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Family & Relationships

5 Holiday Traditions from Around the World to (Maybe) Share with Your Family

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While Christmas trees and menorahs, dreidels and stockings, red and green and blue and white get their fair share of wintertime attention for Christmas and Hanukkah in the United States, there are plenty of other holiday traditions around the world that may be off your radar—like rapid grape eating in Spain and sauna-filled afternoons in Finland.

Here are some holiday traditions that may help you keep health and happiness in mind for the coming year. Read on, and maybe you’ll find one you want to try this season (although, for the uninitiated, the horse skull one might be pushing it).

  • In with the grapes in Spain. The goal is to eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve for luck in each month of the coming year. Beyond the superstition, it’s just plain fun. Pro tip: look for a bunch that is small and seedless.
  • Sweating it out in Finland. The people of Finland take their health, their sauna time and Christmas seriously (Lapland in northern Finland is said to be home to Santa, after all, and the concept of the sauna was born in Finland more than 2,000 years ago). On Christmas Eve, many Finland residents will have a light meal in the morning and then head to the sauna in the afternoon to warm up, alleviate stress, ease tension and prepare for the Christmas Eve meal to follow. There’s a Finnish saying, in fact, that goes like this: “You should behave in sauna as you would in church.” So it makes sense that it would be a part of any Christmas celebration. 
  • Embracing family, unity and tradition among African Americans. We talk a lot about loneliness and how to keep it at bay on Get Old. For that reason, we especially love Kwanzaa. The African festival dates back to 1966, when it was started by a professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, to bring together people of African heritage in the United States. The seven-day celebration, December 26-January 1, focuses on family, community and embracing African culture. Each day, a different candle on a candle holder called a kinara is lighted to observe the seven principles associated with the holiday. People of all backgrounds are welcome to join in the celebration.
  • Influencing good behavior with threats of rotten potatoes in Iceland. Imagine Santa crossed with a troll, multiply it by 13 and you’ve got the Yule Lads of Iceland. Starting December 12, children in Iceland put a shoe on the windowsill, and, if they behaved, they get a treat from the mischievous Yule Lads, who have funny names such as Þvörusleikir the Spoon-licker and Bjúgnakrækir the Sausage-pilfer. If the kids misbehaved, they can expect a rotting potato in their shoe. While there may be no direct health benefit to this fun tradition, a parent or grandparent certainly can hold the threat of a rotten potato over a child’s head and hope for improved behavior from the kid—and less stress for the elder.

 Do you have holiday traditions with your family you can share? 

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