For a few weeks every year, the world turns its attention away from work and the struggles of daily life. A magical glow emanates from shopping malls and family homes. People seem merrier, ready to celebrate the start of the holiday, the festive nature of Christmas and the closing out of the year. Everyone has their own special way of celebrating Christmas, whether it be putting up a tree, stringing up lights or caroling around the neighbourhood. Some traditions are quirkier than others, so we’ve taken a look at some of the more interesting Christmas events around the world.
The Giant Lantern Festival
If you are travelling to the Philippines and you are going to be around for Christmas, you might want to head to the city of San Fernando. Known as the Christmas Capital of the country, San Fernando is home to the annual Giant Lantern Festival. The festival, which sees eleven villages compete to see who can build the most elaborate lantern, is one of the highlights of the year and attracts visitors from all over the country. When it started out, the lanterns were approximately one meter wide and lit by a single candle. Today the kaleidoscopic creations tower over six meters in diameter and look more like a billboard in Times Square than a Chinese lantern.
The Day of Little Candles
Candles are an important symbolic reference in many religions. In Columbia, Día de las Velitas or The Day Of Little Candles is celebrated in honour of the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception of Jesus Christ. On this day, the people of Columbia place paper lanterns and candles in their front yards, on balconies and in windows. Over the years, the tradition has grown with whole towns and cities participating. The most spectacular displays can be found in Kumbaya where the various neighbourhoods compete for the most creative candle-lit display.
Since 1966, it has been a Swedish tradition to build a 13-meter tall Yule Goat (Gävlebocken) in the centre of the Castel Square in Gävle to celebrate Christmas. From the year it was first erected, the Gävlebocken led to a completely different tradition – that of burning it down. With a few exceptions, the goat has been successfully burnt down or destroyed by the public ever since. By 1988, the tradition became so popular that bookies offered betting odds on whether the goat would survive, or be burnt to a crisp. Each year, more efforts are made to increase security to protect the structure, but these are not always successful and the demise of the giant straw goat has become a major talking point.
The Lighting of the National Menorah
In the USA, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is celebrated across the country. One of the most elaborate events to celebrate the day is the lighting of the National Hanukkah Menorah on the White House grounds in Washington DC. The tradition started in 1979 and every year since, a nine-meter high Menorah is erected for the eight days and nights of Hanukkah. Come rain or shine, the lighting of the first candle takes place, with speeches, music and children’s activities following thereafter. Each successive night an additional candle is lit.
The Cavalcade of Lights
Canada has a good many traditions, but the Cavalcade of Lights is certainly one of the most spectacular. The annual Cavalcade of Lights in Toronto marks the start of the Christmas holidays and the festive season. It signifies the beginning of Christmas and the natural closing of the year. The first ever event took place in 1967, simply to show off the newly constructed City Hall building in Nathan Phillips Square.
Since then it has turned into a traditional Christmas and holiday event that attracts visitors from around the country. More than 300 000 LED lights are strewn from the large Christmas tree and kept going until New Year’s Eve and the highlight on the night is a major fireworks display that sees out the old year and welcomes the new.