If you are looking for some new rituals to share with your loved ones over the holiday season, look no further. We’ve hunted around for some lovely holiday traditions that all foster a spirit of togetherness, thoughtfulness and comfort. Whether you adapt these to suit your personal preferences, or wholeheartedly embrace an established ritual, we hope these ideas will bring a fresh energy and joyful time for you and your family and friends.
Jolabokaflod (Iceland) – Holiday Traditions
Iceland is well known to be a book-loving nation. In fact 1 in 10 people there will publish a book, they have incredibly high literacy levels and Icelanders place great value on the giving of physical books as gifts. So much so that there is a special tradition known as ‘Jolabokaflod’, in which families gather on Christmas Eve, give each other books and then spend the evening reading. People may take their books to bed along with a hot chocolate, or sit together in front of a fire reading quietly. We think this is such a wonderful idea, and a perfect way to calm any pre-Christmas excitement and help children settle down to bed (though we can’t guarantee it will prevent that 4AM wake-up call when they spot their stockings…).
We love the sound of Jolabokaflod, and to make it more affordable and sustainable will be buying second-hand books this year. We plan to combine this with the giving of Christmas pyjamas, so everyone can properly snuggle up before the big day (this brand are making special Jolabokaflod pyjamas if that’s your thing). You could also suggest that everyone reads aloud from a section of their book so you can all share your stories.
Farolito lanterns (Mexico) – Holiday Traditions
This Mexican custom is focussed on bringing light and happiness to the whole community. Intricate designs are cut into brown paper bags, then a candle is placed inside (resting on some sand to keep the lantern steady) and they are set out along pavements and windowsills around the local area. Some of these displays are large and impressive, but a small collection of farolito lanterns in your front yard or along your street could be a lovely way to light up your town.
Furniture fix-up (Guyana) – Holiday Traditions
In Guyana, and across the Caribbean, a pre-Christmas tradition is the polishing, fixing and cleaning of household furniture. Curtains are washed or replaced if they are tatty, furniture is waxed and polished and even covered over until the feasting on Christmas Day to keep it looking perfect. We like the idea of getting the house in order before the chaos descends. It’s often hard to keep the house clean when you are busy hosting, cooking, and endlessly tidying up piles of wrapping paper and new toys. With this tradition, at least you know you will go into the festivities with a spick-and-span home. Just don’t expect it to look like that by the end.
Ancestor worship (China) – Holiday Traditions
As the majority of the Chinese population are not Christians, Christmas is not a huge deal there. Instead, the main focus is on the Chinese New Year in January. Part of this is the celebration and remembrance of ancestors, and this could be a nice tradition to incorporate into your holiday festivities. Photographs and pictures of family members who have passed away are hung in the main rooms as a way of celebrating their lives and keeping them close at this important time. If you have pictures that you’d like to display, you could set aside an afternoon during the holidays to place these around the house, or on the mantlepiece, telling stories of your ancestors or just remembering people who are no longer with us.
In Finland it is traditional to visit cemeteries on the evening of Christmas Day, placing lanterns on the graves, with a similar intention of keeping alive the memories of lost loved ones.
Advent windows (Switzerland) – Holiday Traditions
This is a lovely, and very sociable, tradition that originated in Switzerland but can now be found elsewhere. The focus here is on Advent. Each house on a street (or in a village) is allocated one day on which to mark the coming of Christmas. The windows are then decorated on this chosen date, and the household hold a party for people in the village or on the street, offering guests food and mulled wine. This seems like a perfect excuse for 24 days of solid partying, and a great way to get to know people in your area. If the party aspect seems a bit too much, you could allocate each household on your road a day in Advent and ask them to make a window display connected to their number.
We hope these have given you some ideas if you are looking for new traditions or rituals to help you celebrate the festive season. And if you prefer a quiet, simple holiday time tucked up under a blanket with a plate of roast potatoes, then we wish you well too.
If you have any traditions you’d like to share, we would love to hear them. Just drop us a comment below.