Oh, Christmas Eve! The glorious day of the year when everyone (kids and adults alike) is pregnant with anticipation and excitement about the D-day: Christmas! The urge to write “C-Day” was strong, but I thought against it – cheap laughs and all.
What make this day particularly exciting are the traditions: families and communities have different rituals that joyously usher in the 25th of December - whether it’s opening a present or attending public concerts.
In the same celebratory spirit, here’s a look at some Christmas Eve traditions across the globe.
- Vegetarian Leftovers for Ghosts – Bulgaria
This Bulgarian tradition involves a bit of oddities. First, you invite an odd number of people to a vegetarian dinner (which is supposed to signify abundance in the coming year), and your guests are treated to an odd number of dishes. The remnants of dinner are then left on the table so that the ghosts of ancestors can have their own share and participate in the feast before Christmas.
- “Peek-a-Broom” - Norway
In an effort to ward off witches and their trickery, Norwegians hide all brooms in sight on Christmas Eve – since that’s their mode of transportation. Well, it’s safe to say that no one is doing any sweeping of sorts – vacuuming maybe?
Come One, Come All!
- Roller Skating – Caracas, Venezuela
The capital city of Caracas is filled with roller skaters (young and old) who on Christmas Eve skate all night long, well into the wee-hours, and sometimes right into early morning mass on Christmas Day.
- "Joulusauna" – Finland
Talk about putting the “relax” in “relaxation” - the Finns are one for enjoyment. On Christmas Eve, millions of saunas are heated throughout the land for the citizens to enjoy. Wooden cabins, snow outside and the laughter of close friends – what’s better than that?
Spreading Joy Not War
- “Christmas Cake for Christmas Eve” – Japan
Typically, you carve a “Christmas bird” on “Christmas Day”, right? Well, in Japan, you cut a “Christmas Cake” on “Christmas Eve”. This interesting Japanese tradition of enjoying the spoils of a sponge cake on the 24th is rooted in a time, after World War II when “sweet treats” were both a luxury and a form of sustenance, influenced by the American soldiers working on rebuilding an occupied Japan.
- “The Book Flood Before Christmas” – Reykjavík, Iceland
Icelanders take a more literary approach to the festivities. As part of a tradition that dates back to World War II, Icelanders exchange books during what is called the “The Book Flood Before Christmas”, or “Jólabokaflód” – which is the official term. Months leading up to Christmas, books of every kind are published in copious amounts to meet this demand.
Aside: If you ever wondered where Christmas books come from, this five-minute video should answer your question.
Santa’s Trail Blazers
- “Luminarias” - Albuqerque, New Mexico (USA)
A 300 year old tradition still going strong in New Mexico, locals illuminate the city’s walkways, churches and homes with glowing brown bags – anchored with sand and a single candle – as a well lit runway for Santa Claus.
The result is a beautifully decorated maze; check this video out!
- Bonfires on the Mississippi River – Baton Rogue, Louisiana
The Mississippi river is typically brought to life with the burning flames of a bonfire, which is both meant to pay homage to the river’s heritage, and also, brighten the way for Père Noel’s (Santa Claus’) flying sleigh and eight reindeer, so he can find the homes of the good boys and girls.
And there is it, a keyhole view into international Christmas Eve culture, and a quick trip around the world all at the same time. Hopefully, you can incorporate some of these eclectic rituals into your own festivities to make it genuinely memorable.
Have a superb Christmas Eve!