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Christmas and New Year Traditions Around the World

Christmas and New Year traditions are what make the festive season so magical and comforting, from the angelic sound of carol singing to the bountiful feasts of roast turkey with all the trimmings. From country to country, the traditions of other cultures vary, but they are equally as exciting. So, we’ve explored some of our favourite Exodus destinations from across the globe to give you an insight into different Yuletide rituals to inspire your travel for 2021.

Gourmetten Amsterdam

 1. Gourmetten - Amsterdam

The Dutch have certainly got it right when it comes to hosting the perfect Christmas feast. “Gourmetten” is a traditional Christmas dinner where guests are invited to cook their own food (such as cuts of meat and fresh vegetables) on oversized, sizzling hot plates, not too dissimilar to a raclette or fondue. Not only is this convenient for the host, but it also encourages interaction and a more intimate atmosphere filled with fun.

2021 will undoubtedly be an exciting year with the prospect of new travel adventures around the corner. As well as offering a cultural escape that’s close to home, our cycling trip from Amsterdam to Brussels means you can also travel by train. There will be lots of opportunities on your travels to immerse yourself in the customs of the Netherlands.

Dogsledding in forests, Sweden

 2. Christmas Julbord - Sweden

Unlike in the UK, Sweden celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve. Julbord, meaning Christmas table, is a traditional Christmas dinner in Sweden served buffet-style. A huge spread is made up of local dishes such as pickled herring, cold meats, gravlax (cured salmon), paté with knäckebröd (crispbreads), lutfisk (dried whitebait), and desserts. Many Swedish restaurants put on a Julbord from November up until Christmas so there’s plenty of time for all generations to come together and celebrate the festive season.

Extend your Christmas break in 2021 and delve deeper into the Nordic traditions on our Lapland Wilderness Week with Arctic activities such as dogsledding and snowshoeing through the Lappish forests.

Lake Titicaca

 3. Mass of the Rooster – Bolivia

Mass of the Rooster (Misa del Gallo) is an unusual yet intriguing Christmas celebration in Bolivia. Because Bolivians believe that a rooster crowed to announce the birth of Jesus Christ, it is tradition to gather at Mass on Christmas Eve, with some locals even bringing their own roosters along to the service!

During our 2021 Highlights of Bolivia tour, you’ll have the opportunity to explore even more of the indigenous Bolivian culture with trips to Potosi and the pre-Columbian UNESCO World Heritage Sites of El Fuerte and Tiwanaku, and a thrilling 4WD adventure of the diverse landscapes.

Dolomites in winter

4. La Befana – Italy

As well as children being visited by Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) on Christmas Eve, Italian folklore has it that on the Eve of Epiphany, on the 5th January, an old woman called La Befana flies around on her broomstick delivering gifts to children. Also known as the Italian Christmas Witch, it’s believed that La Befana was invited by the Three Wise Men to join them on their travels to visit baby Jesus, but she declined. She later regretted her decision which was the reason for her bearing gifts for the children. Similar to our Christmas Eve traditions, many Italian children and families hang up stockings and leave some food and a glass of wine for the Christmas Witch.

Not only can you explore the Italian landscapes on our Walking in the Prosecco Hills and the Highlights of the Dolomites tours, but you’ll also visit traditional towns and villages to get a real taste of the local culture and uncover their rich past.

Eating grapes at the Christmas markets in Spain

 5. Twelve Lucky Grapes - Spain

Although Spain has several New Year traditions, one of the more unique is Twelve Lucky Grapes, known in Spanish as “las doce uvas de la suerte”. As the countdown to midnight begins on New Year’s Eve, households are full of families racing to eat twelve grapes, one with every chime of the clock. It’s believed that each grape represents good fortune for each month of the year, so you can imagine the hilarious chaos once the clock starts to chime!

As the name suggests, our Authentic Andalucia tour gives you a flavour of Spanish traditions and cultural heritage. Step back in time at Moorish villages, get under the skin of cities such as Granada and Seville, visit the fortress and palace of Alhambra, and savour the regional wines at local vineyards.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

 6. Paper Throwing - Argentina

Buenos Aires brings a whole new meaning to “out with the old and in with the new” with their quirky New Year’s Eve tradition of throwing paper out of office windows. Before the year ends, usually around lunchtime, office workers rid their workspace of unwanted paper and ring in the New Year as they shower the city streets with confetti from their office window to symbolise a farewell to the past.

What better way to ring in the New Year yourself than with a trip to the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires on our Patagonia Highlights trip. This guided tour also takes you into the Torres del Paine National Park, among the glaciers of Los Glaciares National Park, and to the most southerly city in the world, Ushuaia.  

Kyoto, Japan

 7. 108 Rings – Japan

This long-standing Buddhist tradition has taken place on New Year’s Eve in temples across Japan for centuries. Believed to represent human sins such as anger and greed, the New Year’s Eve Bell (Joya-no-Kane) is rung 107 times with the final chime of 108 being rung on New Year’s Day. Each chime is said to rid the Japanese of the sins they may have committed during the past year.

Discover the culture and traditions of Ancient and Modern Japan on this captivating tour that guides you among ancient Buddhist temples and the shrines and gardens of Nara and Kyoto. In stark contrast to ancient Japan, you’ll also get to ride a high-speed bullet train and explore the ultra-modern city of Tokyo.

 

To keep an eye on what destinations open first for travel in 2021, why not create your own Exodus Wishlist. This will ensure that you get a head start at planning your next adventure while also allowing to be one of the first to receive an email notification when your favourite destinations are open for you to book your spot!