Festive traditions in favorite countries

Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Community!  We’re wrapping up Hanukkah and getting close to Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  Here’s the updated countdown:

*Happy Hanukkah – I hope you’re enjoying the Festival of Lights!

*Countdown to Christmas Eve – it’s only ONE week away :0

*Countdown to New Year’s Eve – it’s only TWO weeks away 😊 Bring on 2021!!

Quick Reminder:

Join me on Facebook in the virtual Holiday Sip & Shop event in December benefitting Circle of Care

Circle of Care provides “emotional and financial assistance to children and families, from day of diagnosis through treatment and beyond, with programs and services that meet the unique and challenging needs of pediatric cancer treatment.”

How can you help support small businesses AND a worthy nonprofit?  It couldn’t be easier: 

I’m intrigued by how the Christmas holidays are celebrated around the world.  This week’s newsletter highlights festive traditions in favorite countries.

Be sure to add these destinations to your Wanderlist through this link here:  https://bit.ly/wanderlisthgtc

From the religious to the ridiculous, read on for the list of festive traditions in favorite countries…

Scary Folklore from Europe

If you haven’t heard about Krampus, he’s Santa’s polar opposite in Central European folklore.  Half-goat and half-demon, he punishes children who have misbehaved.  Sounds terrifying to me – much more so than the threat of finding coal in your stocking on Christmas morning.

Others feel differently, “I’ve always liked the Krampus character, and I’ve always been fascinated with him, especially the tradition that he was such a part of the holiday season in Europe, in Germany, Austria, northern Italy, various other places.” – Paul Dini

What do you think about Krampus?  I think I may search for a Krampus ornament at the European Christmas markets next year.  Keep you posted 😊

Greece – Illuminated Boats & The Kallikantzaroi

The Greeks have a similar dark character to Krampus in the Kallikantzaroi.  These mischievous goblins, elves, or gnomes look like little devils who cause nocturnal trouble during the twelve days of Christmas.  Greek believers protect themselves by keeping a fire burning in their fireplaces to keep Kallikantzaroi from coming down their chimney.  Or by putting a colander outside their front door.  Beats me which method is considered most effective.

In contrast, I love the Greek tradition of illuminating their boats during the holiday season.  The second-largest city in Greece is Thessaloniki where a three-masted ship and a gigantic Christmas tree dominate the city square.  This tradition of decorating and illuminating ships dates to the days when sailors returned home for the holidays from their long adventures at sea.  Other cities in Greece, like Athens, follow this magical, festive tradition. 

Italy’s Fish Feast

I’ve been to a Feast of the Seven Fishes, and it elevates the holiday fun Italian-style!  Italy has many Christmas traditions, and this one is rooted in the country’s Roman Catholic roots. 

According to Eataly, “The ancient tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve dates from the Roman Catholic custom of abstinence from meat and dairy products on the eve of certain holidays, including Christmas.  According to the Roman Catholic Church, seven are the sacraments, the days of the Creation, as well as the deadly sins. Hence seven courses!”

The fish most commonly eaten include salted cod (Baccala), clams, calamari, sardines, shrimp, and eel.   Seafood stews, pasta dishes, and baked whole fish adorn the menu.  I recall eating lobster at the feast I attended, but that’s a New England version.  Don’t forget the Limoncello and desserts!

Hidden Gem Tip – When in Rome, head to Sempre Natale.  It’s a Christmas ornament shop where you can find unique ornaments to commemorate your trip, like a slice of pizza or classic cannoli.  Their blown glass Christmas ornaments are made in Italy or elsewhere in Europe.   

Light & Dark in Greenland

The supposed summer home of Santa and Mrs. Claus, Greenland embraces Christmastime.  In late December, Greenland averages only 4.4 hours of daylight.  Traditionally, homeowners light up their windows with twinkling stars to make the season bright.  The illumination lasts from the first Sunday in Advent through January 6th

Greenland has close ties to Danish and Scandinavian traditions.  In fact, they import their Christmas trees from Denmark since these evergreens don’t grow in Greenland.  Greenlanders share the tradition of the Lucia parade which originated in Sweden.  Children dress in white robes holding a small light or candle and sing traditional songs. Have you seen a Lucia parade?

Christmas Down Under

I’ve been to Australia twice but never during the holidays.  Christmastime is Australia’s early summer, and many people have extended vacation time from work and school.  Aussies head to the beach!

Famed Bondi Beach and others are gathering places for festive beach parties.  Families like to barbeque, sunbathe, swim, and camp at beaches across the country.  For example, seafoods (especially prawns) are popular holiday menu items.

The day after Christmas – aka Boxing Day is celebrated with vigor.  Also, the 26th of December is also the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race which has been held for the last 75 years!

Fun Fact – In true Aussie style, Santa has been known to employ kangaroos instead of his reindeer team!

Japan & The Colonel

I kid you not with this one – the Japanese love to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas!  In 1974, KFC ran a highly successful advertising campaign that started the trend.  Since less than 1% of Japan is Christian, this non-traditional concept took off and was cleverly coined “Kentucky For Christmas.”  With your delivery order, it’s not unheard of that your party bucket will show up wearing a Santa suit! 

Inspired?  What do you think about this list of festive traditions in favorite countries?  If the idea of traveling to any of these fantastic destinations any time of year excites you, email me back to schedule a call to discuss.

💎 Hidden Gem Tip:  On a call yesterday with leaders in the travel industry, I heard that travel to iconic bucket-list destinations will be in high demand later next year.  Many 2020 trips have already been rolled into late 2021, and there’s huge pent-up demand for new travel both domestic and international. The time to plan is now!

Wishing you and your family continued good health,


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Hi, I'm Susan Wilson

I’m the founder of Hidden Gem Travel Consulting. As your personal travel advisor, I craft custom worldwide itineraries that astound and inspire you.


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