Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines
The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) is held each year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando – the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.”
Gävle Goat, Sweden
Since 1966, a 13-metre-tall Yule Goat has been built in the centre of Gävle’s Castle Square for the Advent
If you want to see how the Goat fares this year when it goes up on December 1st, you can follow its progress on the Visit Gävle website through a live video stream.
The Yule Lads, Iceland
In the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 tricksy troll-like characters come out to play in Iceland. 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!
Saint Nicholas’ Day, Germany
Not to be confused with Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas), Nikolaus travels by donkey in the middle of the night on December 6 (Nikolaus Tag) and leaves little treats in the shoes of good children all over Germany, and particularly in the Bavarian region. St. Nicholas also visits children in schools or at home and in exchange for sweets or a small present each child must recite a poem, sing a song or draw a picture. In short, he’s a great guy!
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 naughty elves 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.
Lighting of National Hanukkah Menorah, Washington, D.C. – US
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is celebrated with much fanfare across the United States with one of the most elaborate events taking place on a national stage. Since 1979, a giant nine-metre Menorah has been raised on the White House grounds for the eight days and nights of Hanukkah. The ceremony in Washington, D.C. is marked with speeches, music, activities for kids, and, of course, the lighting of the Menorah.
The lighting of the first candle at the White House takes place at 4pm, rain or shine, and an additional candle is lit each successive night.
Love Christmas, but think it could be improved by a spot of roller-blading? If the answer is yes, 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!
Day of the Little Candles, Colombia
Little Candles’ Day (Día de las Velitas) marks the start of the Christmas season across Colombia. People place candles and paper lanterns in their windows, balconies and front yards. The tradition of candles has grown, and now entire towns and cities across the country are lit up with elaborate displays. Some of the best are found in Quimbaya, where neighbourhoods compete to see who can create the most impressive arrangement.
Cavalcade of Lights, Toronto
In wintry, wonderful Toronto the annual Cavalcade of Lights marks the official start to the holiday season. The first Cavalcade took place in 1967 to show off Toronto’s newly constructed City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square. The 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.