Friday, 26 December 2014

Festive customs from around the world

Wherever you are in the world, it’s fair to say you’ll come across festive traditions of some description at this time of year. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there’s no question that with every different country come a whole host of different customs, and one of the best things about expat life is being able to sample some of the more unusual things that are on offer. Here’s a round-up of some of our favourite festive customs from around the world:

Image source: Creative Commons / Comrade Foot

Venezuala: Get your skates on
If you feel a little manic and short of time at this time of year, you’re not the only one - but the festive season in Venezuala can bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘get your skates on’! From mid-December right up to Christmas Eve, it’s common for the authorities to close roads in the country’s capital so that church-goers can roller skate to morning mass. As the largest city, this can often mean that many roads are obstructed or closed by 8am so that it’s safe for everyone on wheels.

Poland: Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve is the day when most people eat "Kolacja wigilijna" (Christmas Dinner). It usually consists of twelve dishes, designed to bring luck for the next twelve months ahead. Typically, guests will only tuck into their meal after the first star has been spotted in the sky – often kicking off a competition among all of those at the table! 

India: Any tree will do
Christmas tree decoration can be a driver of fierce competition the world over, with more and more carnations of the traditional tree cropping up every year. In India, it’s common to forgo a fir and instead hang festive decorations from a mango or banana tree instead. 

Czech Republic: Shoe tossing for a husband
Aimed at those who may be looking to settle down, in the Czech Republic it’s customary for single women to rely on their shoes to give an idea of what the year ahead might hold. Typically a single woman will stand with her back to a front door and remove one of their shoes, before hurling it backwards over their shoulder towards the door. The way that the shoe lands is supposed to show the thrower their marriage destiny: if the toe is facing the door, it’s a good sign, but if the heel faces the door then they could be looking at another year’s wait! 

Jamaica: For the house-proud
In Jamaica, but also in other countries including Venezuela and Finland, Christmas is an excuse for a thorough ‘winter’ clean – as with plenty of other places, it’s seen as respectable and enjoyable to start the festive season with a clean and well-organised household. In Jamaica many people will take this one step further, with many also painting the outside of their houses, to make it smart and ready for guests, as well as buying new curtains and decorations with which to dress the windows. Clothing is also seen as another way that people celebrate, treating themselves to a smart new outfit for the day itself. 

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