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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 February 20, 2019

                                13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride

                                13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride

                                Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

                                Why is this so critically important to you?

                                The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

                                Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

                                1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

                                Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

                                When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

                                • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
                                • The man facing the judge.
                                • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
                                • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
                                • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
                                • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

                                These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

                                Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

                                Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

                                2. Accept Your Fear

                                Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

                                We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

                                And here’s what can be done.

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                                3. Get Some Perspective

                                I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

                                And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

                                That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

                                We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

                                So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

                                • Are you really at risk?
                                • Will this kill you?
                                • Which leads us on to..
                                • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

                                4. Hold a Hand

                                As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

                                Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

                                We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

                                Ask yourself:

                                • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
                                • Could that really happen?
                                • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
                                • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

                                By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

                                5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

                                This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

                                Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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                                The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

                                It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

                                For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

                                Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

                                6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

                                I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

                                Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

                                Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

                                Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

                                Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

                                Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

                                7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

                                Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

                                I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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                                It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

                                One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

                                Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

                                It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

                                8. Assume the Worse

                                If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

                                Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

                                • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
                                • Think about how they feel about champagne?
                                • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

                                And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

                                When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

                                Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

                                9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

                                If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

                                Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

                                Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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                                10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

                                One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

                                11. Go with Fear

                                When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

                                I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

                                Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

                                One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

                                However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

                                We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

                                12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

                                And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

                                The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

                                What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

                                13. Own Your Fear

                                Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

                                We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

                                You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

                                More Resources About Fighting Fear

                                Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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