Christmas is kind of a big deal, not only in the UK, but around the world. But forget about the big British holiday feasts and the endless streams of gifts; why not read up on the Christmas customs of some of our foreign neighbours?

India

There’s heavy emphasis on the decorating of trees here in Britain, and the same can be said in India.

mango xmas tree

However, with the absence of pine or fir trees, the millions of Christians in India (around 2% of the entire population) instead turn to mango or banana trees to cover in tinsel and fairy lights.

Meanwhile, many in the country’s southern parts like to place oil lamps on their roofs to signal the presence of Jesus in their households. Families may also choose to make star-shaped paper lanterns, which are then released to float up into the night sky. In Mumbai, there’s also great competition between families to see who can construct the most elaborate mangers, which are traditionally displayed in their windows.

Sweden

Back in 1966, the city of Gävle in Sweden played host to a tall Yule goat made of straw, which was placed in Slottstorget, the town square, to celebrate Advent. However, on Christmas Eve, the three ton goat was burnt down. Ever since, the ‘Straw Goat’ has been constructed every year with pyromaniacs never ceasing to try and set it alight. According to Wikipedia, out of the 54 goats in total that have ever been built, vandals have burned it down at least 24 times. Since 1988, various bookmarkers have even taken bets for how long it will last. While locals seem confident that changes to the goat’s design mean arsonists will stay away this year, who knows what the goat’s fate will be?
If you can read Swedish, you can follow the Goat’s Twitter page, which is chronicling its life so far.


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Ukraine

For arachnophobes everywhere, this tradition may seem like a bit of a nightmare, but in Ukraine, it’s a different story. Legend has it that a poor widow, who lived in a small hut with her children, made plans to decorate a tree that had taken root outside. But with no money, they could not decorate it and her children went to bed on Christmas Eve sobbing.
spider xmas ukraineHowever, the arachnids who lived in the hut felt sorry for the family and spun intricate webs around the tree as a form of decoration.

The widow and her children awoke on Christmas day, and were delighted to find that the strands of each spider web had transformed into gold and silver, giving them fortune for life. To mark this miracle, Ukrainian families often decorate their own trees with fake spider webs to bring in good luck for the new year.

Japan

If you think Japan couldn’t get any weirder, think again.

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In the 1970s, KFC launched an advertising campaign to promote the eating of fried chicken instead of traditional turkey lunches on Christmas. Both locals and foreigners alike jumped on the Colonal’s bandwagon and began following this mantra: Christmas equals KFC.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 barrels of chicken is sold during this festive period, and for a higher price, customers can also purchase luxuries such as champagne and cake to go along with their meals. Mm, tasty!

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