Even the most seasoned traveller may not have ticked off all these delicious must do…
With Christmas just around the corner, we thought we would share some of the festive Christmas traditions from a few of the countries we visit on our tours and some that we have yet to add.
Little candles day (Dia de las Velitas). To honour the Virgin Mary and the immaculate conception, candles or paper lanterns are placed in the windows, balconies and front yards. This tradition has grown and now whole towns are lit up at this time of year with elaborate displays.
The Krampus is a devil-like creature which appears during the Advent period in Austria (and other versions in some other countries) who joins their St. Nicholas festivities on December 6. Children are asked for a list of their good and bad deeds: Good children are rewarded with sweets, apples, and nuts, and bad children worry what Krampus might bring on Christmas morning.
They wore animal skins and carved wooden masks, and had bells tied onto their costume so that people could hear the clanking coming through the darkness, and they carried long sticks. The chains that they sometimes wear are thought to be related to the idea of the creatures being bound to their place in the underworld, while the sacks that they carry are to take very bad children away with them. Nowadays however many of the larger cities and towns have formal processions which tend to be fairly orderly. Since the people inside the Krampus costumes are usually young men, many of the more organised clubs who keep this tradition alive delegate some older members to keep an eye on what is going on.
Ever fancied spending your Christmas on Rollerblades?? Well this is how they do it in Caracas, Venezuela! Residents choose to rollerblade to their traditional visit to church on in the early morning, rather than take the car. This unique tradition is so popular that even roads are closed so that whole families can get there in safety.
The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) is held every year in San Fernando, on the Saturday before Christmas Eve. It attracts spectators from all over the country and across the world. Eleven villages take part of the festival and the competition is fierce.
Traditionally the lanterns were made from Japanese origami paper, approx half a metre is diameter and lit by a candle. Nowadays, they are made from a variety of materials, may be up to six meters in size and lit by electric bulbs. Truely a spectacular sight to be seen!
Did you know the Poinsettia, the most popular Christmas flower, originated in Latin America? It was discovered by Dr Joel Robert Poinsett. When he was serving as a US Minister in Mexico, he shipped samples of the beautiful flower back to the US in 1936. In Mexico it is known by the locals as ‘Flor de Noche Buena’
Have you ever thought about carving radishes for Christmas? Well in Oaxaca, Mexico, radish figurines line the Central Plaza on December the 23rd and 24th. Nativity scenes and great historical events to name a couple are sculpted by Mexican artists using only radishes. The whole event is known as El festival de Los Rabanos (The festival of Radishes).
Whilst we all have our own traditions of what we eat on Christmas day, in Japan they have something completely different. Their tradition is eating fried chicken, KFC in particular. It has become such a big thing, you now have to book a table in your local takeaway or pre order to guarantee yourselves and family a spot. Keeping with something traditional, your meal does come accompanied with a yummy Christmas cake for desert!
Over in Europe, they have slightly different traditions, but some are just as weird and wonderful.
In Italy, children go to bed in the anticipation of gifts being left for them in the morning. Though it’s not Santa Claus who brings them, it’s La Befana.
La Befana is an old witch in Italian folklore, who delivers presents and lollies to children on Epiphany eve (January 5th) and is known as Santa’s competitor. She rides a broomstick and is usually covered in soot as she travels down lots of chimneys. Similar to Santa, children leave out treats for her such as wine and food!
Fancy an extra present this year? In Spain and Germany, an old tradition is to hide a pickle ornament in the Christmas tree and the first person to find this will receive an extra present!
We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and very happy New Year. From all of us at Southern Exposure Tours!