When people ask me what my favourite thing about Christmas is, I tell them about my family traditions. They usually look at me like I have three heads. While most people look forward to gifts they receive, trips they take, or goodies they get, I look forward to the traditions that run through my family and cultural traditions that have been passed down through generations. 

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The holiday season over the years for me has become a collection of annual events that count down to the big day, with surprises, family and friends filling my calendar until Christmas. When talking among my friends, I realized how many fun and unknown traditions there were. They are sure to brighten up your holiday season.

1. Mikulás, Hungary

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Every year, Hungarian children prepare themselves for the arrival of Mikulás (Hungarian St. Nicholas). On the night of December 5th, children put their clean and shiny boots out for Mikulás to fill with treats. While most children are well behaved and receive chocolate in their boots, naughty children get golden sticks wrapped together instead!

2. Krampus, Austria

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Krampus is an evil horned creature who appears on the eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 5th, and takes away all the naughty children. Men in the towns dress in wooden masks, drag long wooden sticks and bags, and wear bells on their wrists so children can hear them coming. While long ago, children were dragged away in Krampus' Sack, Krampus is physically feared a little less by children today. The creature is simply celebrated through mask, demonstrations and parades.

3. Gävle Goat, Sweden

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The Gävle Goat is a Swedish tradition in which a Swedish Yule Goat made of straw is erected each year at the beginning of Advent. The goat stands in Slottstorget in Central Gävle. While it has become tradition for this goat to stand in the square each year, it has also become tradition to burn it down. Every year, various townspeople make attempts to burn down the goat without getting caught.

4. Day of the Little Candles, Colombia

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On December 7th, the eve of the Immaculate Conception, people place candles and paper lanterns on windowsills, balconies, porches, and sidewalks, as well as in the streets, parks, and squares. On December 8th, the candles and lanterns glow all day as various events and competitions take place. The tradition began when Pope Pius IX published his Apostolic constitution, Ineffabilis Deus. People lit candles in support of this, and the tradition carried on from year to year. 

5. Legend of the Christmas Spider, Ukraine 

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There is a folk tale in Ukraine that explains the origins of a peculiar Christmas decoration, cobwebs. Legend has it that a poor widow and her children once had a pine cone that fell into their hut and began to grow into a Christmas tree. However, they were too poor to be able to decorate it, and went to bed on Christmas Eve with the tree bare. The next morning, they awoke and the tree was decorated in cobwebs that shined silver and gold in the sunlight. Now in recognition of the story, families in Ukraine decorate their trees with cobwebs and spider ornaments. 

6. Hiding Brooms, Norway 

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Norwegians believe that with Christmas comes evil spirits. In response, they hide all the brooms on Christmas Eve! Norwegians believe that in hiding the brooms from evil spirits, they will not be able to ride around and wreck havoc on Christmas Day.

7. Babouscka, Russia 

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Babouscka is a little old woman who comes and brings little gifts  to all children on Christmas. Her story begins from the birth of Jesus, when the Three Kings, lost and cold, asked her to accompany them to go see Jesus in his manger. Babouscka declines, wishing to stay at home instead, but regrets this decision for the rest of her life. She continues on as a lonely woman for many years, and is said to bring presents and candy to all the children she checks in on at Christmas in hopes that one of them may be Him. 

8. Posadas, Mexico 

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In Mexico, the nine days leading up to Christmas have the most important tradition during the holiday season. They celebrate the journey of Mary and Joseph to find a place to stay by reenacting the events and going door to door. Each 'Inn Keeper' tells the couple they have no room for them to stay, and the couple keeps going until they are welcomed into a house that is hosting a party. There are pinãtas and singing, and tamales takes place with friends and families. 

9. Kalanta, Greece

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While many Christmas partakers celebrate the season by going door to door singing songs, caroling or Kalanta in Greece is a little different. Children go door to door around their neighbourhoods singing Christmas Carols, accompanied by triangles, bells or drums. Once families are done listening to the children sing, they are invited in to enjoy a refreshment or snack before moving along to the next house.

10. Guinness for Santa, Ireland 

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This tradition is one of my favourites. While here in Canada it is tradition to leave out a glass of milk and a couple cookies for Santa Claus, in Ireland, they leave out something that will make Santa's long night a little easier: a cold pint of Guinness. They make sure that alongside some mince pies, Santa has a tall drink of cold beer to help him along in his nightlong travels!

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No matter what the tradition, and no matter what the country, Christmas is magical and unique all over the world. This season is filled with so many wonderful and special traditions, celebrations and events that will put a smile on your face anywhere you are!