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Quirky Christmas Eve Traditions Around the World

The night before Christmas: Grabbing a surfboard, hiding a broom, or eating at KFC?

By:  |  December 24, 2022  |    674 Words
GettyImages-671346554 (1) Christmas Eve

(Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

‘Twas the night before Christmas and around the world, people are doing strange and unusual things. While Americans might be having a party with friends or setting out the milk and cookies for Santa quirky Christmas Eve activities are taking place in every corner of the Earth.

Different Strokes

Most Americans link Christmas with cold and winter. But December is summer in the southern hemisphere, so those who live in the land down under often go to the beach on Christmas Eve. For people in Australia and New Zealand, what better way to celebrate the night before Christmas than to catch a wave or two?

GettyImages-460440726 Lantern festival Philippines

Lantern Festival in the Philippines (Photo by Sherbien Dacalanio/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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.

Rather than Santa Claus and his elves, Children in Iceland are visited for 13 days leading up to Christmas by 13 trolls called Yule Lads. They leave small gifts and sweets if the kids were good that year – and rotting potatoes if they weren’t. In Norway, 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, a 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 open all of them! Canada isn’t the only country to do this. December 24 is celebrated as the main holiday in Denmark.


(Photo by Johannes Schmitt-Tegge/picture alliance via Getty Images)

It is unclear how the idea of a “Christmas pickle” began – but that’s what many Germans look for 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 Japan, a 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 a kind of large chicken called a “Chester.” This bird is cooked in pineapple sauce, and dinner does not usually start until 10 p.m.

Ukrainians celebrate Orthodox Christmas, which occurs in early January. 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 Réveillon 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.

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