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15 Unique Christmas Traditions from Around the World

15 Unique Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Although Christmas is a holiday that’s celebrated in some form or fashion in most countries across the globe, many of them vary greatly in the way they choose to celebrate.  For some it’s mostly a religious holiday. To others its appeal is much more of a commercial one. Here are examples of some of the customs and traditions that make Christmas special for its observers all over the world.

1. Costa Rica
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    Photo via Flickr

    An important symbol of Christmas in Costa Rica is the model of the nativity scene, called the Pasito or Portal.  It’s the main focus of the Christmas decorations, which also include tropical flowers and often fruit.  The whole family participates in decorating the scene, which often takes a long time to make.  Wreaths of cypress branches, decorated with ribbons and red coffee berries round out the decor. The country’s population is largely Roman Catholic, so Christmas Eve is spent attending Midnight Mass, which is called the Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Rooster), followed by a Christmas meal of pork and chicken tamales wrapped in plantain leaves.  Gifts are brought by Nino Dios (meaning Child God, or Jesus) or Colacho, which is what Costa Ricans call St. Nicholas.

    2. Germany

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      Photo via Flickr

      A major focus of Germany’s Christmas celebrations is Advent.  They use various types of Advent calendars, including ones in the shape of a wreath fashioned out of fir branches.  From these circular calendars hang 24 decorated bags or boxes, each of which contains a small gift.  Another version is a fir wreath with four candles on it.  A candle is lit each week during the Advent celebration. Residents of Germany differ on who they think brings the gifts on Christmas Eve.  Some say it’s Santa Claus or Father Christmas, known as Weihnachtsmann.  Others say it’s Christkind, The Christ Child.  Some also believe a character called Knecht Ruprecht, or Krampus, accompanies St. Nicholas.  Rather than bringing gifts, this horned monster comes to punish the children who were bad.

      3. South Africa
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        Photo via Flickr

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        Since it’s in the Southern Hemisphere, residents of South Africa celebrate Christmas in the summer.  Schools close, so many people spend the holiday camping or swimming.  Caroling on Christmas Eve is quite popular in the cities.  There are services where carols are sung by candlelight. South African cuisine also plays a major role in the holidays.  A Christmas meal of turkey, duck, roast beef, or suckling pig is served with vegetables, yellow rice and raisins alongside.  The meal is followed with a traditional dessert called Malva, or Lekker, Pudding.

        4. Mexico
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          Photo via Flickr

          In Mexico, the Christmas celebration lasts from December 12th through January 6th.  Beginning on December 16th, Mexican children perform a series of nine Posadas.  These processions represent Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to stay.  They walk with candles to various houses where they sing a song and are then told there is no room. At the last house of the final Posada, on Christmas Eve, the children are told there is room and welcomed in for a a celebration that includes prayers of thanksgiving and a party with food, fireworks, and often a pinata.

          5. Australia
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            Photo via Flickr

            When Santa reaches Australia he trades his reindeer in for kangaroos, known as Six White Boomers (a popular local Christmas song).  He also sheds his furry suit for some cooler clothes to beat the heat in the Outback. Beach barbecues are a popular way to celebrate with family.  In addition to the traditional fare, many dine on seafood such as prawns or lobster.  The celebratory meal is usually eaten at lunch time.

            6. Canada
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              Photo via Flickr

              Many Canadians argue that Santa Claus himself hailed from Canada, although residents of Finland make the same claim.  Either way, he’s a major part of the country’s Christmas celebration.  An annual parade in Toronto is one of the biggest and oldest in the world and involves over 2,000 participants. Another favorite Christmas pastime in Canada are cookie baking parties.  Families bring their favorite recipes, bake a batch, and then swap them with other attendees so that everyone leaves with an assortment of cookies to enjoy over the holidays.

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              7. Ireland
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                Photo via Flickr

                Forget milk and cookies.  In Ireland it’s customary to leave mince pies and a bottle of Guinness out for Santa Claus. Another Christmas Even tradition involves leaving a tall, thick candle burning in the largest window.  The candle is allowed to burn all night as a symbol to welcome Mary and Joseph.

                8. Egypt
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                  Photo via Flickr

                  Christians in Egypt participate in a Holy Nativity Fast for the 43 days before Christmas.  They eat what is essentially a vegan diet, which contains no foods that come from animals (including milk and eggs). On Christmas Eve, they attend a church service that begins around 10:30 and can last until as late as 4:00 a.m.  Following the service, everyone goes home to the big Christmas meal, which contains meat, butter, and all of the other yummy things they couldn’t eat during the Advent fast.  A popular dish is Fata, a soup that contains rice, bread, garlic, and boiled lamb.

