Christmas is often a time for traditions. Yet, in the past five years I have celebrated Christmas in four different places. While each holiday season – whether in Chile, Virginia, Hawaii, or Tennessee – has been wonderful for different reasons, I wanted to find a tradition that I could adopt as my own no matter where in the world I might be, and with whomever I may be with – family, friends, travelers, etc.
This season, I included Jólabókaflóð as a part of my new holiday tradition. Maybe you have heard of this Icelandic tradition as it has spread in recent years thanks to NPR and social media. It involves an exchange of books on Christmas Eve and loosely translates to “the Christmas book flood.”
In our search to adopt a new holiday tradition that can be practiced anywhere, I discovered fun and sometimes exotic Christmas traditions from around the world. For anyone whose Christmas season varies from year to year and wants to introduce a new ritual, or for those of you who wish to put a wordly spin on your Christmas holiday, check out these Christmas celebrations from around the world.
Families go to the sauna after preparing the house for evening celebrations. This old tradition was important, as well as widespread across the country. (I could get into this..)
On Christmas Eve in Japan, family traditions include feasting on Kentucky Fried Chicken! This began in 1974 when KFC Japan began to promote fried chicken as a Christmas meal, however Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan as Shinto and Buddhism are Japan’s largest religions.
Children fill their wooden shoes with hay and carrots for Sinterklaas‘ reindeer. They find their offering replaced by candy and toys in the morning.
Ever heard of the Christmas pickle? It is uncertain whether this tradition really originated from Germany, but this unusual modern Christmas custom involves hanging a pickle ornament on the tree. The first child to find the Christmas Pickle gets a small gift.
And last but not least, the tradition that I adopted this Christmas season and for holiday seasons to come: Jólabókaflóð (pronounced yo-la-bok-a-flot). This tradition of gifting a book to your loved ones on Christmas Eve began during WWII when heavy restrictions on imports left the Icelandic people with few gift options come Christmastime. Books became the popular gift of choice as the restrictions on imported paper were more lenient. This seventy year old tradition often includes family members staying up late reading their new gifts together while sipping hot cocoa. Perfection, and also so hygee (the Danish word for charming, cozy, and special, which I learned from the book that I received this Christmas Eve!). You can learn more about Jólabókaflóð here.