Christmas is the most celebrated holiday of the year, but every country does it differently. Here’s a quick insight into the weird and wonderful Christmas traditions from around the globe.

According to the encyclopaedia Britannica, December 25th (‘mass on Christ’s day) was first recognised as the birth of Jesus in the year 221, but only began to be celebrated widely in the 9th century. Now it is one of the most popular holidays with over 2 billion people considering it to be the most important holiday of the year.

A typical Australian Christmas is hot, with BBQ’s and Carols by Candlelight a staple. Most Australians and Americans open gifts on Christmas day, whereas most places in Europe share presents on Christmas Eve. Here’s a look into other countries around the world and the quirky ways they celebrate Christmas.

Japan – Fried chicken

Japan is less than one percent Christian, but one tradition that has stuck is eating KFC or other fried chicken on Christmas, with more than 4 million people tucking into the finger lickin’ food on this day each year. This unusual tradition began after a successful marketing campaign by KFC in 1974 called Kurisumasi ni wa kentakkii! (Kentucky for Christmas!).

family and chicken

Ukraine – Spiderwebs on Christmas trees

In Ukraine, families decorate their Christmas tree with spiderwebs as a sign of good luck. It is based on old folklore about a family who couldn’t afford ornaments and decorations for their tree, and spiderwebs became a symbol of good fortune on Christmas. It is also tradition to have 12 course feasts, one for every apostle!

Slovakia – Carp catching

In one of the most interesting Christmas traditions, Slovakians catch carp and keep them in a bathtub of freshwater swimming until Christmas Eve and eaten for their dinner feast. The significance of the Carp is in its scales. They are said to bring good luck and fortune into the new year.

Iceland – 13 Yule Lads

Instead of Santa, Icelandic children are visited by the 13 Yule Lads in the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. Children leave their shoes by a window and the Yule trolls leave gifts and sweets for nice boys and girls and rotten potatoes for the misbehaved!

homemade advent calendar

Sweden – Saint Lucia and the giant goat

In Sweden the Christmas celebrations begin on December 13, marked by Saint Lucia’s Day and a festival to celebrate light. In the night parade, one girl is selected as ‘Lucia’, the Christian saint, and leads a procession of people wearing white robes and carrying candles above their head along with star-headed wands.

In the Swedish city of Gävle, a 13-metre-high straw goat is put up in the city centre to mark the start of Advent. The first Yule Goat was erected in 1966 and burnt down on New Year’s Eve. The tradition has lasted but is a big target for vandals, the most recent goat to be incinerated was the 2016 mascot.

Norway – Hiding brooms

The legend in Norway is that witches will arrive on Christmas Eve. Norwegians hide their brooms in the safest room in their house on this night in the hopes of fending off evil and dark spirits the witches might bring.

lights and people

Venezuela – Rollerblading Santas

In Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, the streets are closed on Christmas morning so that citizens can roller skate to church services. They are guided along by fireworks and skaters dressed up as Santas and other Christmas related costumes!

Spain – Caga Tió

In the Spanish region of Catalonia, the Caga Tió (Pooping log) or Tió de Nadal (Christmas Log) arrives in early December to mark the Christmas season. This large log is decorated with Christmas hats and facial features and as far as the name goes, it ‘poops’ out presents when children hit it with a stick, singing the traditional Caga Tió song!

christmas lights woman in beanie

Raising children to speak more than one language has many benefits but is not without its challenges.

A parent or parents whose heritage language is not English may want their child to speak that language. Bilingualism benefits the child, the family, and the wider community.

The benefits of bilingualism include:

Children’s brains are most flexible between the ages of zero and three, which makes them uniquely suited to learning another language during this time.

Children’s brains are most flexible between the ages of zero and three, which makes them uniquely suited to learning another language during this time. Two- and three-year-olds have started to recognise speech patterns they’ve been hearing since birth, increasing their vocabularies in the process. So, the earlier a second language is introduced, the easier it will be for the child to learn its unique sounds.

The earlier parents introduce their child to a second language, the better.

Parents can start their newborn on the path to learning another language by singing to them in a second language. Singing is a fun, creative way to help the child learn and remember words and sentence structure. Songs with cultural significance – such as those passed down generationally – can have extra meaning for a child.

It’s easy to begin teaching a second language in this way: choose a simple song, incorporate hand gestures, and use lots of facial and vocal expression when singing. Explain the lyrics and praise the child when they sing along or copy the hand actions.

This mode of teaching can continue until the child is six, with the song being changed to suit the child’s age.

To nurture bilingualism, children need to be consistently exposed to two languages.

To nurture bilingualism, children need to be consistently exposed to two languages. A popular approach is the One Person, One Language (OPOL) method, where one person in a bilingual household – usually a parent – always speaks to the child in one language. This approach is particularly effective where each parent speaks a different language.

For example, one parent speaks Russian, the other English. If each parent speaks a language in addition to English – one speaks Italian and the other Greek, say – they can teach their child both languages. Ideally, both parents should understand each other’s languages so neither feels left out.

