Healthy Habits

Holiday Celebrations Around the World

Content provided by the Health & Wellness Team at GBS Benefits

As you plan your holiday celebrations this year, consider adopting a new tradition from around the world. Traditions keep us grounded, remind us of our roots, and help to build lasting memories. Discover these diverse holiday customs and share your favorites with friends and family. Whether you plan to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, or New Year’s Eve, participate in the festive fun by trying something new this year!

El Salvador: Central American countries like El Salvador toast Christmas with fireworks displays on December 24 and 25. Children celebrate with smaller firecrackers called volcancitos (little volcanos) and estrellitas (little stars).

Brazil and Portugal: Brazilian and Portuguese families come together on Christmas Eve to eat dinner as late as 10 p.m. Then, at exactly midnight, they exchange gifts, toasts, and wish each other a Merry Christmas.

Iceland: Each night, for 13 nights before Christmas, Icelandic children are visited by the 13 Yule Lads (a similar concept to the 12 days of Christmas in the U.S.). After placing shoes by the window, the little ones will head upstairs to bed and wake to find candy in their shoes.

Finland: On Christmas morning, Finish families traditionally eat a porridge made of rice and milk topped with cinnamon, milk, or butter. Whoever finds the almond placed inside one of the puddings “wins” a wish or good luck.

Spain: The 12 Lucky Grapes is a Spanish New Year Eve’s custom of eating 12 grapes at midnight, with each strike of the clock. The goal is to be done eating these grapes by the time the clock finishes striking midnight. Each grape is considered lucky and is believed to ward off evil while boosting chances of a prosperous and lucky new year.

Colombia: On New Year’s Eve, Colombian households have a tradition, called agüero, of placing three potatoes under each family member’s bed—one peeled, one not, and one only partially peeled. At midnight each person grabs for one potato with their eyes closed. Depending on the potato they select, they can expect a year of good fortune (the potato that is not peeled), financial struggle (the peeled potato), or a mix of both (the partially peeled potato).

Greece: Not only are onions a kitchen staple, they can also bring good luck for the new year ahead. In Greece it’s tradition to hang an onion inside your door. Believed to symbolize fertility and growth (thanks to its ability to sprout on its own), the onion is hung inside each house on the door after the family returns from church service on New Year’s Day.

Chinese New Year: Many families clean and scrub their house to drive away any bad luck from the previous year and prepare for a new start. Cleaning may not seem like the most exciting tradition, but it sets the tone for the new year to start fresh.

May your holidays be filled with good fortune and a generous dose of festive fun!

Did you know? Christmas falls during summertime for the people of New Zealand. Their Christmas tree is the Pohutukawa, a coastal species that blooms a bright-red color in December, providing shade during the sunny days as they sing carols.

People walking on Takapuna beach in the morning with Pohutukawa flowers in full bloom

Takapuna Beach, New Zealand, with Pohutukawa flowers in full bloom


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