We asked our teachers here at UE to share with us some of the more unusual Christmas and New Year traditions from their countries and we compiled a list of our favourites:
12 pubs of Christmas - Ireland
Groups of friends (usually dressed in Christmas sweaters) visit 12 pubs and attempt to have a drink in each one. A tradition not for the faint-hearted (or faint-stomached!).
Christmas Parades - USA
Across the USA, cities celebrate with elaborate parades during the end of November and throughout December, with some of the most famous being the Once Upon A Christmastime Parade at Disneyland, Florida and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
Mummering - Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Philadelphia U.S.A, and Fingal, Ireland:
Groups of friends or family dress in disguise and visit homes during the twelve days of Christmas. If the mummers are welcomed into a house, they do informal performances that may include dance, music, jokes, or recitations. The hosts must guess the mummers’ identities before offering them food or drink.
Hiding of the Christmas tree - Switzerland
The Christmas tree is hidden and only revealed after a festive meal on Christmas Eve. Gasps of delight accompany the moment the children see the tree adorned with apples, bells, snowflakes, and sugar cookies in festive shapes. Many families still maintain the tradition of adorning their Christmas tree with lit candles which makes the moment all the more memorable.
Kissing under the mistletoe - USA, Canada and Europe
According to tradition, if you are caught standing under mistletoe (a plant that is hung from ceilings or the tops of doorways during the Christmas period) someone gets to kiss you. So, avoid standing under the mistletoe or be prepared to pucker up!
Leaving food for Santa and his Reindeers - various places
It’s traditional to leave some food and drink to help Santa along on his Christmas Eve journey. The exact items differ from place to place, with some leaving cookies and milk and others opting for alcohol for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph, but the sentiment is the same – Father Christmas has a tough job so needs all the sustenance he can get!
Click on the flag below to see what Santa gets in each country!
Christmas on the beach - Australia
As Christmas is celebrated during summer in Australia, it is common for families to head to the beach to celebrate. It is said that when Santa gets to Australia, he gives the reindeer a rest and uses kangaroos instead. He also changes his clothes for cooler ones!
Auld Lang Syne - many English speaking countries
This is a Scots-language poem written by Robert Burns and set to the tune of a traditional folk song which is sung to bid farewell to the old year. It’s commonly sung in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year's Day.
Jumping in the sea (and then drinking Guinness) - Ireland
The Irish welcome the New Year with a short swim in the cold waters of the Irish Sea or Atlantic Ocean, shortly followed by a pint of Guinness to recover!
First Footing - especially Scotland and Northern England
The first-foot is the first person to enter the house on New Year's Day and is seen as a bringer of good fortune for the coming year. It is said to be desirable for the first-foot to be a tall, dark-haired male. He usually brings gifts, including a coin, bread, salt, coal, greenery and/or a drink (usually whisky) which represent financial prosperity, food, flavour, warmth, long-life, and good cheer.
Hogmanay - Scotland
This is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year in the Scottish manner. It is normally followed by further celebrations on the morning of New Year's Day (1 January) or, in some cases, 2 January—a Scottish bank holiday.