8 Festive Traditions Around the World

8 Festive Traditions Around the World
Photo by Ted McGrath


For many cultures and countries around the world, December is an important time of the year. A time when streets around the world light up with festive cheer or for the new year ahead. A time when diasporas shift and move as people travel for family gatherings. Perhaps the end of the year is a religious holiday, or a time for community-based events. There's certainly no one way to celebrate as countries around the globe mark December with their own cultural traditions.

Such is the range of traditions, which vary from fried caterpillars to broom stealing witches. As we head into the festive season, we've compiled a list of traditions around the world.


The Night of Radishes

8 Unique Festive Traditions Around the World

Every year on 23 December, the people of Oaxaca gather together in the main square to celebrate La Noche de Rabanos. Otherwise known as The Night of Radishes, the annual event is a tradition dating back to over a century ago, when local merchants would try to attract shoppers by carving their produce into creative figurines. The evening becomes a community competition between locals and artists to craft different sculptures and pieces made solely from the purple produce, in the hopes of winning the prize at the end.


Broom Hiding

8 Unique Festive Traditions Around the World

In Norway, Santa’s not the only fabled figure making a secret visit the night before Christmas. According to pagan belief, every Christmas eve witches and wizards come out at night, riding their broomsticks around households in bad spirits. People in Norway hide their brooms in the safest place possible to stop the witches from using them to take flight.


The Giant Lantern Festival
The Philippines

8 Unique Festive Traditions Around the World

Lighting up the city of San Fernando every December with vibrant colours and over 5,000 bulbs is this annual celebration, known as Ligligan Parul (translated to Lantern Competition). What originated in Bacolor as a small festive event back in the 1900s, grew into a collaborative and creative effort from the community and barrios around the city. The lanterns are displayed across the city for two weeks, attracting travellers from all over the globe.


Shoe Throwing
Czech Republic

8 Unique Festive Traditions Around the World

In the Czech Republic, one of their longstanding Christmas traditions is for the unmarried women of the household to stand near the doorway with their backs to the door and throw one of their shoes over their shoulder. This ritual is believed to be a foretelling of what the coming year holds romantically. If the toe points towards the door once the show is thrown, then the woman may soon see love and marriage.


Christmas Sauna

8 Unique Festive Traditions Around the World

One of the oldest, and most important, Finnish traditions dates back to centuries ago. At the start of the festive season, families bring lanterns and candles to gather together in their saunas. The timing of event is crucial as folklore has it that after the early Nordic sunset, the spirits of dead ancestors can be found bathing in the sauna, keeping on with the tradition.



8 Unique Festive Traditions Around the World

In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, as the sun rises it is tradition for families to make their way to morning Christmas mass on roller skates, gathering together in the streets for music and food afterwards. Before going to bed, children tie a long piece of string to their toe, leaving the end out of the window to allow early risers to tug on the string. The tug is a wake up call, letting others know it’s time to skate. This tradition became so popular that the government ordered the streets to stay locked off until 8am to allow households to skate safely.


Fried Caterpillars
South Africa

8 Unique Festive Traditions Around the World

South Africa’s festive sweet treats are the Sundried Emperor Moth Caterpillars. Deep fried and served with festive leaves, the caterpillars are said to bring good luck for the coming year.


Spider Web Christmas Decorations

8 Unique Festive Traditions Around the World

For the festive season, the people of Ukraine cover their trees in pavuchky – Christmas ornaments in the shape of little spiders – and bright, fake webs. The tradition comes from the legend of a poor widow and her children, who lived in a small hut with a pine tree outside. One day, a pine cone fell to the ground and the children grew a Christmas tree from the pine cone in their garden. Unable to afford any decorations, they woke up to see the tree covered in cobwebs, shining silver and gold in the sunlight. The natural sparkle from the cobwebs has been said to inspire the use of tinsel around the world for festive celebrations.