Out of the Ordinary Holiday Traditions

Cole Tessitore, Staff Writer

   Putting up Christmas lights, advent calendars, getting gifts on the eight days of Hanukkah, and building gingerbread houses are all pretty normal holiday time traditions in America and even around the world. Getting punished by an anthropomorphic horned boogeyman, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Eve, and dressing up a Christmas tree in spiderwebs are less than normal traditions, but just as fun and creative. The holidays are a great time for starting fun traditions that carry on for the years to come, even if they are on the more unusual side of the spectrum.

   Most people have their own personal traditions, like hanging up special stockings or making a family recipe for sugar cookies. In Japan, a clever marketing campaign was to sell KFC chicken instead of turkey in decorated Christmas-inspired buckets for a Christmas Eve feast. This four-decades old tradition has made the fast food chain synonymous with the holidays on the other side of the Pacific (businessinsider.com). A very small percentage of people in Japan are Christian, so the country doesn’t have many religious Christmas traditions, relative to America. So of course an American-based food establishment in a sense imperialized their holidays and has now made KFC a holiday delicacy overseas. 

   In Australia, the seasons are opposite to those of us in the western hemisphere, which makes our winter their summer. So while a lot of countries have snow and cold weather, Australia is smack dab in the middle of summer, and naturally, many Australians spend their Christmas day at the beach soaking up the sun or catching some waves (businessinsider.com). 

   Typically, the holiday season is kicked off with Halloween at the end of October, so it makes sense there might be some crossover between spooky and spirited. The iconic Christmas boogeyman Krampus is the polar opposite of Santa Claus. According to Central European folklore, Krampus punishes naughty European children, which is supposed to encourage kids to be good so Krampus doesn’t come to pay them a visit. In several European villages, adult men dress up as the fanged holiday villain and run through the streets, almost like a Halloween parade. In Ukraine, people decorate their tree with spider webs because of a legend that spiders spun a web over a tree that an impoverished family had. The next day, the silk turned into silver and gold and the family was no longer poor, so families now put webs over their trees for good luck (history.com). 

   Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday that tends to overlap with pre-Christmas festivities, is widely celebrated by millions. Common traditions include lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, getting small gifts each night, and eating delicious fried eats like latkes and sufganiyah (jelly filled donuts). According to The Daily Meal, Indian observers often swap out classic menorah candles for wicks dipped in coconut oil. Latkes are commonly replaced by burfi, a sweeter confection. In Yemen, the seventh night of Hanukkah is a night of women’s holiday (thedailymeal.com).

   One tradition that many people participate in without even knowing they’re doing it is watching the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Originally released in 1946, the movie was less-than-well received and did not turn a profit. The story goes that the movie was up for copyright renewal in 1974, but it was never renewed, allowing it to fall into the public domain. This meant TV channels could play it and not have to pay any royalty fees, because it was no longer copyrighted. Every holiday season since then, the movie has been played a lot on TV and this exposed many people that had never seen it before. Since then, it has become a holiday classic and is considered one of the best holiday movies made, despite falling off the face of the earth for almost three decades (mintz.com).

   Senior Jordan Stahl participates in his own family tradition, “Every year on Christmas Eve, my grandma makes homemade tostadas for the whole family,” said Stahl. “We also open our presents from my grandma on Christmas Eve because of our Native American heritage on her side.” Senior Kayla Dinh celebrates Christmas and gift-giving in a sort of unorthodox way. “I pretty much always buy my own gifts because I know my size, what I like, and what I want more than my parents,” explained Dinh.

   So whether you buy your own gifts, burn coconut oil candles through Hanukkah, dress up like a demon Santa, or eat fried chicken on Christmas Eve, there isn’t really any wrong way of celebrating the holidays, no matter what corner of the world you are in.