Sometimes it's easy for us to get caught up in our own narrow world views. Taking a moment each year to think about the staggering amount of diversity in the world is an exercise in openness that can change the way we think and act for the better.
In that spirit - and in the spirit of the holidays - let's take a look at the many various ways Christmas is celebrated in twelve different countries around the world!
Santa Claus' timing varies depending on what country you live in. I mean - there's only one of him, after all, and the man has to trek all around the world delivering presents.
In Armenia, Santa Claus (Kaghand Papa) comes on New Year's eve because the Christmas holiday itself is held as more of a religious celebration.
In Mexico, “Posada” parties are held at various homes from December 16th to Christmas eve. A usual party game at these gatherings is the piñata, which often comes in the form of a multi-peaked Christmas star.
In Australia, the summer holidays are from mid December to early February. This means Christmas barbecues, beach trips, and plenty of other outdoor activities. Santa sometimes uses Kangaroos instead of reindeer, and trades his warm winter clothing for shorts and sandals!
In both Serbia and Montenegro, men trek into the forests to find and cut a special wood for their Christmas fire (or just buy it at a store if they live in the city). These “Badnjak” logs are usually a type of oak, and are meant to be burnt all day and night on Christmas eve.
In the Catalonia region of Spain there's a Christmas tradition called 'Tió de Nadal' (the Christmas log) or 'Caga tio' (the pooping log). The “Tió de Nadal” is a small hollow log with a face drawn on one end. Throughout the month of December, families “feed” the log, until on Christmas Day it “defecates” small gifts in return.
Did you know that Canada sends the biggest, best fir tree in Nova Scotia to Boston, USA every year in thanks for US assistance after the Halifax Explosion?
The US has also had a major impact on traditions in Asia.
Due to an extremely successful ad campaign in the 1970’s, many people of Japan flock to American fast-food restaurant Kentucky Fried Chicken for a holiday meal on Christmas eve or Christmas day.
In both Finland and Poland, cemeteries are often decorated with Christmas lights over the holidays.
Because conifers are rare in India, people celebrating Christmas there will often substitute a traditional Christmas tree with a mango or banana tree!
In Northern Macedonia, Christmas is celebrated around massive bonfires, after carols are sung and coins and treats are exchanged.
As you can see, there's a lot more to Christmas than we might think! If you have a friend from a foreign country, take a moment this year to ask them about their Christmas traditions; you might find something new you'd like to try for yourself.