The OPOL method can be adapted to suit individual families. Parents should create a plan to determine at what age the language should be learned, whether the child has a real need for the language, how frequently the language will be used by parents, and what other supports parents can access.

Using the OPOL approach, one parent speaks to the child only in their heritage language.

Alternatively, if both parents speak the same heritage language, they might want to make this the language used at home while the child learns English outside of the home.

There are many ways that parents can support their child’s second-language development, whether at home, through play and games, or involvement in community activities:

  • Read, tell stories, or play games in a heritage language and encourage the child to join in. Some examples of games might be ‘I spy’, ‘Who am I?’, or bingo.
  • Play music in the chosen language. Melody helps children to remember things.
  • Download word game apps in that language.
  • Look for schools, childcare centres, or bilingual or multilingual programs that support the child’s use of the language.
  • Have playtime with other children that speak the language.
  • Visit countries where the language is spoken, which will boost the child’s interest in the culture and improve their ability to speak the language.
  • Take the child to cultural activities so that they gain a better understanding of cultural heritage and identity.
  • Connect with family living overseas online or through video-messaging apps.
  • Incorporate language into the child’s interests. For example, through sport, music, TV shows, or cooking.
  • Watch movies or sports in the chosen language.
Second-language learning can be incorporated into interactions with extended family and activities such as cooking.

In addition to being a long-term commitment, there are other challenges associated with raising a bilingual child, including societal pressure to speak only English.

In addition to being a long-term commitment, there are other challenges associated with raising a bilingual child, including societal pressure to speak only English. Parents needs to continue to teach their child their heritage language despite this pressure, and keep their child motivated to do so.

They can do this by explaining the cultural importance and benefits of bilingualism and by including family, friends, and other resources such as bilingual playgroups.

Australia-wide resources are available to assist parents raising a bilingual child, including SBS Radio, which broadcasts in 74 different languages, and the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council (NEMBC), who advocate for media diversity and help people connect with their ancestry, language and culture, and help counter racism. Harmony Week is a community event held in March each year to celebrate Australia’s cultural diversity.

Each state also has its own resources that parents can access for support:

The top five teas you should be drinking this spring.

Tea. It’s been around for centuries. It’s been used for medicinal purposes, beauty products and has even become a euphemism for gossip, but what is all the rage?

Tea has been essential to so many cultures around the world. There have been proven health benefits between the properties of tea and their effect on our immune systems, mood and health that have been around for centuries.

“When we sip tea, we are on our way to serenity,” says lifestyle philosopher, Alexandra Stoddard.

Green Tea

Research has shown that green tea is one of the healthiest drinks going around.

Green tea is made with unoxidized tea leaves which contain flavonoids – a group of plant-based chemicals that have been shown to reduce coronary inflammation.

Here are some of the major health benefits associated with daily consumption of green tea:

  • Contains healthy bioactive compounds – The nutrients found in green tea have been linked to treating various disease including some cancers, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and may help prevent type two diabetes.
  • Boosts metabolic rate which increases fat burn.
  • May improve brain function – Green tea contains caffeine which is a stimulant that increases brain activity including mood, memory, vigilance and reaction time.

In a season where immunity is still compromised, the antiviral properties of green tea are a natural way to help fight off colds this spring.

Peppermint Tea

With its minty properties, peppermint tea has been used for its taste and medicinal properties for hundreds of years.

Some reasons to incorporate peppermint tea this spring are:

  • Can reduce headaches – A 2016 study into peppermint oil found that there was a link between the cooling nature of the substance and the easing of migraines.
  • Breathing in the vapours of hot, peppermint tea can reduce nasal congestion. This is particularly useful in combatting winter colds.
  • Peppermint tea can aid in digestion relief for those suffering with upset bowels.
  • Peppermint capsules may help fight bacterial infections while tea several types of mouth bacteria.

Chamomile Tea

This flowery tea has a relaxing essence that soothes the senses. Chilly nights can be warmed with this fragrant tea that the whole family will enjoy.

People incorporate this tea into their diet for a variety of health benefits as seen below:

  • Proven to help irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and can be a fantastic preventative measure for harmful bacteria.
  • Can help with sleeping as it relaxes the nerves, according to Dietician Anshul Jaibharat.
  • In a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Chemistry, it found that chamomile can help reduce muscle spasms and period pain by decreasing the production of prostaglandins.

Ginger Tea

Despite its infamous, polarising reputation, ginger tea is one of the best teas to help with unsettled stomachs. Its light spice soothes and relaxes stomachs.

  • Can reduce nausea and morning sickness in expectant mothers through acceleration of the gastric processes.
  • Ginger tea can help alleviate issues surrounding the heart all the way from relieving heartburn to helping to protect against heart disease.
  • May help to alleviate pain from inflammation and sore muscles. 

Lavender Tea

The refreshing scent of lavender perfectly transitions to the calming brew of lavender tea. Here are the main reasons lavender tea is a winner:

  • May help boost sleep – enjoying a cup before bed can help you to unwind.
  • Can help improve skin health.