Winter Holiday Traditions Around the World

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As the song goes, it is the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are winding down, but there’s plenty of celebrations to go around. GCI is proud to be a global company, and we love sharing the diversity that we experience every day. Check out some of the fascinating traditions below and learn how people all over the world got into the spirit of the season!

Did you know that Saint Nicholas was a real person? The Feast of Saint Nicholas kicks off Advent every year on December 6th. The real-life Santa Claus was a bishop who gave charitable gifts while seeking no credit for himself. Saint Nicholas is even where we get the red and white outfit that Santa Claus famously wears! While the memory of the real Saint Nicholas is kept alive in this yearly event, many traditional myths still surround his memory.

Saint Nicholas is often accompanied by the spirit Krampus, the saint’s opposite in every way. Krampus is an evil spirit who dresses in fur and has a long black tail. He scares little children into being good, and is little more frightening that getting coal in your stocking! Children and adults went into their villages across Germany, Austria and Bavaria to throw snowballs which symbolized chasing off Krampus.

In Madagascar, it’s always warm at Christmas time, but the decorations still look like a winter wonderland. Holly, fake snow, paper robins, and poinsettias (the country’s national emblem) appeared during the month of December on streets and in homes. Santa Claus is called “Dadabe Noely” in the native language of Malagasy.

Marking the Winter Solstice is a worldwide tradition celebrated under many different names, and in dozens of ways! In Europe, many marked the occasion of Yule with bonfires and firecrackers that lit up the night sky, and gathered to feast with family and friends. No matter how it’s celebrated, the Winter Solstice marked the shortest day of the year, and celebrated the warmer weather soon to come.

Japan has only just started celebrating Christmas in the last few decades. It is a more secular holiday and draws many traditions from the U.S. Christmas celebration. The most common meal on Christmas day is fried chicken, and is the busiest day of the year for restaurants like KFC.

Rohatsu (Bodhi Day) celebrated Buddha’s decision to sit under the Bodhi tree until he met spiritual enlightenment. This January 5th holiday even has its own version of a Christmas tree! Buddhists decorated ficus trees with beads and colored lights. They placed three bright ornaments on the tree to symbolize the Three Jewels — the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha — and children baked heart-shaped cookies to symbolize the leaves of the Bodhi tree.

No matter how you’ve celebrated, we hope the holiday left you very cheery and bright. Here’s wishing you a prosperous New Year from all of us at Global Clothing Industries!