Holiday Traditions Around the World

Michelle Kurianowicz, Staff Writer

We are all quite familiar with holiday traditions popular here in the United States, such as decorating a Christmas tree, and lighting a menorah on Hanukkah. Explore how different holiday traditions are observed in different countries around the world!

La Quema de Diablo in Guatemala

Every year on December 7th at 6:00 pm in Guatemala, all streets are set alight with fire and hundreds of man-made devils burning in the street, hence the translated name, the Burning of the Devil. In cities all over the nation, such as Guatemala City and Antigua, you will see families lighting paper-mache puppets, crowds sporting devil horns, and enormous man-made devils set ablaze in the town square. When festivities simmer, families make their way to enjoy warm fruit punch and bunelos to officially mark the beginning of the Christmas season. 

Burning the Devil in Guatemala
Photo via National Geographic

Christmas Cake and KFC in Japan

Back in 1974, Kentucky Fried Chicken launched a campaign in Japan that said “Kentucky for Christmas,” and since then, the country has never looked back. The tradition is so popularized in Japan, that if you want to celebrate Christmas in Japan with the full KFC experience, you have to make an order several weeks before the holiday. The meal comes along with all the KFC treats you could want, along with a traditional Japanese Christmas cake, made with strawberries and white frosting. 

How KFC Hijacked Christmas in Japan
Photo via The Culture Trip  

Panevin and La Befana in Italy

Many Italians consider the Epiphany, on January 6th, as the mark of the end of the holiday season. Many people in northeast Italy build bonfires in order to celebrate Panevin, which translates to bread and wine. In the bonfires, which sometimes even reach over 30 feet, people burn witch-like puppets, called “la vecia,” which symbolize the wrongdoings of the old year. That same night, Italian children wait for La Befana, the good witch, to come bearing gifts. Legend says that La Befana got lost on her way to see baby Jesus, arriving a week late with gifts. 

Pagan Traditions: Bonfires in Italy - GRAND VOYAGE ITALY
Photo via Grand Voyage Italy

Junkanoo in the Bahamas

The immensely popular street festival called Junkanoo is believed to have evolved from an 18th-century tradition when slaves would celebrate having three days off during Christmas. In today’s time, Junkanoo is celebrated on every Boxing Day (December 26th) and New Year’s Day (January 1st), and includes a spectacular parade involving countless dance troupes wearing elaborate costumes. Thousands of onlookers join the main parade in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, where it starts around 2 a.m. and goes until about 10 a.m. the following day.

Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival: A New Celebration of an Old Tradition | HuffPost
Photo via HuffPost