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Around the World: Holiday Traditions

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Each year, we update and add to our "Around the World" section with hand-crafted cutout displays that exemplify how different countries celebrate the season! This year we have Africa, Alaska, France, Hawaii, Japan, Mexico, Poland, and Sweden! Find out what each country does for Christmas by reading below!

Don't forget to tell us what tradition were you most surprised by on Facebook or Instagram!

Take a sleigh Around the World at WI Christmas Carnival of Lights


The celebration of Kwanzaa consists of 7 days, each representing a certain principle. According to an in-depth article on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the 7 principles lit each day on the candleholder (Kinara) are:

Umoja (Unity)

"To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race."

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)

"To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves."

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)

"To build and maintain our community together and make our community’s problems our problems and to solve them together."

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)

"To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together."

Nia (Purpose)

"To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness."

Kuumba (Creativity)

"To do always as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it."

Imani (Faith)

"To believe with all our hearts in our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle."


In the villages of Polar Inuits, families like to visit each other and have parties. They drink coffee, eat cakes, and exchange brightly wrapped parcels. Traditional presents are model sledges, pairs of polished walrus tusks, or sealskin mitts.


Did you know the snow globe originated in France? In our "Around the World" section you will find 4 different snow globes and our version of the Eiffel tower decorated in Christmas lights. "The oldest known description of a snow globe–like object comes from an 1880 U.S. Commissioners report on the 1878 Paris Universal Exposition, where a local glassware company showcased a group of “paper weights of hollow balls filled with water, containing a man with an umbrella.” (Kim Hart, "A Brief History of the Snow Globe")


The phrase "Mele Kalikimaka" translates from Hawaiian to mean "Merry Christmas." It is also a Hawaiian themed Christmas song performed by Bing Crosby. When you spot Santa in a canoe surrounded by dolphins, we weren’t just playing around. In Hawaii you will see people wearing Santa hats! In addition, the traditional Santa's sleigh and reindeer are replaced by an outrigger canoe pulled by dolphins.


Christmas Eve in Japan is celebrated similarly to Valentine's Day. How did we depict this in our light show? You’ll find Cindy Bear stealing a kiss from Yogi Bear™! Couples and friends get together, have dinner, see Christmas lights, and exchange gifts.

Wondering what the dinner of choice is in Japan on Christmas? It’s not Japanese food. Chicken is the main dish for Japanese Christmas Eve dinner! A sponge cake with cream and strawberries is simply referred to as “Christmas cake." You’ll find both as hand-crafted cutouts in our display.

"Interestingly, one of the most popular places to get your fill of Christmas Eve chicken is at KFC. In fact, we can probably say that it is thanks to KFC that the whole chicken on Christmas Eve thing became popular in Japan in the first place." (Jessica Corteman, A Japanese Christmas...)


Posadas, a series of parties occurring every day from the 16th until the 24th of December, start the Christmas traditions in Mexico! Posadas consist "of a reenactment of Mary and Joseph asking for lodging before arriving at the manger. During this reenactment, half of the people stay inside, these are the innkeepers, and the other half goes outside singing and asking for lodging in a candlelit procession that lasts until they reach the place of the party (where the innkeepers are). Once they let them in, the party begins." (Natalie Espinosa, "Piñatas, A Christmas Tradition") The party itself consists of Christmas carols, fruit punch is, and a star-shaped piñata. Fun Fact! This festivity is where the piñata originated!


In our Poland display you will find a hand holding an opłatek. This is a wafer, usually rectangular in shape. Opłatki wafers are embossed with Christmas-related religious images. Before the meal on Christmas Eve, the family gathers around the table. Family members pass along and break off a piece of the wafer while a prayer for loved ones is spoken. The eldest member begins this ritual. (Wikipedia)

In our Polish section you will also find an image of hay on a plate. The hay represents a reminder that Jesus Christ was born in a manger. According to tradition, an empty place setting is symbolically left at the table for the Lord or for a lost wanderer who may be in need of food or shelter.


The Swedish Christmas begins on December 13th with Saint Lucia Day. "Saint Lucia was a third-century martyr who brought food to persecuted Christians in hiding. Usually, the eldest girl in the family portrays St. Lucia, putting on a white robe in the morning and wearing a crown of candles (or a safer substitute)." (Terri Mapes, Christmas in Scandinavia: Traditions, Events, and Foods)

Decorating a Christmas tree inside your home can be traced back to the 18th century! Christmas trees were usually decorated with edible things: think fruits, sweets, and real candles! They hung apples on the tip of the branches to make them heavier and thus placing the candles further apart to prevent fire hazards.

You can find the following on a Swedish Christmas Tree (Julgran): "A star to put in the top to symbolize the star of Bethlehem (Stjärna),

Electric candles (Ljusslinga),

Tinsel (Glitter), &

Glass baubles in any color (Julgranskulor)"

Quite often you can also find the following:

Decorations made of straw (for example goats, hearts and stars),

Lollipops (Polkagrisar), &

Christmas crackers (Smällkarameller)." (Jennie, The Swedish Christmas Tree)

We hope you enjoyed reading about different traditions of the places we've featured in our show's "Around the World" section this year! What tradition were you most surprised by?

Tell us on Facebook or Instagram!

A huge thank you goes out to all of our staff members that took the time to hand-craft every single cutout display in our light show. To show our thanks, each staff member (and book character) has a dedicated stocking within our light show!

We have such a talented and thoughtful family here at WI Christmas Carnival of Lights. Each year, their hard work reminds us how grateful we are to have extended our family with each dedicated employee. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all (and to all a good night)!

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