It’s the most creative time of the year! All over the world, friends and family gather to make wonderful things for the holidays. Whether it’s painting ornaments to hang on the tree, twining wreaths to decorate the house, baking cookies for holiday swaps, beading necklaces for Kwanzaa, or dipping Hanukkah candles, handcrafting treasures together is the best kind of celebration.
To celebrate the season, we explored the globe in search of delightful and creative hand-made traditions to share with you. Here are a few of our favorites:
1. England: Christmas Crackers
In England, Christmas crackers are a festive table decoration that look like large wrapped candies. One person holds each end of the cracker and pulls until the cracker splits in half with an explosive pop! It works a bit like a wishbone: the person who ends up with the larger “half” is the winner, and gets to keep whatever’s inside the cracker — usually a poem or cute toy! Christmas crackers are easy to make using cardboard tubes and extra wrapping paper – check out our DIY version here.
2. France: The Yule Log or la bûche de Noël
The Yule Log is a rolled cake decorated to resemble a log, topped with meringue mushrooms, berries, (sometimes even actual pine needles and tree bark!) and dusted with powdered sugar “snow.” It’s a Christmas tradition in many French homes as well as Canada, Switzerland, and other French-speaking countries.
3. Germany: Advent Calendars
In Germany, advent calendars are a delightful way to count down the month before Christmas. Every day a window in the advent calendar is opened to reveal a poem, picture, candy, or small gift. Special advent calendar stores popup all over Germany during the holidays, but many families prefer to craft their own. For a unique version, check out this version of an Advent calendar that highlights personality traits (honesty, peacemaking, kindness) that are what the holiday season is all about.
4. India: Rangoli
The Diwali Festival of Lights is a five-day festival celebrated in autumn by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains worldwide. One way families in India celebrate is by creating rangoli together. A rangoli is a handmade decoration made of colored rice or other material arranged in a gorgeous pattern on the ground. The gorgeous patterns and designs are often passed down from generation to generation.
5. Israel: Sufganityot (doughnuts)
Sufganiyot are like filled doughnuts, and they are a beloved Hanukkah food in Israel. Strawberry jelly filling is the most popular, but there are plenty of other yummy options, including chocolate, vanilla, sesame, caramel, and more. Hanukkah foods are usually fried in oil to symbolize the oil that miraculously burned for eight days in the Temple in Jerusalem.
6. Mexico: Tamalada
At Christmastime in Mexico, the whole family helps prepare tamales, which are a filling (usually meat or chicken) wrapped in corn dough. The tamales are then wrapped in corn husks and steamed. A tamale-making gathering is called a tamalada.
7. Norway: Christmas Workshops
In Norway, people look forward to joining a “Christmas Workshop,” where people of all ages gather to enjoy each other’s company while working on projects — everything from decorating handmade cards to building gingerbread houses to knitting scarves. Of course, no workshop is complete without a warming cup of gløgg.
8. China: Dumplings
In celebration of Lunar New Year, families gather for a special reunion dinner. Because dumplings signify prosperity — and because they are delicious — dumpling making is a festive tradition for this holiday feast. Many other Asian countries (including Korea, Vietnam, and Japan) celebrate the lunar year.
9. Russia: Pancake Week
Every year Russians celebrate Maslenitsa, a week-long holiday celebrating the end of winter. People get to feast on special pancakes called blini, challenge each other to snowball fights, go sledding, and hang out with friends and family. At the end of the week, a straw figure representing Winter is burned in a huge bonfire. Bring on the Spring!
Do you have creative holiday traditions? We’d love to hear all about them! Tag us at #kiwico.
Are you interested in exploring a new country and culture every month? Check out Atlas Crate!