Home-exchanging is a great way for you to experience different cultures and live locally all around the world. And Christmas is a great season to experience the unique traditions and celebrations in new places! We’ve pulled together a list of 6 unique Christmas traditions around the world that could maybe inspire you to take a last-minute trip to live these experiences yourself!
Giant Lantern Festival, Philippines
The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu) is held every year on the Saturday before Christmas Eve in the city of San Fernando, in the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” 11 villages participate in the festival and competition is fierce as everyone competes to build the most elaborate lantern. Originally, the lanterns were simple creations around half a metre in diameter, made from ‘papel de hapon’ (Japanese origami paper) and lit by candle. Today, the lanterns are made from a variety of materials and have grown to around six metres in size. They are illuminated by electric bulbs that sparkle in a kaleidoscope of patterns.
And here’s another unusual Christmas tradition, this time in Caracas in Venezuela! Every Christmas Eve, the city’s residents head to church in the early morning, which is completely normal so far BUT for reasons known only to them, they go over on roller skates. Yes, you read that right! This tradition is so popular that roads across the city are closed to cars so that people can skate to church safely!
Gävle Goat, Sweden
Since 1966, a 13-metre-tall Yule Goat has been built in the center of Gävle’s Castle Square on 1 December but this Swedish Christmas tradition has since then led to another “tradition” of sorts – people trying to burn it down. Since 1966, the Goat has been successfully burned down 29 times with the most recent in 2016.
In Norway, they have one of the most unusual Christmas Eve traditions, where people hide their brooms! It’s a tradition that has been around for centuries when people believed that witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve looking for brooms to ride on. Even today, many people still hide their brooms in the safest place in the house to stop them from being stolen.
In Germany, there’s always that one special ornament that goes on the Christmas tree - a pickle! It's a tradition in Germany to hide a pickle ornament somewhere in the Christmas tree and on Christmas Eve, the children all search the tree for the pickle. Whoever finds it first is said to get a special reward from St. Nicholas himself! Today, people keep with this tradition and adorn their tree with a pickle.
Because it’s summer in New Zealand during the Christmas period, Kiwis celebrate Christmas during their summer, many of their Christmas traditions center around a "barbie" where families and friends gather for a casual cookout of fresh seafood, meat, and seasonal vegetables.