When you travel, you can get involved in some weird foreign celebrations. Because Ruth’s birthday is December 28, we have been out of the United States many times near her birthday. This has led to some interesting situations. One Christmas we were in Spain. We tried to celebrate the season on the holiday bus in Madrid, but it never came. That week we were victimized by petty crimes all week. Is this a holiday tradition? We were mugged on the public transportation system, sold damaged goods, and someone was in our hotel room when we were away. Lingering cigarette smoke was only one of the clues for that last one. There were at least seven different incidents like these this fateful week. On Christmas Day absolutely nothing was opened but the churches. We went from one elaborately decorated church to the next until 4 pm when the streets exploded with celebrators. Absolutely everyone was out and ready to party.
Another time we were in Ireland at Christmas. We had to vacate our hotel because it was closing for the holiday. Luckily, we found the only opened hotel in Cork and had a ball. It became our favorite Christmas ever. The day after Christmas was even weirder. It was Boxing Day and nothing was opened. Even our taxi driver didn’t know that everything was shut down. We had an international flight that evening and had to get back to Dublin. He took us to the train station early in the day, but the entire national system was shut down, so he took us to the bus station. A bus to Dublin was leaving in 15 minutes, and there were no other buses that day. We made that bus! Later we learned that Boxing Day is also celebrated in the UK, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and other places.
In Italy a lot of people get involved with La Befana at holiday time. She is a kind old witch on a broom. La Befana gives out gifts after Christmas on January 5. Some leave her a plate of broccoli and a glass of wine.
Many people in Japan, where the mourning color is white instead of black, celebrate Christmas by having KFC. Eating Kentucky Fried Chicken is a holiday tradition for many Japanese.
People in Turkmenistan celebrate Melon Day by eating a muskmelon. People in Green River, UT always celebrate Melon Days on the 3rd weekend in September when their delicious cantaloupes, watermelons, and honeydews are in full flavor and indulged in.
The people on the islands of Vanuatu have some strange holiday traditions. Our son-in-law’s mother was born there so we know. The strangest practice among many others is the land-diving ceremony on Pentecost Island that celebrates the yam harvest. To honor yams, males dive from wooden towers with vines tied to their ankles. This can become quite dangerous and head damaging.
Wales and Scotland have some interesting, culturally rich holiday traditions. The most vivid one in Wales is Mari Lwyd. This involves caroling with a dead horse at Christmas time.
Picnic Day is among some Aussie celebrations, but it’s a more common practice in the Northern Territory. I think a day to picnic is a fine tradition, but I was especially for it when Picnic Day was officially declared on June 18, my birthday.
I want to be in Gilroy, CA some time for the Garlic Festival in July. I have heard that locals celebrate with garlic ice cream. Yum!
I also want to be in Finland some year for Cemetery Day. On this annual holiday Finns descend on the cemeteries where family members have been interred to wash the tomb and party with the dead.