Christmas is all about tradition. For many of us, this means baking gingerbread men, decorating the tree to the dulcet tones of Shaking Stevens and racing to beat Macaulay Culkin to every punchline in the epic Christmas film, Home Alone.
In the rare times, though, when the gingerbread men crumble, the tree ends up lopsided and there’s no Home Alone on free-to-air TV, we find ourselves fantasising about how others celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. Here’s our roundup of the weird and wonderful Christmas festivities happening around the world right now.
1. Gävlebocken, Gävel, Sweden
The Gävel Goat in all its glory. Photo via The Independent UK
Swedes say “God Jul” (‘Merry Christmas’) by building a 13-metre high, 3.6 tonne straw goat every year. The tradition started in 1966, when advertising consultant Stig Gavlén decided there would be nothing more festive than a giant Swedish yule goat. The construction of the Gävle Goat begins each year on the first day of advent and takes close to a thousand man-hours to complete.
Despite countless efforts by authorities to safeguard the Gävle, the site has met a fiery fate no less than 37 times since its inception. Perhaps the most noteworthy torching was in 2005, when arsonists disguised themselves as gingerbread men and Santas and shot at the Gävle with fire arrows. A Holy Night indeed…
Gävlebocken is displayed from the 1st of December and, granted no arsonists step in, remains throughout the Christmas season.
2. Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, Harbin, China
As skyscrapers overtake skyscrapers in Shanghai and Hong Kong, it’s little surprise that China’s Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is of the ‘more is more’ mentality. The largest ice and snow festival in the world, more than 10,000 workers descend onto the town of Harbin each year, transforming the arctic landscape into an ice city of the most epic and colourful proportions.
From ice queens to igloos and everything in between, this festival is a real-life winter wonderland. One of the most awe-inspiring sculpts of the festival in recent years, the Crystal Castle stood at 48m high, just short of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.
Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival kicks off just after Christmas, from January 5th to February 25th.
3. The Night of the Radishes, Oaxaca, Mexico
Photo by Robert Frerck, BBC Travel
While the Chinese sculpt ice, in Oaxaca the Mexicans say “Feliz Navidad” (‘Happy Christmas’) by carving… radishes. Don’t let the humble root vegetable disappoint though; the sculptures may be scaled down, but the festivities are not.
The quirky tradition of radish Christmas carvings has been alive and well for more than a century. In 1897, in a bid to draw more shoppers to their stalls after Christmas church services, merchants would carve intricate shapes into the radishes’ skin, sometimes forming little people or festive scenes. The joyous radishes were a hit, with locals buying their favourites for their Christmas centrepieces.
Today, The Night of the Radishes attracts tourists and locals in their thousands each year, where best-in-show radish carvings compete for the title of best in show.
The Night of the Radishes (Noche de Rábanos in Spanish) is celebrated on December 23rd , with festivities continuing until Christmas Day.