In the final weeks of the year, many countries and cultures celebrate a myriad of holidays, and many honour Christmas in unexpected ways.
Christmas Day in France is different when compared to Philippines simply due to the weather. In Australia, for example, the sweltering heat that often characterises the 25th of December means that many people enjoy a BBQ outdoors, complete with fresh seafood and cold meats, surrounded by family and friends. This tradition may seem odd to those celebrating Christmas in Sweden in the same way that so many of their customs and festivities may appear peculiar to Australians.
From Philippines to France, we look at Christmas traditions that are stranger than fiction.
No other country in the world celebrates the season quite like Filipinos, the third-largest Catholic nation in the world. The Philippines one-up the United States’ propensity for immediately replacing Halloween décor with Christmas lights by commencing celebrations in September — making it the longest Christmas celebration in the world.
The southeast Asian’s Catholicism is a holdover from the Spanish colonial era of the Philippines, as traditions like the marathon nine-day series of Christmas masses called simbang gabi. This year, the lighting of the traditional holiday lanterns carries particular meaning in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.
In the Philippines, Merry Christmas is “Maligayang Pasko.”
The Yule Log is customary in European-derived Christmas traditions, where the Yule Goat is not the real animal but is usually made of straws. In Swedish language the Christmas Goat is known as the Julbok, which roots go way back to mythology. But Swedish adopted the tradition very warmly and since 1966 there is a giant version of the yule Goat installed in the Swedish town of Gavle. Every year people try to steal, torch and kidnap it.
Merry Christmas in Swedish is “God Jul.”
On this continent the holiday falls in the hottest weather of the years. So instead of snow and cold, the holiday is marked here with electrical storms and brush fires. However Aussies still remain in Christmas spirit and a Canberra family recently broke a world record by stringing more than 31 miles of dedcoration lights around its property. Roast turkey, steamed pudding and gingerbread all might end up on the table. Besides the festive table, 40, 000 Australians flock to Bondi beach in Sydney at this time to make a barbecue. Carols by Candlelight, derived from a 19th-century Australian tradition, has turned into a big, down-under outdoor festival. Held on Christmas Eve in Melbourne for the past 76 years, the outdoor concert is now a fundraiser for Vision Australia.
It is a perfect destination for Christmas, as it is believed that Santa made this country his home. However, it is not about the Santa and his deers in this country. Every year, at noon the Declaration of Christmas Peace is read during the formal ceremony in South Finland. The content has been slightly changed since 13th century offers a surprisingly emphatic reminder that any sort of unruly behavior that challenges the holiday “shall under aggravating circumstances be guilty and punished according to what the law and statutes prescribe for each and every offense separately.”
In other words, hooligans, don’t mess with Finnish Christmas. However the celebration of Christmas is always accompanied by ham, smoked and pickled fish, cheeses and sweets.
In Finland, people wish each other “Hyvää Joulua” on Christmas.
5. Germany and Austria
The star of a new Hollywood horror film, the Krampus is Father Christmas’ scary friend, a devilish creature who punishes naughty children throughout the festive period. The mythical beast, which stems from Austro-Bavarian German-speaking Alpine folklore, is hairy with hooves and large horns.
Christmas in Austria and Germany really starts around 4.00pm on Christmas Eve (‘Heilige Abend’) when the tree is lit for the first time and people come to sing carols around the tree. The most famous carol is Silent Night (‘Stille Nacht’), which was written in Austria in 1818.
The main Christmas meal is also eaten on Christmas Eve. It’s often ‘Gebackener Karpfen’ (fried carp) as the main course, this is because Christmas Eve was considered a ‘fasting’ day by many Catholics and no meat could be eaten. However ‘Weihnachtsgans’ (roast goose) and roast turkey are becoming more popular. Dessert can be chocolate and apricot cake ‘Sachertorte’ and Austrian Christmas cookies ‘Weihnachtsbaeckerei’.
Merry Christmas in German is “Frohe Weihnachten”.
Here Christmas day is preceded by a “Reveillon”, which means to stay awake to usher in the next day. “This means essentially gathering with friends, often a dozen or more, and enjoying a multi-course dinner, in company of many bottles of wine and much champagne,” says Susi Seguret, who leads the Seasonal School of Culinary Arts in several different cities, including Paris. “This is a time to dress to the nines, even if at home, and to get out the best china and silver and crystal and all the candles.” French festive table usually consists of oysters, poultry, cheese platter and delicate desserts.