Round the World
This year has been a strange one for everyone. We love to travel and usually would have had a holiday abroad and done some travelling in the UK too. Sadly, that simply hasn’t been possible this year. One of the things I love most about travelling is finding out about different cultures, traditions and ways of life. I am really keen that my boys also develop a thirst for discovery and knowledge too. This festive season, we are going to travel the world from the comfort of our own home and we’d love for you to join in too!
Everyone celebrates Christmas in a different way. In fact, we’ve shared a couple of our family’s more unusual traditions before. Some countries have some rather quirky traditions and these are the ones we are going to celebrate in our Round the World Christmas Challenge. Simply print off your Round The World Challenge Passport. There’s a free printable at the bottom of the post. See how many of these countries you can visit, by completing a fun activity, before Christmas. For each country you visit, you will collect a stamp to stick in your passport. There’s a whole range of activities including crafts, bakery, singing and getting active! Have a go and see how many countries you can visit.
- South Africa
What is your favourite snack at Christmas? Maybe a mince pie or a chocolate coin? In South Africa, a festive treat is to deep fry an Emperor Moth Caterpillar. Apparently these are quite juicy and taste like tea. I think I’ll stick to my mince pie.
Activity: Pop on your wellies and go for a mini beast hunt. Remember if you find any caterpillars, or any other mini beasts, that it is better to just look at them rather than eating them!
Why not read The Very Hungry Caterpillar too?
There’s no sitting down for a Christmas snooze in Venezuela. In fact, in the capital city Caracas, people pop on a pair of roller skates and skate to Christmas Mass. Children also tie a piece of string around their toe before they go to sleep and dangle the other end out of the window. This is so as the skaters go by they can give the string a tug to wake the children up and they know to get their skates on! This sounds like such a fun tradition.
Activity: Grab your roller skates and have a go at skating.
Make sure you wear a helmet and pads to keep yourself safe.
In Latvia, the Winter Solstice is celebrated just before Christmas. People, called mummers, dress up in either animal masks or as the spirit of death. It’s a bit like a cross between trick or treating and carol singing. They go from house to house singing and playing music, and bestowing good blessings on the houses. In return they are given sweet treats.
Activity: Make an animal mask and sing to the people in your house. See if they reward you with a festive treat!
In Ukraine, Christmas Trees are decorated with spiders and spider webs.
Here is a folk story behind the tradition:
“A poor but hardworking widow once lived in a small hut with her children. One summer day, a pine cone fell on the earthen floor of the hut and took root. The widow’s children cared for the tree, excited at the prospect of having a Christmas tree by winter. The tree grew, but when Christmas Eve arrived, they could not afford to decorate it. The children sadly went to bed and fell asleep. Early the next morning, they woke up and saw the tree covered with cobwebs. When they opened the windows, the first rays of sunlight touched the webs and turned them into gold and silver. The widow and her children were overjoyed. From then on, they never lived in poverty again”
Story courtesy of The Legend of the Christmas Spider
Activity: Make a pipe cleaner spider.
Simple take four pipe cleaners. The sparkly ones are really fabulous as they look super Christmassy.
Cut them in half so you have eight legs.
Hold them together in a bundle and twist together the top half to form the spider’s body.
Finally, bend the legs into position.
You could always add a loop of cotton and hang your spider on the Christmas tree!
A scarier side of Christmas can be found in Iceland where the Jólakötturinn lives. Jólakötturinn is a huge cat who is taller than the tallest houses and lives in the snow. He is supposed to encourage the children to do their chores. Children who do their chores are rewarded with new clothes. Although sadly, any lazy children who do not do their chores are fed to Jólakötturinn! Jólakötturinn also encourages people to be generous and ensure that those who are less fortunate are given new clothes so they are not fed to the Jólakötturinn .
Activity: Do something kind without being asked. You could tidy your bedroom, load the dishwasher, lay the table or anything else you think might be helpful!
Why not have a a sort out of your clothes. If you have grown out of anything, donate it to a charity shop.
Straw yule goats can be found on Christmas trees in Sweden. Traditionally the Yule goat was an invisible spirit that would visit homes to ensure that the Christmas preparations were being done correctly. This has become a fun joke where families will try to hide a yule goat in a friend’s house without them noticing. When the friend finds the goat, they must get rid of it by secretly hiding it in someone else’s home and so it continues.
In some cities, the Yule Goat has been upsized! This first began in the town of Gavle. A 13m tall straw goat is placed in the town square. This first began in 1966. The goat was mysteriously set alight on New Year’s Eve. Nowadays, the goat is still placed in the town square and is secretly set alight. However, the town’s people split into two teams. Some do their best to protect the goat, for example by pouring water on him so he’s harder to burn, whilst others do their best to set him on fire. Bets are taken to see how long the Gavle Goat will last!
Activity: During December, have a look at the Gavle Goat’s Webcam and see how he’s doing this year.
Christmas lights are a huge part of Christmas around the world. In the Philipines, each year there is a Giant Lantern Festival in which twelve teams compete to design the best lantern. In 2019, the winning lantern included a mechanism which opened to reveal a stain glass window scene! The lanterns have more humbler beginnings. People would make a lantern, called a parol, and then parade with them to church for the Christmas service. Children still make parols as part of their Christmas festivities.
Activity: Make a Filipino Parol
Australia is in the Southern hemisphere and so rather than snow, Australians enjoy Christmas in glorious sunshine. Because of this, the reindeer cannot cope with the heat and so Santa’s sleigh is pulled by six old kangaroos called the six white boomers. Rather than Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, children sing Six White Boomers!
Activity: Learn the Six White Boomers song
Christmas isn’t a holiday in Japan and so it is seen as a normal working day. Christmas time is seen as a time for spreading happiness. It is traditional in Japan to each fried chicken at Christmas. In the 1970s, KFC ran a very successful advertising campaign and nowadays Christmas is the time when the most fried chicken is eaten!
Activity: Have a go at making your own KFC
An adult will need to cook the chicken but children will love helping to dip the chicken in the coating and getting messy!
Christmas is a time when we try our best to be really kind to each other. In Finland, this also includes animals. Farmers will lay out a sheaf of wheat for birds to eat and nuts and suet are also hung in trees for the birds.
Activity: Make a bird feeder for your garden.
Download your passport and stamps to get started on the Round the World Christmas Challenge.
Simply fold your print off into quarters to form your passport.
Children can practice their cutting skills
If you have a go at the Round the World Christmas Challenge, I’d love to see.
Do tag me in your photographs on social media.
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