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Around the world in weird and wonderful Christmas traditions

By Georgia Tindale 

It has to be said, one of the true strengths of the yachting industry can be found in its international makeup. 

Although some countries are particularly good at recruiting superyacht crew – here’s looking at you South Africa – more often than not, a superyacht crew is made up of individuals who hail from all different corners of the globe, bringing together a rich wealth of experience which benefits everyone on board. To celebrate this, here we look at some of the most interesting and unusual Christmas traditions from all around the world.

Hiding brooms in Norway 

Perhaps an overly familiar item to those who work in yacht interiors, the humble sweeping brush takes on a brand new meaning around Christmas time if you have Norwegian origins. 

According to Norwegian folklore, Christmas Eve is the day during which witches, spirits and ghoulies will take to the skies to undertake their mischief, tomfoolery and troublemaking. 

Seeing as witches will often use brooms as their preferred means of transport, it is traditional for Norwegian families to hide away any brooms to prevent witches from finding them and using them for their dastardly deeds. This is something to bear in mind, just in case any particularly adventurous witches make it to a port near you!

Snacking on caterpillars in South Africa 

If you are fortunate enough to have any South African yachting colleagues amongst your cohort, and they are looking a little peckish around Christmas time, it is worth noting that it might not be turkey, mince pies or any of the traditional festive fare that they are craving, but something a little more unexpected in the form of creepy crawlies. 

In South Africa, people chow down on fried caterpillars in the form of the pine tree emperor moth – dubbed the Christmas caterpillar – which are festive in hue and deep fried before eating in order to give everyone who enjoys them good luck for the coming year. Just try running this dinner idea by your chef for the charter Christmas dinner, you never know – it might be an unexpected hit. 

A festive Finnish sauna

With the gym and sauna a common fixture on many 21st-century superyachts, it is worth knowing that for Finnish people, the sauna becomes a particularly special and sacred place when the festive season comes around and is associated with long-dead ancestors.

On Christmas Eve, it is customary for Finnish people to have a long and respectful spell in the sauna, which is also thought to house the legendary sauna ‘elf’. Following this session, Finns will then venture out for the evening, allowing the spirits of their ancestors to take their place. 

A seasonal KFC dinner in Japan

The next story definitely highlights the incredible power that marketing can have to create cultural traditions. Back in 1974, the American fast food chain KFC released a festive marketing campaign in Japan with the simple slogan “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!" (Kentucky for Christmas!) which has spawned a national tradition that still continues today.

Despite Christmas not being a national holiday in Japan, families from all over the country will head to their local KFC branch for their traditional Christmas Eve chicken meal. Finger-lickin’ good! 

Roller Skate Mass in Caracas 

By far my favourite of these festive activities which I have found since conducting research for this article can be found in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. Every Christmas morning, hoards of city-dwellers don their skates and roll their way to Christmas mass. Bringing together communities from across the city, when mass is finished, people will convene in the street and at each others’ houses to share food, dance and play music together.  

Although the origins of this tradition aren’t entirely clear, it is so well entrenched as a cultural tradition, that many of the city’s streets are closed to traffic from 8am so that the congregation can reach the church safely in one piece. It is even said that children will sleep with one lace from their skates tied around their toe and the other skate dangling out of the window so that they can be woken up by their friends with a friendly tug of the lace - ready to get their skates on! 

Admittedly, this final tradition may be a little harder to get going on a superyacht, but where there is a will (or sufficient space for a quick roller skate) there is a way!

At Yotspot, we wish you all a peaceful and happy Christmas and new year – and look forward to helping more of you find your perfect position on board a yacht in 2023 and beyond. For more information about our current job vacancies, just visit our listings site here.