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Christmas traditions from around the world
December 21, 2014, 2:31 pm
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Although the Christmas holiday season is typically known for its wintry weather, carolers and tasty treats, not all Christmas traditions around the world are one in the same. Read below for a list of 10 holiday customs from around the globe.

Christmas markets: Popular across central Europe, the Christmas markets are famous for their elaborate decorations, lights and shopping stalls. Throughout some of Europe's biggest cities, vendors, craftsmen and women, bakers and more gather to sell and showoff their talents.

Open usually from late November until the day before Christmas, 24 December, these markets typically include handmade crafts and toys, holiday ornaments, famous foods, wines and pastries that are specific to that region. Aside from area residents these markets are sought-after by travelers. In most of the markets, shows, performances, carolers and other musicians play at various times over the course of the market season.

Some of the biggest and most well-known Christmas markets are found in Vienna, Austria, Munich, Germany, Prague, Czech Republic and Stockholm, Sweden.

Boxing Day: The day after Christmas in many countries is known as Boxing Day and is a public holiday. The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship to collect donations to the poor. In the UK, Canada and Australia, Boxing Day is similar to Black Friday in the United States, with stores putting on huge sales and people pouring in to get the best deals.

St. Lucia Day: The year, 13 December, marks St. Lucia Day in Sweden and Denmark. This Swedish tradition is linked back to a folkloric figure named Lucia, who brought light to the country during the dark winter days. The annual candlelit procession has origins back into the late 1700s but the tradition became more popular in the 1900s, according to the Swedish Institute's website.

For the yearly march, a competition takes place to name the national Lucia. Each town names their own Lucia as well. On Lucia Day, the chosen girls and boys dress in long white robes with red sashes and carry some variety of a candle. The girls typically wear a wreath of lit candles on their heads.

The day consists of singing the holiday's songs, eating ginger snap cookies and drinking glogg, a Scandinavian traditional Christmas drink.

Nativity scenes: While these have become a staple for the Christmas holiday, perhaps one of the largest nativity scenes is set up in Saint Peter's Square in Rome, Italy. Just outside Saint Peter's Basilica, also accompanied by a large Christmas tree, the life-size scene is not unveiled until Christmas Eve. It has become a popular spot for both tourists and Italian citizens, as the Pope also conducts his midnight mass inside the Basilica.

Krampusnacht: Also known as the ‘night of Krampus’, this holiday is celebrated on the eve of St. Nicholas' Day, 5 December, in Austria and other parts of Europe. Typically portrayed as a quintessential devil, Krampus is the evil counterpart of St. Nicholas, who takes the reins in punishing bad children.

The night of Krampusnacht usually entails masquerades wherein people dress as devils, witches and other notoriously sinister beings. While the night has origins in Europe, its celebration has made its way to even American cities.

The Gavle Goat:  A tradition since 1966 in the Swedish town of Galve, this festive display has caused the town havoc for multiple years. The 13 meter high and three ton straw-made statue was built to showcase the traditional Swedish Christmas straw goat, which normally is made in sizes small enough to fit on a mantle.

The inauguration of the goat takes place every year on Advent Sunday in Castle Square within the city. The Galve Goat stands in the square from inauguration day until a few days after New Year's Eve, unless it gets burned down which has happened on multiple occasions.

Christmas pudding: Once called Plum Pudding, this British tradition, also popular in Australia, has been served throughout history around the Christmas holiday season. The pudding itself takes hours to cook and then it is usually served still flaming hot or actually flaming.

However, the making of the pudding is legendary for its wish-making tradition. Customarily, all those who stir the batter are supposed to make a wish. Sometimes, the bakers even drop a coin into the batter and the person to find it on Christmas is considered the lucky one.

Letters to Santa: A well-known tradition across the globe, writing letters to Santa Claus has become a standard for the Christmas season. However, the Canada Post has truly made this custom a reality for children around the world.

Santa Claus today has his own postal code and he can be written to in any language, even Braille. Santa will actually write you back too. According to the Canada Post, letters to the big man do not even require postage and Santa's response is delivered back for free. Together volunteers from the postal service help respond to all the letters sent to Santa each year.

The glass pickle:  While this story's origins are said to be Germanic, the tale goes that the glass pickle is the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree, hidden somewhere among the decorations. On Christmas morning, the first child to discover the pickle gets an extra present. If it is an adult who discovers the pickle, they are the recipient of a year’s worth of good luck.

The town of Berrien Springs has capitalized on this unusual tradition with an annual Christmas Pickle Festival. The festival features a ‘Dillmeister’ who distributes fresh pickles during their parade. And of course, you can buy the famous pickle ornaments all over the town.

Broom stealing:  Like many other places in the world, Norway celebrates Christmas Eve with a big dinner and the opening of presents; however what differentiates the country is what households do after the commotion. At the conclusion of the night, all the brooms in the house are hidden.

It is a long-lasting belief that on the night of the holiday evil spirits would come out and steal brooms from families and proceed to ride them around in the sky. So, as a result all the broomsticks are hidden due to superstition. In Norway, it is also a Christmas Eve tradition to leave a bowl of porridge in the barn for the gnome who protects the farm.

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