                  9. France
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                    Photo via Flickr

                    In French homes, yule logs made of cherry wood are often burned.  They’re sprinkled with red wine, which creates a nice aroma.  The logs, along with candles, are left burning through the night.  They’re accompanied by food and drinks that are left out in case Mary and the Jesus visit during the night. Christmas decorations often include a nativity crib that’s adorned with clay figures.  In addition to the typical nativity characters, French scenes sometimes include a butcher, a baker, a priest, and a policeman.  Photo via Flickr

                    10. Finland
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                      Photo via Flickr

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                      Finland is long believed to be the home of Santa Claus or Father Christmas.  He’s presumed to live in the Korvatunturi, or Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle.  An address there receives letters to Santa Claus from all over the world.  There’s also a large theme park called “Christmas Land” in the area. Another important Christmas figure is Joulupukki, which translates to “Christmas Goat.” This character was a scary goat who asked people for presents, without every giving any in return.  Eventually, though he began giving gifts, a duty that was later taken on by Santa.

                      11. Greece
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                        Photo via Flickr

                        Caroling is also popular in Greece, where children walk the streets singing and playing drums and triangles.  According to custom, they often carry model boats that are painted gold and decorated with nuts.  If they perform well, they are rewarded with sweets, nuts, or even money. Rather than a Christmas tree, many Greek homes display a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire suspended over it.  From the wire hangs a cross wrapped in a sprig of basil.  Each day the cross is dipped into holy water and sprinkled throughout the house to ward off evil spirits known as Killantzaroi, which appear during the 12 days from Christmas to Epiphany on January 6th.

                        12. Brazil
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                          Photo via Flickr

                          Children in Brazil await a visit from Papai Noel or Bom Velhinho, which means Good Old Man.  They leave him a sock near the window, which he exchanges for a gift. Another popular gift-giving tradition in Brazil involves those from an amigo secreto, a secret friend.  These admirers give small gifts all through the month of December using a false name, only to reveal their true identify on Christmas Day.

                          13. China
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                            Photo via Flickr

                            Since only about 1% of China’s population is Christian, most people know very little about Christmas.  This is despite the fact that the majority of the world’s plastic Christmas trees and decorations are manufactured there. Although most don’t understand its meaning, Christmas is still widely celebrated in China, particularly in the major cities.  One popular tradition is the giving of apples, likely because Christmas Eve in Chinese is Ping An Ye which is similar to the Chinese word for apple, Ping Guo.

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                            14. Zimbabwe
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                              Photo via Flickr

                              Christmas day in Zimbabwe usually begins with a church service.  After its conclusion, everyone goes from house to house to visit with all of their friends and family where they eat and exchange gifts.  This celebration often lasts the rest of the day. Music is also a big part of the celebration.  Many people place speakers outside the front of their homes and play their favorite tunes at loud volumes.  This could include holiday songs, contemporary music, or even traditional African tunes.

                              15. Japan
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                                Photo via Flickr

                                Since there are few Christians in Japan, Christmas is seen more as a time for spreading cheer than it is as a religious celebration.  And it’s Christmas Eve that tends to be the more celebrated day. With a focus on couples spending time together, it actually bears a closer resemblance to Valentine’s day.  Young couples exchange gifts and enjoy activities like strolling around looking at Christmas lights and eating a romantic meal.

                                Featured photo credit: Compfight via flickr.com

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                                Last Updated on November 9, 2020

                                10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

                                10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

                                Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

                                Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

                                Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

                                If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

                                Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

                                1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

                                Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

                                Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

                                Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

                                2. No Motivation

                                Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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                                This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

                                If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

                                3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

                                Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

                                A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

                                A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

                                The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

                                4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

                                One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

                                We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

                                Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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                                You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

                                5. Upward Comparisons

                                Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

                                The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

                                These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

                                Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

                                6. No Alternative

                                This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

                                Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

                                Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

                                Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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                                7. Stress

                                As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

                                When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

                                We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

                                If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

                                8. Sense of Failure

                                People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

                                Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

                                Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

                                If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

                                9. The Need to Be All-New

                                People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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                                These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

                                10. Force of Habit

                                Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

                                Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

                                These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

                                Final Thoughts

                                These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

                                There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

                                More on Breaking Bad Habits

                                Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

                                Reference

                                [1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
                                [2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
                                [3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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