- 1 / 9The Christmas LogSpain’s Catalan region brings a whole new meaning to the idea of a yule log. The Tió de Nadal is a hollow log with twigs for legs and painted to have a face. It’s then decorated with a hat and a blanket to cover its hollow insides and keep it warm. Kids feed the log treats every night from December 8 until the 24th, as you would a pet. On the evening on Christmas Eve, the children whack the log with a stick while singing songs encouraging him to “poop well.” After the beating and caroling, the children remove Tió de Nadal’s blanket to reveal gifts that have been pooped out of his hollow body. Tió is then tossed into the fireplace, for his work here is done.
- 2 / 9KFC on ChristmasChristmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, but many people across the country celebrate the day in an unusual way: by getting buckets of “Christmas Chicken” from Kentucky Fried Chicken. In 1974, KFC created a campaign to encourage the trend of “Kentucky for Christmas” and the TV commercials made a lasting impression on viewers. Kentucky for Christmas became a tradition and is one of the highest sales days for the company every year.
Plan Your Trip: Japan
- 3 / 9Good Luck GrapesEating grapes in the new year is not only a tradition, but also a superstition in Spain. At midnight on January 1, Spaniards eat one grape per second for 12 seconds—one for each month of the year—to bring luck in the year ahead. Skip the grapes and you’ll have a terrible year. While it may be hard to down 12 grapes in 12 seconds, everyone is willing to take the risk in the name of good fortune.
Plan Your Trip: Spain
- 4 / 9Walk on the BeachNew Year’s Eve is one of the most celebrated days of the year in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilians wear white to represent purity and prosperity in the new year. They light candles to honor the end of the year and send off fireworks to celebrate the coming year. The celebration is oceanside—Brazilians toss flowers into the ocean for Yemo̩ja, the goddess of the seas, to encourage her to bless them with safety and fertility.
Plan Your Trip: Brazil
- 5 / 9Swept UpWe all know that brooms are for more than cleaning; they’re also the primary source of transportation for witches. In Norway, it’s believed that witches and evil spirits fly overhead throughout the night on Christmas Eve. To prevent the witches—who are presumably looking for a new ride in the new year—from stealing their brooms, Norwegians hide them. Serious broom hoarders even fire warning shots into the air to ward off the thieves.
Plan Your Trip: Norway
- 6 / 9Walking into SpiderwebsIf you’re in the Ukraine for Christmas, it might seem like someone forgot to put their Halloween decorations away before breaking out the Christmas tree. Across the country, Ukrainians decorate their their trees with spiderwebs because of a holiday legend. As the story goes, a poor widow living in the countryside with her children found that a pine cone had taken root in the floor of her hut. By the time Christmas rolled around, the pine cone had grown into a full tree but she didn’t have the money to decorate it. When her children woke on Christmas morning, they found the tree covered in spiderwebs. As the sun shone on the tree, it turned the webs into strands of gold and silver and their life of poverty came to an end.
Plan Your Trip: Ukraine
- 7 / 9Night of the RadishesYou’ve heard of carving pumpkins for Halloween, but how about carving radishes for Christmas? Dating back to the late 1800s, local merchants in Oaxaca intricately carved radishes as a way to attract customers on their ways to and from church. The carvings depicted nativity scenes, local wildlife, and sometimes little people. Oaxaca’s then-mayor loved the idea so much that he declared December 23 Noche de Rabanos, or Night of the Radishes, when locals buy the carvings as centerpieces for their holiday tables. But don’t mistake them for crudité—the radishes are grown larger than normal for the celebration and are not intended to be eaten.
Plan Your Trip: Oaxaca
- 8 / 9A Source of LightSanta Lucia Day is a 400-year old Swedish tradition celebrating the “queen of light,” a Christian martyr who was killed by the Romans in 304 C.E. Each town in Sweden selects a young woman to represent St. Lucia and then lead a procession through town on December 13th. Each St. Lucia wears a white gown and a wreath of candles, which is meant to bring light during the darkest weeks of the year. Boys wearing white pajamas follow the women while singing the traditional holiday songs and ushering in the season.
Plan Your Trip: Sweden
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