Get Into the Spirit of Things with These Unusual Holiday Customs From Around the World

When the air starts to turn cold and the daylight hours get shorter, it’s a sign that the holiday season is upon us. We start digging decorations out from storage, hanging winter coats in the closet and making shopping lists for all of the holiday parties and events that are soon to begin.

You and your family probably have your own beloved traditions for your holidays, but appreciating the diversity of celebrations during this time of year is what makes it so magical.

It’s a great opportunity to learn how other countries and cultures celebrate and the holiday customs that are important to them. What we consider unusual, other countries consider traditional and vice versa.

Below, we’ve put together a list of some of the most unique and interesting holiday customs from around the world. Read on to learn about how others celebrate the most wonderful time of the year!

1. Visit a Cemetery in Finland

In Finland, one of the holiday customs that many families participate involves visiting a local cemetery on Christmas Eve. It sounds strange and not necessarily like the kind of thing that would get you in the holiday spirit, but there’s actually a great tradition behind it.

Families go to place candles at the graves of passed loved ones, as a way to reflect and remember those who have died. The ritual is well-loved and the scene is so peaceful, that often people will go to the cemetery even if they don’t know anyone buried there.

Being a part of the Christmas Eve tradition and honoring the spirit of reflection is what makes this custom so special to so many.

2. Burning the Devil in Guatemala

In Guatemala, the holiday season starts with La Quema del Diablo, or “Burning the Devil.”

Every year, on December 7, families build bonfires out of trash and waste outside of their homes and burn them in the evening. It is meant to symbolize the burning of the devil, and it is considered to be a way of cleansing the devil from inside your house.

This event takes place on the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and sets the tone for the joyful festivities that are yet to come.

3. Celebrate Hogmanay in Scotland

Most holidays in Scotland are marked by quiet time spent with friends and family, but New Year’s — or Hogmanay — is an exception. Many of the country’s holiday customs are centered around the event and making it the most festive display possible.

One of the most important traditions associated with Hogmanay is that of the First-Footing. Once New Year’s Eve strikes, the first person to cross a home’s threshold is considered to be a sign of what the year ahead will bring.

For example, dark-haired male visitors are thought to bring good fortune, while blonde men are considered to be unlucky. The first visitor may also bring gifts to the home, such as bread or whiskey.

4. Cover Your Tree with Spiders in Ukraine

Christmas trees in Ukraine include the familiar ornaments and lights but also are often decorated with something a little more unexpected: Spiderwebs.

This tradition is based on an ancient tale of a poor Ukrainian family, who wanted a Christmas tree so much that they grew one themselves from a pine cone. The children had been looking forward to finally decorating their own tree, but the family didn’t have any money to purchase ornaments.

When they woke up on Christmas morning, though, the children were delighted to find that spiders had spun glistening webs around the tree as decoration.

To honor that tale, and to welcome good luck into their lives for the New Year, Ukrainians today still include spider webs on their trees.

5. Welcome the Magi in India

In India, Christianity is not the main religion, but the holiday customs and celebrations still bring everyone together.

Each January, a nine-day festival of fireworks and parties celebrates the arrival of the Magi. Then, on January 6, the celebration culminates in the Feast of the Three Kings, which Christians and Hindus participate in enthusiastically.

At the feast, boys chosen to play the kings dress up in costume and arrive at their holy place riding white horses.

6. Eat Delicious Treats for Hanukkah

Hannukah, which usually falls in December, is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the miracle of a small amount of oil — which only should have been enough for one day — actually lasting for eight days. This allowed the Jews to worship at the temple of Jerusalem, which they had just won back.

To honor the miracle of the oil, Hanukkah’s celebrations include eating foods fried in cooking oil, although what specific foods are eaten varies from country to country.

In Eastern Europe, fried potato pancakes known as latkes are popular. In Israel, fried jelly donuts called sufganiyot are traditionally eaten to celebrate Hanukkah. In Columbia, Jews often snack on plantain slices fried in oil.

No matter where in the world Hanukkah is being celebrated, it’s a safe bet there is some take on the holiday custom of eating fried food.

7. Leave Out Beer for Santa in Ireland

While we tend to leave out milk and cookies as a snack for Santa, in Ireland they take a different approach.

There, the food of choice is mince pies and the drink of choice is a beer — usually a Guinness. It may be a more adult take on what is usually thought of as a holiday custom to enjoy with kids, but we’re sure Santa appreciates it!

Want to Share Your Own Holiday Customs with Friends and Family?

We all celebrate different holidays in different ways, but one thing everyone can appreciate this time of year is the chance to connect with friends and family.

Even when we can’t be physically together with everyone we love, this festive season is a great chance to send cards and gifts. It’s a way of sharing greetings and catching up with those who are far away.

For more information about ordering holiday cards, please check out our various categories and place an order today!

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