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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 March 25, 2020

                                How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

                                How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

                                When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

                                So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

                                1. Exercise

                                It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

                                2. Drink in Moderation

                                I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

                                3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

                                Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

                                4. Watch Less Television

                                A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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                                Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

                                5. Eat Less Red Meat

                                Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

                                If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

                                6. Don’t Smoke

                                This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

                                7. Socialize

                                Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

                                8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

                                Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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                                9. Be Optimistic

                                Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

                                10. Own a Pet

                                Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

                                11. Drink Coffee

                                Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

                                12. Eat Less

                                Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

                                13. Meditate

                                Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

                                Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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                                How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

                                14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

                                Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

                                15. Laugh Often

                                Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

                                16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

                                Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

                                17. Cook Your Own Food

                                When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

                                Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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                                18. Eat Mushrooms

                                Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

                                19. Floss

                                Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

                                20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

                                Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

                                Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

                                21. Have Sex

                                Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

                                More Health Tips

                                Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

                                Reference

                                [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
                                [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
                                [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
                                [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
                                [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
                                [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
                                [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
                                [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
                                [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
                                [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
                                [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
                                [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
                                [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
                                [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
                                [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
                                [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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