickle on Christmas Day gets a bonus gift.
Ho Ho Ho, It’s Colonel Sanders
Let’s face it; most holiday traditions center around food. In the largely secular country of Japan, a peculiar and more recent custom is to pick up a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas dinner. No one knows how Colonel Sanders became a Japanese favorite over Christmas, but KFC Japan hits the airwaves to advertise this growing custom during December. No word on whether the Japanese prefer regular or extra crispy.
Chicken is also popular in Brazil on Christmas Eve. Brazilians prefer “busty chicken” over Kentucky Fried. Commonly called a “Chester,” this bird is cooked in loads of pineapple sauce. However, dinner does not usually get underway until 10 p.m.
Ukrainians celebrate Orthodox Christmas, which occurs in early January, and when they celebrate Christmas Eve, a huge feast is prepared. A typical Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner consists of a dozen courses – one for each Apostle. This is much like the French, who prepare a feast known as Le réveillion de Noel. In France, they serve 13 desserts, one for each Apostle and an extra for Jesus.
Italy’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner consists of the “feast of the seven fishes.” Each fish course symbolizes the seven deadly sins, the seven sacraments, or the seven days of creation.
So, if you can’t think what to do this holiday, pick up a glass pickle, make an elaborate lantern, hide a broom, or run down to the local KFC for a finger-lickin’ Christmas Eve. Or you could simply sit by the fire with your family and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. It’s doubtful that it matters, so long as you celebrate with a grateful heart for Jesus – God’s gift to mankind.
~ Read more from Leesa K. Donner.