From La Befana to Krampus: Famous European holiday traditions. Which is your favorite?


family celebratingIf you travel during the holiday season, perhaps you’ll see one of the many unique ways in which people celebrate the holiday season around the world. From The Legend of La Befana in Italy to keeping an eye out for Krampus in Germany, here are a few of the truly individual ways cultures around the world celebrates the holiday season.

The Legend of La Befana – Italy
She flies over the rooftops of Rome, delivers gifts to children and receives Ricotta cheese in return – since she has hardly any teeth. In Italy, the holidays are all about La Befana, the legendary Good Witch of Christmas.1

Legend has it that La Befana flies over the rooftops of Rome on her broom, and brings gifts to the good children and coal to the bad ones. Since pagan times she has been celebrated as the “aging Mother Nature” in ancient Roman winter festivals. Today, the best place to meet La Befana in person is in Piazza Navona, Rome’s lively square where the Christmas bazaar known locally as the Befana Market is held.

A Very Krampus Christmas – Germany
He’s making a list, and checking it twice – but it’s definitely to find the children who have been naughty – not nice. This list miser is far from the jolly guy in the red coat. His name is Krampus, and as scary as it may sound, he is a beast-like creature from old German folk tales. Legend has it that during the holiday season, Krampus seeks out and scares children who have been particularly naughty. This mythological character can be seen roaming streets in Germany during annual holiday parades, where the character is brought to life through people in costumes.

Santa Lucia Day- Scandinavia
In Scandinavia it’s all about lights and candles on the morning ofDecember 13.  Santa Lucia Day, as the day is known, ushers in the holiday season when the eldest daughter of each family dresses in white, places a crown of candles on her head and then, walking barefoot, serves breakfast to her parents.2 This tradition, which is hundreds of years old, is in memory of St. Lucia, a Catholic saint, who, during her lifetime, was famous for carrying food to persecuted Christians hiding in dark underground tunnels. She wore a wreath of candles on her head to light the way as she carried her baskets of provisions.4

Cake is King in France
Galette des Rois, or the “Cake of Kings” is a tradition in France that dates back to the 14th century. During the days that follow Christmas, the French line up at their local bakery to buy “Galette des Rois” – pastries of different varieties. Inside some pastries, a lucky few will find a porcelain trinket. The finder of the trinket not only wins the pastry prize, but a paper crown that adorns the pastry spread.

St. Nick’s Day
Remembering those in need is always a good rule of thumb around the holiday season, and those in England (and many other parts of the world) do just that on St. Nick’s Day. This Holiday, which is celebrated on December 6th each year, begins with a parade through Canterbury, England followed by music, dancing, hymns and prayers.3   St. Nicholas was born during the third century in the village of Patara, Turkey. After his wealthy parents died, he was left an inheritance which he used to help those in need. Today St. Nick’s Day is celebrated around the world and is associated with gift giving and personal generosity to those less fortunate.

Whether you plan to travel the world this holiday season or enjoy international holiday traditions through the reading and sharing of these stories, we want to hear your favorite holiday tradition. Please post here.

1 http://www.smartertravel.com/blogs/today-in-travel/sweet-holiday-traditions-in-europe.html?id=9817977

2 http://goscandinavia.about.com/od/christmastraditions/qt/saintluciaday.htm

3 http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/england/

4 http://www.livinginseason.com/spirit/who-is-santa-lucia/#hide

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