BAY CITY, Mich. -- Whether brand new or long-standing, traditions are an important aspect of the holidays. While we have many of our own here in the United States, it's interesting to learn about how other countries celebrate this time of year. Without further ado, here are five holiday traditions from around the world!
1. LA BEFANA - Italy
While Santa Claus is a holiday icon for many people in America, the one in charge of spreading yuletide cheer in Italy is a kind old witch named La Befana (which actually means "giver of gifts"). On January 5th during the celebration known as the "Eve of Epiphany," Italian families leave out a plate of broccoli with spiced sausage and a glass of wine for La Befana, who is said to be out flying around on her broomstick delivering gifts to all good children.
2. CAROLING WITH DEAD HORSES - Wales
Carolers may not be such a common sight around the holidays anymore here, but the tradition remains alive and well across the pond in Wales - with a rather morbid twist. From Christmas until late January, you can find groups of people accompanied by a skeletal horse character, known as the Mari Lywd, traveling door-to-door and singing carols in exchange for food and drinks. While the exact origin of the Mari Lywd is unknown, the celebration is said to have roots in ancient Celtic rites and thought to bring good luck.
3. KRAMPUS - Germany, Hungary, Austria
When you consider the consequences of being on the "naughty" list in Eastern Europe, getting a lump of coal here in the United States is actually not all that bad. Krampus is a beastly character in German, Hungarian, and Austrian folklore who is said to stalk the streets on Christmas Eve, visiting the homes of bad children and punishing them for their misdeeds - including scooping them up in a sack and hauling them off for dinner!
4. THE YULE CAT - Iceland
Folks in Iceland wouldn't be caught dead in last year's outfit on Christmas Eve, lest they become a snack for the Yule Cat. The legend of this monstrously fashion-conscious feline was used by farmers as a way to scare laborers into making sure they processed all the autumn wool before the holidays. Those who did were rewarded with new clothes. Those who didn't would get nothing, and be eaten by the Yule Cat.
5. KFC CHRISTMAS DINNER - Japan
Aside from a few small traditions such as exchanging gifts and light displays, Christmas isn't really a big deal in Japan. Do you know what is a big deal around the holidays though? The Colonel. Back in 1974, KFC initially set up shop in Japan to accommodate visitors to the country who wanted something resembling a traditional holiday meal. It unexpectedly became a huge hit with the locals, who have now carried on the tradition of the KFC Christmas Dinner for over 40 years.
Do you know of any other unique holiday traditions in different cultures? What tradition does your family practice? Comment and tell us below!
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