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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 September 18, 2020

                                7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

                                7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

                                Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

                                Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

                                1. Exercise Daily

                                It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

                                If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

                                Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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                                If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

                                2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

                                Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

                                One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

                                This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

                                3. Acknowledge Your Limits

                                Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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                                Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

                                Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

                                4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

                                Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

                                The basic nutritional advice includes:

                                • Eat unprocessed foods
                                • Eat more veggies
                                • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
                                • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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                                Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

                                  5. Watch Out for Travel

                                  Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

                                  This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

                                  If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

                                  6. Start Slow

                                  Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

                                  If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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                                  7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

                                  Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

                                  My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

                                  If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

                                  I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

                                  Final Thoughts

                                  Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

                                  Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

                                  More Tips on Getting in Shape

                                  Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

                                  Reference

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