Christmas in the UK is full of traditions and customs, from mince pies to mistletoe, which only occur during the festive season. But what customs do people in other parts of the world take part in? Here we list a few of the more traditions from around the globe.
In the 1970s, Kentucky Fried Chicken began a marketing campaign in Japan advertising ‘Kentucky for Christmas’. The campaign, designed to encourage families to eat KFC together during the winter holiday season, convinced many Japanese people that fried chicken was a traditional American festive meal. Although there isn’t a national seasonal holiday in Japan, the custom stuck and many families will enjoy a KFC together on Christmas Eve or the Day itself. Japanese KFC restaurants see up to a ten-fold increase in sales during the week leading up to Christmas and the tradition has become so popular that an online pre-ordering service has been developed to help guarantee that people will get their favourite festive meal on the 25th.
In Germany, it is tradition to hide an ornament of a pickle on the festive tree. On Christmas Eve or following morning, children will search for the pickle and whoever finds it will receive a special treat from St. Nicholas or be allowed to open their presents first. For adults, finding the pickle first is said to bring good luck.
In Ukraine it is tradition to decorate the tree with spider webs. This custom comes from the Legend of the Christmas Spider, a story about a poverty-stricken woman who couldn’t afford to decorate her tree. Taking pity on the poor woman and her children, spiders covered the tree in webs on Christmas Eve and when the woman awoke the following morning morning the webs on the tree shimmered silver and gold in the sunlight.
In 1958 a Disney special was released on Swedish television titled Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul (Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas). The programme became an annual tradition and now over 40% of Sweden’s population sit down to watch the cartoon special at 3pm every Christmas Day.