Genealogy is about families through the ages. Filling in our pedigree charts with names, dates, and places is very satisfying, but it is the stories and traditions of our ancestors that turn our hearts to them and help us feel we are part of something greater than our individual selves. For many families, the most enduring traditions have been made and kept around the holiday season—especially Christmas.
Where were your ancestors from? Does your family still carry on some of their distinctive cultural traditions? If you’re not sure, get some inspiration from these unique traditions from countries around the world, and then jump into your family tree to discover how you can make your own ancestral heritage part of the holiday season this year.
Little Candles’ Day, Colombia
Little Candles’ Day (Día de las Velitas) marks the start of the Christmas season across Colombia.
In honor of the Virgin Mary and the Immaculate Conception, people place candles and paper lanterns in their windows, balconies, and front yards.
Yule Lads, Iceland
In Iceland, in the 13 days leading up to Christmas, 13 mischievous trolls called Yule Lads (jólasveinar in Icelandic) come out to play.
For each night of Yuletide, children place their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits, leaving gifts for nice girls and boys and rotten potatoes for the naughty ones.
Christmas Eve, Venezuela
In Caracas, Venezuela, every Christmas Eve, the city’s residents head to church in the early morning—on roller-skates.
This unique tradition is so popular that roads across the city are closed to cars, so people can skate to church in safety before heading home for a traditional Christmas dinner of hot tamales.
In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas arrives on the evening of December 5th. Children leave a shoe out by the fireplace or windowsill and sing Sinterklaas songs in the hope that he will fill them with presents.
They also leave some hay and carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas’s horse.