When asked what binds us most to our home, our family, or our community, it's never simply blood or location, but rather something more active, more interdependent, more beloved - tradition. And there's no better time of year for traditions to be celebrated and honored than the holidays. Whether you live in the sunny tropics, the snow-capped mountains or in a bustling city, you have a set of customs that were passed down to you from generations before you. We’ve compiled a list below of traditions from across the globe, and while some are more quirky than others, they all give us reason to do what matters most this season; gather and celebrate together.
Whoopie Pie, New England
Perhaps more of a traditional food that an actual activity, the Whoopie Pie is a beloved cream-filled cookie cake that is shared during Thanksgiving in New England. It's actually the official treat of Maine and best paired with apple cider.
Christmas Cracker, London
The tale of the Christmas Cracker claims they were first made sometime between 1845-1850 by a London confectionery-maker, Tom Smith. Rather than sweets, he thought it would be fun to share something with a bang between friends across the table. When Tom died, his expanding cracker business was taken over by his three sons, Tom, Walter and Henry. Walter introduced the now present-day norm of paper hats into crackers.
Parranderos, Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico caroling is a big deal during the month of December. Known as Parrandas, these groups of friends gather late in the evening and visit different houses, waking people up with their song. The tradition is that once woken up or surprised by the Parranderos, you are to get dressed and join the group, meaning as the night goes on the group grows. Parranderos are known to go on all night until dawn.
Christmas Pickle, Michigan
One of our favorite traditions hails from Berrien Springs, Michigan, otherwise known as the Christmas Pickle capital of the world. Each year the city has an annual pickle festival held during the early part of December. The tradition of the Christmas Pickle is that In the 1880s Woolworth stores started selling glass ornaments imported from Germany and some were in the shape of various fruit and vegetables, including the dear pickle. With the ornament sales came the lore that in Germany it was tradition for the pickle to be the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree and then the first child to find the pickle on Christmas morning received an extra present. Alas,no German has yet to corroborate this, but never fear, those in Michigan have since made it their own and the tradition of the pickle ornament lives on.
Yule Log, France
Celebrated across most of Europe, each country with its own variation, the Yule Log is said to have originated in Scandinavia. Given the many different takes on how to burn a yule log, we chose to showcase how they do it in Provence, mostly because it smells the nicest and has meteorological powers. First, the whole family helps cut down the log and then only a little is burned each night. The wood is mainly cherry wood and then its sprinkled with wine to encourage sweet aromas. If any of the log is left after Twelfth Night, it is kept safe in the house until the next Christmas, believed to protect the home against lightning strikes.
In Argentina, there is a Christmas Eve tradition of launching lighted paper globes (like Chinese Lanterns) called “globos” into the sky at midnight.
Sinterklaas, The Netherlands
On the 5th of December, the eve of Sinterklaas' visit to The Netherlands, children leave a shoe in front of the fireplace filled with carrots for Sinterklaas’ horse and gather to sing specific carol-like songs into the fire. The next morning, similar to Santa’s half-eaten cookies, the carrot has been theoretically consumed and replaced with a present along with a chocolate letter representing the first letter of each child’s name.
In Brazil, children leave a sock near a window because tradition says if Papai Noel finds your sock, he'll exchange it for a present.