Christmas is the highlight of the year for many people, and a sad time for many others… But it’s undeniable that it is one of the most important events around the world, and that it has transcended the boundaries of Catholicism in many ways – not just for having become one of the maximum expressions of consumerism in the last decades, but also because it spreading all around the globe has resulted in the surfacing of many interesting and somewhat ‘bizarre’ traditions. Christmas has been appropriated and adapted by the cultures who have welcomed this catholic celebration and has mixed with folkloric and even pagan local traditions. In the following lines, we’ll tell you about some awesome Christmas traditions around the world so you can see how diverse this wonderful celebration can be!

Christmas traditions around the world

Christmas traditions around the world: Mari Lwyd in Wales

The Mari Lwyd (Y Fari Lwyd in Welsh language) translates as the Gray Mare and it’s a tradition with Celtic origins. A group of friends would wear costumes, the star of which would include a horse’s skull, covered with a white sheet and a series of ribbons. The group of friends and their mare would then drink and go singing door to door, but quite particular songs and poems… full of insults! The person who opened the door was supposed to answer and engage in a sort of verbal battle. However, later on the Catholic Church would oppose to that verbal violence and drunkenness and the insults would be replaced by Christmas carols. Eventually, the tradition was discontinued, although some people have tried to revive it.

 

Christmas traditions around the world: Roller-skating in Venezuela

On Christmas morning, Venezuelans go to mass. Nothing especially particular here – but what is most interesting is how they go to mass! They use skates and roller skates, and the streets are closed to traffic so children (and also adults) can roller-skate freely and safely. This popular practice, called ‘patinata’, was very popular until the 90s, but is less common and popular now.

Christmas traditions around the world: Greece’s evil goblins

Christmas traditions in Greece

Christmas is a time full of tales and stories for children, many of which are also related to the folklore of every country. In Greece, they have the Kallikantzari, evil goblins that live underground and that spend all year cutting bits and pieces from the Tree of the World, which is the pillar that supports the planet. But the Kallikantzari go on holidays during the 12 days of Christmas, and they climb up to the surface at night to do pranks and mischiefs all around – very much like the Gremlins do! They can get into people’s houses climbing down the chimney, but the locals have their own methods to control them, as there are some things the Kallikantzari don’t like, such as burning old shows, fires or loud, high-pitched noises. And the funniest protection involves their supposed lack of intelligence: apparently, the Kallikantzari can’t count, so people leave a strainer by the door so they get all confused trying to count the holes. When they realise it, dawn has come and they have to go back underground without doing any of their mischiefs.

Christmas traditions around the world: In Russia, 12 courses for 12 apostles

In Russia, meat is not included in Christmas dinner but they do make up for it… As their dinner consists in different 12 courses, one for each apostle! Of course, there are some variations depending on what place in Russia you go to, but those courses include the kutya, a porridge made with cherries, honey and poppy seeds that represents success and happiness, and also mushroom soup, oranges, apricots, garlic, codfish and Bobal’ki, which are small and yummy cookies. It does sound delicious!

 

Christmas traditions around the world: Santa’s Run

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We’ll end our list of Christmas traditions around the world with one of the most recent and popular, as even though it originated in the United States it has spread all around the world and is a huge hit in other places, such as London. It consists on a charity race in which people play a fee to race dressed up as Santa (or some other Christmas characters, such as Santa’s elves). That fee is donated to different charities, which makes this tradition a pretty great one. Besides, it’s quite unique to see that huge amount of Santas racing!

 

What did you think of these Christmas traditions around the world? Which of them did you find the most interesting? Would you like to adopt one of them for your own Christmas celebration? The Kallikantzari may be a fun story to tell your children on Christmas Eve, and, surely, the Russian 12-course dinner sounds really tempting!

 

 

Author
At GowithOh, we are an enthusiastic team of self-confessed Europhiles who are passionate about travel. We especially love the variety of city breaks possible in Europe, from the historic UNESCO heritage cities like Prague, to the more cosmopolitan beachside destinations like Barcelona. We love discovering the hidden gems in different cities and sharing them with our fans so everyone can benefit and enjoy the perfect city break in Europe.