It’s that time of year again! Strings of lights decorate the neighborhoods, Christmas trees are up, Menorahs are lit, and people are getting ready to celebrate the end of one year and embrace a new one.
At TFT we love learning about and celebrating other cultures, so in honor of all of the many holidays and traditions around the world we wanted to share with you a few of our favorites!
In Italy, Italians have their very own unique version of Santa Claus- and she happens to be a witch! Complete with warts, pointy nose and broomstick, “La Befana” flies around visiting homes on January 5th, the eve of “the Epiphany.” She leaves candy for the good children and coal for anyone who was naughty. No cookies and milk for this witch! In true Italian fashion she prefers to have a glass of wine and plate of food ready for her when she arrives!
Chinese New Year in China
Ever wonder how the Chinese zodiac animals came to be? They originated from Chinese New Year, which is the biggest celebration of the year in China! Legend has it that in ancient times Buddha asked all of the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve of them showed up, and Buddha named a year after each one. He also decided that people born into a certain animal’s year would possess traits from that animals personality! Lucky enough to be born in the year 2000? You’re year of the dragon, which is the most celebrated animal with the highest reputation out of all of the zodiacs!
Songkran Festival in Thailand
While you may be used to celebrating the New Year on January 1st, in Thailand the traditional New Year and most important holiday of the year happens in April… and it involves squirt guns! Thais know how to have a good time, and they celebrate the holiday by spraying water on Buddha statues (and each other!) as a means of purification. So if you plan on visiting Thailand during this holiday, either bring an umbrella or embrace the water fight!
Up Helly Aa, sounds like some made up words, but it is in fact, a fire festival held in Scotland in the middle of the winter to mark the end of the yule season. All the town’s lights are switched off and a procession of “Guizers,” or actors, dressed in themed costume march through the town carrying torches. The procession ends with the Guizers throwing their torches and burning down a replica of a viking longship!
Winter Holidays in Australia
Like the idea of a barbecue at the beach to celebrate Christmas? While most of us are used to snow during the winter holidays, for Australia, its the opposite! Australia’s summer happens during our winter, so they celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years with plenty of sun, including outdoor activities like beach parties and picnics!
On New Years Eve, Syndey Harbor hosts one of the worlds most incredible parties, complete with an amazing fireworks display over the harbor!
Christmas Markets in Germany
Did you know that both the Christmas tree and the nut cracker originated in Germany? Its no surprise that the country that brought us both celebrates Christmas in a big way! Similar to other European countries around this time of year, Germany is home to numerous Christmas markets. At these markets you can find an assortment of goods such as hand made ornaments, tasty treats and of course, plenty of sausage, gingerbread, and warm drinks!
Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan
If you thought the ice castle in the movie “Frozen” was a work of fiction, then you need to visit the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan! For seven days in February, 2 million people head to this festival to see hundreds of snow statues, ice sculptures, ice slides and a huge snow maze. This festival is a celebration of the beauty of winter meant to be enjoyed with new friends from all over the world.
These are just a few of the unique holiday traditions from around the world! What cultural traditions are your favorite?