Have you ever wondered why it’s customary for families to place a candle in their window on Christmas Eve? This tradition serves a variety of purposes, but usually the candle is placed near the window as a welcoming gesture for Mary and Joseph as they search for shelter. The candle must also be lit by the youngest member of the family and, if possible, extinguished by a girl named Mary. Nowadays the candle is replaced by something slightly more fire safe and you will often see a triangle of lights in the windows of many Irish homes across the country. Personally I find something warm and welcoming about them and am adding to my collection each year.
Although this tradition may seem a little odd, there are actually hundreds of slightly bizarre yet wonderful traditions taking place all over the world right now as Christmas approaches. Here are some of my favourite festive traditions that you may be taking part in or be able to spot this Christmas or talk about with neighbours who may not be local!
Spain To celebrate Christmas, the Spanish will partake in an annual lottery known as El Gordo – which translates to “The Fat One”. This tradition dates back to the 18th century when King Carlos III brought the lottery across from Naples, hoping that it would increase state revenue for the public tax authority.
Today, the El Gordo draw is held on December 22 and marks the beginning of Christmas for many Spaniards. There are 100,000 numbers in total, but each number is divided into 195 series which are further divided into tenth shares called décimos which cost €20.
— The Two Darlings (@thetwodarlings) December 17, 2015
Japan The Japanese are also slightly commercial in their Christmas traditions in that they visit KFC
on Christmas Day. Ever since KFC’s marketing campaign in the 1970s, the Japanese have associated the chicken fast food restaurant with the perfect Christmas dinner and have passed the tradition down for generations.
Venezuela If you plan to visit church between 16th and 24th December in Venezuela, then you’ll probably be travelling there on roller skates. Nearby streets are even closed to cars until 8am to ensure the roller skaters are safe.
Germany Back in Europe, Germany to be exact, it is tradition to ensure the last decoration placed on a Christmas tree is a Christmas pickle. Most of the time this isn’t an actual pickle but a glass ornament passed down through generations. The Christmas pickle is well hidden within the decorations and the first child to spot it on Christmas Day receives a special gift and good luck throughout the year.
Norway Before Christmas Day in Norway it is crucial that women hide all the brooms in their houses before going to bed on Christmas Eve. This is to prevent witches and evil spirits from flying around.
Italy Speaking of witches, Santa Claus is actually a kind old witch named Befana in Italy who flies around on a broom delivering Christmas presents. She also uses the broom to do a little tidying before she leaves each home, so wine is often left out as a thank you.
South Africa Meanwhile, in South Africa, it is customary to snack on Christmas Caterpillars rather than mince pies or turkey. These caterpillars, from the Emperor moth, are usually deep-fried and eaten throughout Christmas Day.
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