Breaking With Tradition: 7 Less Familiar Holiday Rituals

Posted by Safeco November 26, 2015
Pickle Ornament

Nothing Says 'Christmas' Like a Pickle

For many people, one of the best things about the holiday season is its predictability. Considering the pace of change in modern life, it can be reassuring to pull out the same decorations, cook up the same treats and visit the same people as you did last year. That is, to immerse yourself in holiday tradition.

But, what exactly constitutes a tradition? Turkey for Thanksgiving, menorahs for Hanukkah, trees for Christmas—what else? Holiday celebrations vary widely across the country. What seems ordinary in one place may seem unusual, or even a little odd, in another. For example:

  1. Christmas boat parades: It's sort of a variation on caroling, but instead of walking door to door, you sail dock to dock. Typically a lavishly decorated boat carrying carolers leads the parade, with private citizens in their own decorated vessels following. The parades are especially popular on the West Coast – think San Diego, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach and Seattle, among other cities and ports. But, they also happen in St. Petersburg, Palm Beach and Pompano Beach, Florida; in Virginia; and even in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  2. Lighted Farm Implement Parade: Too far inland for a boat parade? Improvise! In Sunnyside, Washington, in the state's Yakima Valley, you’ll find what’s touted as, "the oldest lighted farm implement parade in the nation,” featuring more than 50 lighted farm implements and vehicles. Held annually since 1989, it's scheduled for Dec. 5 this year.
  3. Polar bear plunges: Meanwhile, back in the water, thousands of people around the world jump into freezing cold lakes, bays and rivers, usually for New Year's. Some say it's for their health, others do it for charity and still others for the sheer fun (and chill) of it all. Maryland State Police sponsor the biggest event in the U.S., marking its 20th anniversary in 2016, at Sandy Point Beach.
  4. Red underwear for love: From Latin America comes the tradition that the color of your undergarments on New Year's Eve will influence the year ahead. Red is for love and romance, yellow for prosperity and success, white for peace and harmony and green for health and well-being.
  5. Black-eyed peas for luck: Hoppin’ John, a southern dish and New Year’s Day staple, includes these legumes, which symbolize luck and prosperity, along with rice and smoked bacon.
  6. Turkey on the beach: If you've been to a Hawaiian luau, you may have had kalua pork—a pig slow roasted in an imu, an underground earth oven. For Thanksgiving and Christmas, turkeys were traditionally cooked the same way, wrapped in ti or banana leaves. For a modern variation, the turkeys are rubbed with coarse salt, wrapped and roasted for hours in the oven. Then they're shredded and served with rice and pineapple.
  7. The Christmas pickle: No one seems to know exactly where this curious tradition originated. On Christmas Eve, parents hide a green pickle ornament somewhere on the Christmas tree. The first child to find it gets a prize. Some have argued that the tradition came from Germany; others say it has something to do with a Civil War incident. Then there are those who say it was all a 19th-century marketing gimmick by Woolworth's to sell more ornaments.

Whatever the tradition, the key is creating happy memories—happy enough to make you want to do it again next year. Have a wonderful holiday season!


Celebrate With Safety in Mind

Have your holiday fun, but be safe doing it with these tips on driving on snow and ice, celebrating with pets and shopping for gifts.

Topics: Holidays

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