Day Nineteen of Breezemas: 6 Interesting Holiday Traditions Around the World


photo courtesy of CNN

Stella Fernandes

India — Diwali

Diwali, or Divali, is one of the major Hindu celebrations in India. It derives its name from the rows of oil lamps lit on the night of the new moon to invite the presence of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. These lamps, called diyas, are placed in temples, homes, or set adrift on rivers or streams. The celebration lasts for a total of five days and involves spending time with family, exchanging gifts, feasting, and setting off bright and colorful fireworks.

Iceland — Thirteen Yule Lads

In the thirteen-day period leading up to Christmas, Icelandic children leave out their shoes in hopes that they will be visited by the Yuletide Lads. Sons of the giantess Gryla who lives in the snowy mountains of Iceland, these mischievous little pranksters delight in leaving small gifts to children who’ve been on their best behavior.  However, naughty children will be sorry to find only rotten potatoes in their shoes.

Russia — Ded Moroz

Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, is often called the Slavic version of Santa Clause. He is frequently depicted with his daughter Snegurochka, riding in a traditional Russian sleigh drawn by three horses. Following the communist revolution in Russia, Ded Moroz was banned for a short period of time due to his association with the religious holiday of Christmas. However, after attempts to secularize him, he was shortly reintroduced into Russian culture during the 1930’s. According to legend, he and his daughter now visit children on New Year’s Eve bearing gifts to put under the fir tree.

Spain — Three Kings Day

El Dia de Los Reyes, or Three Kings Day, marks the celebration of the Three Wiseman bearing gifts to newborn Jesus. It occurs after Christmas and is primarily celebrated through gift-giving and eating traditional Rosca de Reyes (King’s Cake). Within each circular-shaped cake is a plastic figure of baby Jesus. Whoever finds this token is obligated to host the next big celebration, Dia de la Condelaria, in February.

Italy — La Befana

Long before the legend of Kris Kringle began to circulate, the good witch La Befana was flying around on her broomstick, bringing gifts to good children and coal to naughty ones. According to Italian folklore, the Three Wiseman visited La Befana on their quest to see newborn baby Jesus. They invited her to join them on their journey but she declined, only later changing her mind and setting off on her own. Now she perpetually searches the homes of young children for the young Savior, bearing gifts.

Japan — KFC Dinner

Although only about 1% of Japan is Christian, many Japanese people enjoy celebrating the more secular aspects of Christmas, such as the classic Christmas dinner. That’s where KFC comes in. Begining in 1974, the company began launching the “Kentucky for Christmas” marketing campaign in Japan in which they falsely advertised drumsticks as a traditional American Christmas dinner. With a substantial amount of advertising, the trend soon caught on, gaining immense popularity in a short amount of time. Now, KFC makes about ten times as much as they normally do on Christmas than any other day of the year.