Every country does a different and unique thing for Christmas and the Philippines are no exception. Each year on Saturday before Christmas Eve, in the city of San Fernando, you can see a spectacular sight. The Giant Lantern Festival. It attracts spectators from all over the world. In this festival, eleven villages engage in a friendly competition trying to build the most elaborate lantern. In the beginning, the lanterns were made from Japanese origami paper, lit with a candle and measuring around half a meter in diameter. As the years went by and the variety of materials increased and so did the lanterns. Today they have grown to around six meters in size and are illuminated by electric bulbs, sparkling in a variety of patterns in the same way as kaleidoscopes do. Because of that, during the night, the city lights up with every colour possible. During the time of the event, people take every resource they have to win the lantern competition which is being put to contest during the main event date of the festival. Some use recyclable materials from their previous designs and some just want to create a new and better model from new parts ordered and made. Some do not even care about expenses because cash prizes wouldn’t even come close to all their expenditure. Some participants just aim for the glory and fame as well as bragging rights being the winner of the annual lantern festival. The rules for the festival lanterns are to be as original and creative as possible, so every lantern is different, and it is guaranteed that at least one of them will meet your expectations. It is a very interesting and bright tradition worth seeing, a competition filled with lights and Christmas spirit.
Every family has their own Christmas tradition like decorating the tree or cooking dinner. I have always wondered if my family tradition is normal and what are the different traditions in other families around the world. The Nordic country of Sweden has a very interesting Christmas tradition. Since the ancient Viking times, there has been a Swedish tradition of the Yule Goat. This tradition consisted of building a large straw goat measuring 42 feet in height and 23 feet in width. The tradition started in pagan festivals when the goats were created to worship and give thanks to the Norse god Thor who would ride the skies with a carriage drawn by two goats. The straw used to make this goat symbolizes a fine year of harvest and a sacrifice for Thor so he could bring more good tidings and reaping for the next year. Nowadays the Yule goat is merely a Christmas ornament to honour the past and the ancestors by keeping up the tradition. The goat is very popular in Nordic countries and it attracts a lot of tourists. Smaller versions of the goat typically made of sticks are are used to decorate Christmas trees. Every year between Christmas and New Year’s Eve people put on masks and walk around their community from door to door and sing carols spreading the Christmas and new year spirit. After the song, they are usually awarded candy and tradition requires at least one person form the visited home to join the carolers in their door to door singing. This tradition is called Julebukking. I think the Swedish have very interesting traditions filled with joy and the Christmas spirit.
For the majority of people, Christmas is the most important and magical time of the year. People clean houses, cook food, buy gifts, meet with their families, and have an amazing time. In Poland and around the world there are many Christmas traditions. There is one tradition that everyone knows and I am sure it is present in almost every family around the world - decorating a Christmas tree. The history of the Christmas tree goes way back, to the symbolic use of evergreen plants in ancient Egypt and Rome, continued by the German tradition of candlelit Christmas trees, which was first brought to America in the 19th century. It is Germany who is credited for the tradition of Christmas tree when in the 16th century Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. It is believed that in the 16th-century Martin Luther was the first one to add lit candles to the tree. While walking towards his home one winter evening, he was astounded by the brilliance of stars sparkling among the evergreen plants. He wanted to recreate that view for his family, so he installed a tree in the main room and electrified its branches with lighted candles. Now the Christmas tree is a tradition everywhere, however, each country has its own traditions related to the Christmas tree in their culture. In Australia, Christmas happens in the summer so various people decorate local plants with little red-flowered leaves. Same goes for Brazil, where pine trees are decorated with pieces of cotton which represents snow. In China, very few people celebrate Christmas, but when they do, they decorate their trees with spangles and paper chains, flowers, and lanterns. In Greenland, Christmas trees are decorated with candles and ornaments. In Japan Christmas and it is not a religious celebration, but Christmas trees are decorated with toys, dolls, paper ornaments and lanterns. In Norway, they usually cut their own Christmas tree as a part of the tradition, later it is decorated on Christmas Eve by the parents, while the children wait in a different room. In the Philippines, there are homemade trees in various colours and sizes. In South Arabia, families place Christmas trees somewhere in an inconspicuous place to avoid disturbance. In Sweden, Christmas trees must be up on Christmas and stay up 12 days after Christmas, they are ornamented with lamps, snowflakes, stars, and sunbursts. Decorating a Christmas tree has been a tradition for a very long time around the world, and I am sure that it will still be a tradition in the future.