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How do Christmas traditions vary world wide? See the photos


For a lot of, Christmas is a time of gift exchanges, log cakes and turkey dinners.

But that is not the case in every single place.

In a yearly series, CNBC Travel highlights diverse Christmas celebrations world wide.


Christmas comes with a spooky twist in Austria, Germany and other Alpine countries that remember St. Nicholas Day in the course of the first week of December.

“Krampuslauf,” which translates to “Krampus run” in German, is an annual parade typically held on Dec. 5 or 6 where participants dress up because the half-goat, half-demon Krampus to frighten onlookers.

Krampus costumes often consist of a mask, horn, coat manufactured from sheep or goat wool, in addition to chains, bells and a rod, in keeping with Helen Bitschnau, a representative of the Austrian National Tourist Office.

Jure Makovec | Afp | Getty Images

As legend has it, Krampus accompanies St. Nick on his journey to present well-behaved children gifts, in keeping with Helen Bitschnau, a representative of the Austrian National Tourist Office.

Children who’ve been bad, nevertheless, face Krampus’ wrath. “The function of the Krampus is to punish every part bad via a rod or a horse’s tail,” Bitschnau said.

A combination of anticipation, excitement and a few nervousness fills the air on Krampuslauf, Bitschnau said.

“If you’ve gotten been good all year long — there is basically nothing to be fearful about,” she said.

Bitschnau added that she has “all the time been fearful of Krampus.”

“Now I prefer to go to the Krampuslauf in my hometown, because I do know all of the people behind the Krampus costumes [which] makes it slightly less scary for me.”

Oaxaca, Mexico

Every 12 months on Dec. 23, participants gather in Oaxaca’s major square to enter delicately carved radishes into the “Night of the Radishes” competition.

These aren’t any bite-sized radishes — they could be as large as a toddler’s leg.

“Artists spend entire days carving the radishes for the competition, soaking them consistently in order that they won’t dry out,” said Ileana Jimenez, who was born and raised in Oaxaca.

Winners of the radish-carving contest are awarded small money prizes, said resident Ileana Jimenez.

Patricia Castellanos | Afp | Getty Images

“There are queues of individuals patiently waiting for his or her turn to go in and admire the sumptuous job [of] the Oaxacan artisans,” she said.

The atmosphere on the Zocalo, Oaxaca’s town square, is jubilant with live music, fireworks and swarms of locals and tourists, said Jimenez.

“It’s a celebration that keeps people’s spirits up.”

Gavle, Sweden

Standing 42 feet tall and weighing greater than 7,000 kilos, a large handmade straw goat is an annual Christmas spectacle within the Swedish city of Gavle.

This 12 months’s goat took greater than 1,000 hours to construct, said Anna-Karin Niemann, a spokesperson for the special committee that protects the goat.

The Gavle goat is moving to a recent location this 12 months for the primary time in 56 years, in keeping with Visit Gavle, town’s visitor’s guide.

Mats Astrand | Afp | Getty Images

Though it’s against the law to burn or destroy it, the goat of Gavle has been subjected to quite a few arson attacks because the first one was inbuilt 1966.

The arsonist who broke the last goat’s four-year survival streak was sentenced to 6 months in prison and ordered to pay 109,000 Swedish kronor ($10,450) in damages, in keeping with a Swedish news outlet.

Sweden’s treasured goat figure is built with straw despite its flammability, because “it’s tradition,” Niemann said.

“He means lots for us in Gavle, and he’s an enormous a part of the Christmas spirit,” she said.

Miniature versions of the goat make for fun souvenirs or Christmas ornaments for travelers, said Mark Wolters, the creator of the favored travel YouTube channel Wolters World.

Those eager about how this 12 months’s goat is doing can observe it through a live webcam.

Ukraine via Krakow, Poland

In a show of resilience amongst Christmas celebrants, 40 Ukrainian refugees in Krakow, Poland, sold handmade items corresponding to candles, tree ornaments and gingerbread cookies at a Christmas craft fair organized with the assistance of the U.N. Refugee Agency.

A stall on the Ukrainian Christmas market in Krakow, Poland.

