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December’s here! It’s officially time to break out the hot cocoa garnished with candy canes, gingerbread cookies, and lighted trees. And for those observing the Elf on the Shelf fever (I somehow have managed to avoid that tradition), the “festive” chaos has already started.
Last week, we took a whirlwind tour of the world to see how kids celebrate the holiday season globally. But you may not be aware of some of the unique ways that families celebrate Christmas around the world, too. From KFC to book binges, prepare to be surprised and delighted by these variations on Christmas cheer…
Christmas Day is synonymous with something you might not expect in Japan — Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yep, you read that right. While Christmas has never been an extravagantly celebrated holiday in Japan, KFC holds a special spot smack-dab at the center of the holiday feast. Every year, people line up outside their nearest franchise to place Christmas dinner orders.
Nobody knows exactly how KFC became the go-to Christmas Day Dinner restaurant. Clever marketing over the years has certainly helped. The fast-food chain has also traditionally provided Christmas meals to schools delivered by Santa and sometimes Mrs. Claus. Whatever the case, the Colonel’s fried chicken and Christmas are now officially inseparable. As one Twitter follower tweeted, “If we’re talking Japanese Christmas, it’s gotta be KFC!”
In the Philippines, Christmas proves an extravagant affair celebrated from late October through December. In fact, it’s not unusual to see Christmas decorations while kids are trick-or-treating or participating in the tradition of Pangangaluluwâ from October 31st through November 2nd. For many, a high point of the Christmas festivities remains the Giant Lantern Festival.
The Giant Lantern Festival takes place in the city of San Fernando, which has a reputation as the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” Drawing crowds from across the archipelago and all over the world, the festival features a competition between 11 villages. Each is tasked with creating the most intricate lantern. Originally lanterns measured about one-and-a-half feet (half a meter) in diameter. Fabricated simply from Japanese origami paper, they were illuminated by candles. Today’s lanterns, however, measure around 20 feet (6 meters) and are lighted by electric bulbs in kaleidoscopic patterns, which makes for a show-stopping event.
In Iceland, books are part and parcel of the holiday season. In fact, the countdown to Christmas begins when the Bokatidindi arrives. This is a free catalog printed by the Iceland Publishers Association and distributed for free to every household on the island. It contains a comprehensive listing of all the new books published in Iceland.
People actively devour these catalogs as they prepare for Iceland’s Christmas Eve book tradition, a truly irresistible event. Known as Jólabókaflóð or the “Yule Book Flood,” they give each other books selected from the catalogue. After the book exchange, Icelanders spend the rest of the night snuggled up reading and eating chocolate.
When it comes to celebrating Christmas around the world with kids, which of these traditions surprised you the most? Are you inspired to incorporate any of them into your Yuletide merriment this year? Or, maybe you have a Christmas tradition of your own that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below.
At Our Whole Village, raising globally-minded children is our passion. We create transformational trips for curious families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its peoples, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable experiences that we handcraft to introduce kids to the world and create better global citizens.