Steve Eighinger

From caterpillars to KFC, Christmas traditions vary

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 4, 2018 9:10 am

Have you ever sat back and thought about some of the heartwarming Christmas traditions your family has enjoyed over the years?

Maybe it's gathering on Christmas Eve in front of a fireplace with hot chocolate and some tasty pastries in hand.

Or possibly it's watching sons and daughters or nieces and nephews open their presents around a brightly lit Christmas tree.

Most of us would likely consider those types of memories and traditions the norm, but what about other countries?

Consider:

º In South Africa, the traditional Christmastime food is not a well-glazed turkey, mashed potatoes and assortment of baked goods. The most popular cuisine is fried caterpillar. Big, fried caterpillars. Eating them is supposed to bring good luck for the coming year. I would think the best luck would be not having to eat big, fried caterpillars the following holiday season.

º In Sweden, almost half the population traditionally watches a 1958 Donald Duck Christmas cartoon special. All holiday activities are planned around this Donald Duck broadcast, a tradition that dates to the early 1960s. It's kind of goofy, but I'd rather watch Donald Duck cartoons than eat one of those caterpillars in South Africa.

º In Finland, many of the homes come equipped with their own sauna, which at Christmas time becomes a sacred place associated with dead ancestors from long ago. It's a Christmas Eve custom for family members to strip naked and spend some quality time in the family sauna reconnecting with the spirits of loved ones from the past. Afterward, the family members gather for a celebration. I'm thinking I may choose eating the caterpillars over this awkward tradition.

º In the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, many in the city attend Christmas morning Mass on roller skates. It isn't clear how or why this tradition began, but it is so well-established that many of the city's streets are closed to traffic so that the skating congregation can get to church safely.

º In Japan, back in 1974 a tradition was started when American fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken released the popular marketing campaign "Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!" -- which translates to "Kentucky for Christmas!" Forty-four years later, that tradition is bigger than ever. All across Japan, families head to their local KFC for a special Christmas Eve meal. I could definitely sink my teeth into this tradition.