Omar Marques | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Sales from the Christmas market provided the refugees, most of whom were female, with income to make ends meet, said Tarik Argaz, a representative of the U.N. Refugee Agency.

The market was attended by locals, tourists, and the Ukrainian community, he said.

It was a chance to showcase the “great talent inside the refugee community,” Argaz said, adding that the concept for the event was born when U.N. staff members got an “intricately painted” rock by one in all the residents at a collective center, which is an accommodation that houses large numbers of refugees.

The Philippines

In the course of the festive season, houses within the Philippines are decorated with star-shaped lanterns called “parol,” said travel blogger Kach Umandap, who was born and raised within the Philippines.

Parols were originally used to light the best way for the tradition of Simbang Gabi, a nine-day period of pre-dawn masses held from Dec. 16 to 24 — in addition to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, called Misa de Gallo, Umandap said.

Teachers, students and fogeys hold Christmas lanterns constructed from recycled materials during a campaign for sustainable Christmas celebrations at an elementary school in Quezon City, Philippines.

Ted Aljibe | Afp | Getty Images

“Now, the lanterns are used as decorations,” Umandap said. “Parol symbolizes the victory of sunshine over darkness and hope.”

Some 90% of individuals living within the Philippines discover as Christians — mostly Catholic — in keeping with Harvard Divinity School. The Philippines stays the one Asian country where Christianity is the national religion.

Many Filipinos use materials like shells, glass and LED lights to make parols brighter and more colourful, she said.

Umandap, who now lives in Europe, said the lanterns remind her of home.

“After I see them, they [give] me hope that whatever struggles I encounter, they could be conquered,” she said.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Brazilians love their parties, said Bruna Venturinelli, writer of the Brazilian blog I Heart Brazil. That is why their Christmas parades are “contagiously fun” with “a number of laughter and joy,” she said.

Dressed-up characters dance alongside Santa and his elves, while interacting with children within the crowds, she said.

Brazil’s Christmas parades typically feature characters from Korvatunturi, a mountainous region in Lapland where Santa Claus supposedly lives.

Cris Faga | Nurphoto | Getty Images

“There are multiple Christmas parades throughout the districts, that are organized by town council or a personal institution to advertise the start of their festive season, just like the shopping center parade depicted in the image,” she said.

“If I’m in Brazil during Christmas, I take my nephew and niece to a Christmas parade, and we now have a blast! … Additionally they take the chance to say they wrote Santa a letter and behaved well through the 12 months, although the last part is just not 100% true.”

Many individuals in Brazil will have fun Christmas Eve with their family by sharing a Chester chicken, she said.

On Christmas Day, people gather again to have leftovers for lunch while listening to Brazilian music, she said.

The ‘North Pole’

The trendy tradition of writing letters to Santa can have been began by American Fanny Longfellow, wife of poet Henry Wadsworth, in keeping with Smithsonian Magazine.

But to start with, it was Santa who wrote to the youngsters, slightly than the opposite way around.

Longfellow wrote letters to her three children about their behavior in the course of the past 12 months, in keeping with the magazine.

In one in all Longfellow’s letters, dating to 1853, “Santa” said: “[Y]ou have picked up some naughty words which I hope you’ll throw away as you’d sour or bitter fruit,” in keeping with the article.

A baby posts a letter to Santa Claus in Fort Price, Texas.

Richard Rodriguez | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Because the practice caught on, parents began leaving letters from Santa by the fireside or in a stocking, where their children would pen replies in return, it said.

Today, the tradition of writing to Santa has expanded beyond the house.

In the USA, the U.S Postal Service runs an annual program called Operation Santa where children and families in need can write anonymous letters to Santa about what they would love for Christmas. These letters are “adopted” by people across the country, who buy and ship the requested gifts to the families, in keeping with the USPS.

The UK’s postal service, Royal Mail, provides personalized replies to children who write to “Father Christmas.”

But some parents are using other avenues to contact Santa, including apps and even balloons.

In 2021, a pair of four-year-old twins in Kansas, United States, released balloons that contained letters to Santa. A pair living in Louisiana found one, and thru the assistance of donations, fulfilled the dual’s Christmas wish lists, which included giving them a puppy.

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