I can’t really say that I have been in a strange place on Christmas Day. A few times, I was in transit, by airplane, or to visit relatives by car. I have spent a few Christmas days working, allowing my co-workers with young children to have the day off. For some people, it is just another day. How about you?
I cannot imagine being stuck in a hotel or motel in a strange city or foreign country. And I definitely would not like being in a place that does not celebrate Christmas. Hawaii makes Christmas into a big celebration, as they call the jolly rotund man “Shogun Santa”. A few years ago, we were at my cousin’s home for Christmas Eve dinner when Santa made an appearance.
But as the years go by, Christmas evolved into a day when I can help others. For about ten years, before moving here to my hometown area, we volunteered at a bay area program called Christmas For Everyone. We started collecting clothing, new and used toys, and household items during the month of December. On Christmas Day, every guest received a set of clothes, warm jacket, and a gift. The kids also received a new, wrapped toy. But the best part was serving Christmas dinner to about 5000 needy people and singing Christmas caroles. We always worked the food line, and enjoyed every minute. And we often stayed after and ate our Christmas dinner with the other volunteers. It was the best Christmas when we did this!!! Better than watching my own kids open presents.
Some countries do a variation of our traditional Christmas:
The Giant Lantern Festival in the Philippines. Originally, the lanterns were simple creations around half a metre in diameter, made from ‘papel de hapon’ (Japanese origami paper) and lit by candle. Today, the lanterns are made from a variety of materials and have grown to around six metres in size. They are illuminated by electric bulbs that sparkle in a kaleidoscope of patterns.
Leave it to the Swedes to have a party called Gavle Goat, since 1966, a 13 meter tall Yule goat. Since I grew up with 3,000 Swedes, I can tell you what I think of this nonsense. This Swedish Christmas tradition has unwittingly led to another “tradition” of sorts – people trying to burn it down. Since 1966 the Goat has been successfully burned down 29 times – the most recent destruction was in 2016.
Krampus is Santa Claus evil accomplice in Austria. I think he would scare most of the kids. In Austrian tradition, St. Nicholas rewards nice little boys and girls, while Krampus is said to capture the naughtiest children and whisk them away in his sack. In the first week of December, young men dress up as the Krampus (especially on the eve of St. Nicholas Day) frightening children with clattering chains and bells.
Kentucky Fried Christmas Dinner in Japan. Christmas has never been a big event in Japan. But a new, quirky “tradition” has emerged in recent years – a Christmas Day feast of the Colonel’s very own Kentucky Fried Chicken. The festive menu will soon be advertised on the KFC Japan website and, even if you don’t understand Japanese, the pictures sure will look delicious with everything from a Christmas-themed standard bucket to a premium roast-bird feast.
Iceland has the Yule Lads. For 13 days, the Yule Lads (jólasveinarnir or jólasveinar in Icelandic) visit the children across the country over the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. For each night of Yuletide, children place their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts for nice girls and boys and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones.
The Hidden Broom Trick in Norway. Perhaps one of the most unorthodox Christmas Eve traditions can be found in Norway, where people hide their brooms. It’s a tradition that dates back centuries to when people believed that witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve looking for brooms to ride on. To this day, many people still hide their brooms in the safest place in the house to stop them from being stolen.
Roller Derby in Venezuela. visit Caracas, Venezuela this year. Every Christmas Eve, the city’s residents head to church in the early morning – so far, so normal – but, for reasons known only to them, they do so on roller skates. This unique tradition is so popular that roads across the city are closed to cars so that people can skate to church in safety, before heading home for the less-than-traditional Christmas dinner of ‘tamales’ (a wrap made out of cornmeal dough and stuffed with meat, then steamed).
Cavalcade of Lights in Toronto. The Nathan Phillips Square and Christmas tree are illuminated by more than 300,000 energy-efficient LED lights that shine from dusk until 11 pm until the New Year. On top of that, you’ll get to witness spectacular fireworks shows and engage in some outdoor ice skating.
So, I don’t complain anymore about costly Christmas trees, lights strung all over the house and yard, and the jolly rotund one coming down the chimney that we no longer have. If I could choose any place to spend Christmas, other than at home, I think I would choose Tokyo. But I would skip the Kentucky Fried Chicken!!!!
Perhaps you would like to tell me about your unusual Christmas?