A Look Back at Holiday Traditions Around the World

With the holiday season upon us, this time of year has got me thinking about all the different holiday traditions the hubby and I have gotten to experience over the years. From growing up in Indiana, to living on the east coast, to traveling abroad to Iceland and Ireland, to now being residents of New Mexico, we’ve gotten to see and partake in many different traditions and holiday foods over the years.

From Christmas trees to old colonial brick sidewalks covered in snow to holiday markets to trolls who come and wreak havoc, here’s a look back at the holiday traditions we’ve experienced throughout our many adventures:

As I mentioned, all of my Christmas traditions started off in the Midwest. The Christmas decorating commenced as soon as Thanksgiving ended. Counting down the days to Christmas morning, going Christmas lights hunting, and driving through snowy roads to see family were annual events.

The holidays in New England are pretty similar to the Midwest, but trade all the rolling snowy fields for ice capped old Colonial homes and the hills made out of snow for mountains. The holidays in New England are the closest thing to being in old European cities for Christmas that I’ve seen. Everything seems so magical, cozy, and there’s nothing like the sight of the lights against all the snow and brick buildings.

Then, insert Iceland, probably the most unique culture for holiday traditions we’ve experienced. If you’re ever spending the holidays in this Nordic country, not only will you be combating the 20 hours of darkness per day and bone-chilling winds, but you’ll be sure to hear of the folklore around the Yule Lads. I wrote an entire post all about the Yule Lads last year that you can find here, but the tradition holds that 13 trolls come down from the hills of northern Iceland to explore the city during Christmas time and deliver presents to all children who set out a boot with a goody in it the night before. Each Lad has a personality and finds some way to wreak a little bit of havoc in the city before returning back to the hills to hide out until next year.

In Iceland, you sometimes wake up to windows that look like this.

Aside from the long, dark, cold days and trolls, Iceland does have a warm cozy feel to it during this time of year. The ideal activity is to stay in with warm blankets, candles, hot drinks, and books to read. If that’s not quite you’re thing, you can go for some of the traditional foods, like smoked lamb, laufabrauð, or Malt og Appelsín

Last year, we got to experience Christmas while traveling through another country, Ireland. With its relatively mild climate, we got a break from the bitter winds and cold days of Iceland for just chilly temps and emerald green rolling hills.

From shopping around the holiday markets to trying Christmas pudding to attending Christmas mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in downtown Dublin to drinking Guinness and Smithwick’s with locals in a pub on Christmas Eve, the holidays in Ireland give you that old European, medieval feel.

Now that we’re most recently living in New Mexico, we’re trading all those Midwestern, Nordic, and Irish traditions for Spanish. Instead of having tons of beautiful snow and bone chilling temperatures, we’re holding steady at a 50-60’s°F range and have palm trees as our view. In the southwest, chilies and tamales are favorite dishes rather than the ham, lamb, and blood sausage of the aforementioned. In some parts of the state, you’ll see luminarias illuminate the night.

There’s a distinct feel and traditions for each country/region. Each one has so many dishes, desserts, weather, and landscape to take in, and the holidays always bring each one to life. While it’s instinct to spend time with our loved ones during the holidays, I would encourage you to take a trip to a new culture during this time of year. You’ll have the opportunity to take in a new culture, new traditions, and some of the yummiest foods.

What about you; what are some traditions where you’re from? Have you traveled during the holidays? Where did you go and what were some of the traditions and holiday foods you got to experience? Share so we all can travel the world through each other!

Wherever you are or traditions you’re celebrating, I hope you’re having a merry holiday season and spending time with loved ones. From our family to yours.