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Holidays Unwrapped

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Giant Lantern Festival – San Fernando, Philippines

Each year, the Christmas capital of the Philippines, San Fernando, hosts the Giant Lantern Festival on the Saturday before Christmas Eve. Spectators and tourists from all over the country and all across the globe come to experience the lights. 11 villages take part in the festival. The villages compete to see who has the most elaborate lantern of them all. Originally, the lanterns were much simpler, lit by a candle and made with origami paper. Nowadays, the lanterns are made from various materials and are much much bigger. They are illuminated by bulbs and kaleidoscopes.  See the video below to see what we mean…



Gävle Goat, Sweden

Ever hear of arson being a Christmas tradition? Since 1966, Sweden has been celebrating Gävle Goat in the center of the town’s Castle Square for Advent. It started with just the building of the Yuletide goat that stands 13 metres tall, but now it has turned into the burning of the goat. The goat has been successfully burned down 29 times. Not every year it is burnt down, but the latest destruction was in 2016….


Krampus, Austria

Ever heard of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas? Want something scarier and in real life? Visit Austria! A beastly looking demon character, named Krampus, roams the streets scaring children and punishing the misbehaved ones. In Austrian tradition, St. Nick rewards nice, well behaved children, while his nightmarish accomplice is said to kidnap the naughtiest ones and take them away in his velvet sack. The first week of December entails of young men dressing up as Krampus, especially on Christmas Eve, frightening children with chains and bells in the night…


The Yule Lads, Iceland

Instead of the 12 days of Christmas, Iceland celebrates 13. In the 13 days that lead up to Christmas, 13 troll-like characters come out to play in the cold. The characters known as the Yule Lads visit the kids across the country during the countdown to Christmas. For each night of Yuletide, children place their shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits every night, leaving behind a gift for nice girls and boys and rotting smelly potatoes for the misbehaved ones. The names of the 13 Yule Lads hint at their mischievous and childish fun, ranging from “Pot Scraper, Spoon-Licker, Bowl Licker, Door-Slammer, and Meat Hook”.


St. Nicholas Day, Germany

St. Nicholas is not to be confused with Father Christmas. Nikolaus of Germany travels by donkey in the dark of night on December 6th, and leaves little chocolates, coins, oranges, and toys in the shoes of all good children across Germany. This tradition is celebrated particularly in the Bavarian region of Germany. St Nick visits children in schools or at home and in exchange for sweets and toys, each child must recit a poem, sing a song, or draw a picture for St. Nick. Ever watch Dwight dress up as Belsnickel in the episode of The Office? Well, there is a character St. Nick brings along with him sometimes, by the name of Rupert. Rupert is a demon-like character clothes in dark robes and fur, with bells and a dirty beard. He carries a stick or a small whip and punishes naughty children with a slap on the wrist.

Hiding Brooms, Norway

One of the strangest and most unorthodox Christmas Eve traditions comes from Norway, where people hide their brooms… The tradition dates back centuries ago, to a time when people believed evil witches and spirits would come out looking for brooms to ride through the night of Christmas Eve. Still to this day, the tradition stays the same, except many mischievous kids steal the brooms that are left outside instead of witches….


Lighting of National Hanukkah Menorah, Washington, D.C. – US

Hannukkah is celebrated each year across the United States and the world with much love and excitement. Washington D.C. hosts one of the most elaborate lighting of the candles on a national stage. The Jewish holiday kicks off with the lighting of the first candle and continues for seven more nights. Since 1979, a giant Menorah sits on the White House grounds for the eight days and nights of Hanukkah. There are speeches, music, activities, and of course, the lighting.


Roller Blading, Venezuela

Want to spice up your Christmas with a fun past time? In Caracas, Venezuela, every Christmas Eve entails of city residents heading to church early in the day…only instead of walking or driving, they wear roller skates. This tradition has become so largely popular that roads across the city in Venezuela have to close so that people can skate to and from church in safety. Then they go on home to eat the traditional Christmas dinner of ‘tamales’.


Little Candles Day, Colombia

Little Candles Day marks the beginning of the Christmas season across Colombia, in honor of the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception of Christ. During the celebration, people place candles and prayer lanterns in the windows of their homes, or rest them on balconies or in their front lawn. The sight of the candles lighting the night all throughout Colombia has become such a beautiful tradition, now entire towns and cities across Colombia make elaborate and beautiful displays to honor the Virgin Mother. Quimbaya, for example, has some of the best arrangements, has neighborhoods of the city compete to see who does the best.


Cavalcade of Lights, Toronto

Toronto is home to the annual event of the Cavalcade of Lights, which kicks off the holiday season in Canada. The first Cavalcade started in  1967 with a purpose to show off the newly constructed City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square at the time. The Square in Toronto, and the Christmas tree that becomes a focal point in the city is illuminated by more than 300,000 LED lights that shine from dusk until 11pm all through the holiday season, counting down the New Year. On top of the lighting, there is fireworks and outdoor ice skating.

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