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9 of the most intriguing Christmas-time traditions from around the world

From the log that poops out Christmas presents in Catalonia to a towering cat that eats lazy children in Iceland, here are some fascinating holiday traditions that have emerged around the globe.

log with legs, a smiley face, a hat and a blenket

The Tió de Nadal eats food scraps and poos candy and presents.

Christmas is celebrated around the world, but it looks a bit different everywhere you go. While there are some fairly universal traditions, such as decorating a tree and giving gifts, there are some traditions specific to different cultures that are both unique and intriguing.

Check these out:

1. ITALY—La Befana: The Good Witch

women in la befana costumes holding broomsticksWomen dressed up as La BefanaEleonora Gianinetto/Wikimedia Commons

In Italy, La Befana is a good witch who flies around on a broomstick on January 5th, the night before Epiphany. Children put their shoes out with a glass of wine and a piece of bread for La Befana, and fills their shoes with candy or small gifts—or chunks of coal, onions or garlic for the naughty ones

2. ICELAND—The Yule Lads

Iceland’s 13 Yule Lads are merry and mischievous troll-like figures, each with a different name and personality. They visit children one at a time during the 13 days leading up to Christmas, leaving gifts and playing tricks, including leaving rotten potatoes in the shoes of kids who don’t behave. According to the Smithsonian, the Yule Lads used to be a lot creepier, but in 1746, the country outlawed scaring children with monstrous tales about the 13 lads. (Would love to know what prompted that law!)

3. ALSO ICELAND—The Yule Cat

yule cat sculpture

Yule Cat on display in downtown Reykjavik, December 2022

ProcrastinatingHistorian/Wikimedia Commons

As if the Yule Lads weren’t enough, a towering, fearsome cat roams the Icelandic countryside around Christmastime, peeking into homes to spy on children’s presents. In Icelandic tradition, if kids get all of their chores done, they are gifted some new clothes. If the Yule Cat (aka Jólakötturinn) sees that a child wasn’t given clothes (in other words, a child was lazy), the cat proceeds to eats the child’s dinner and then moves on to eating the child. Yes, you read that right. It eats the child. Icelandic folklore doesn’t mess around.

4. PHILIPPINES—The Giant Lantern Festival

five colorful, lit up displays

Giant Lantern Festival 2012

Ramon FVelasquez/Wikimedia Commons

In the Philippines, the Giant Lantern Festival is held in San Fernando City (dubbed the Christmas capital of the Philippines) every year the week before Christmas Eve. According to Travel & Leisure, the lantern tradition is rooted in the history of Filipino Catholics building small, colorful lanterns to light up the procession to Christmas Eve mass. The giant parol lanterns for the festival, however, are huge—up to 20 feet tall—and it can take up to 10,000 light bulbs to illuminate them.

5. SPAIN (CATALONIA)—The Tió de Nadal (pooping log)

log with legs, a smiley face, a hat and a blenket

The Tió de Nadal is a Catalan Christmas tradition.

Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Some cultures have a yule log. Catalonia, Spain, has the Tió de Nadal—a log with a hat, a blanket, a smiley face and a penchant for pooping out presents. Children feed the smiling log scraps of food at night and it poop out presents on Christmas Day. There's even a song kids sing to the log, imploring it to not poop out salted herring (too salty), but nougats in instead, all while hitting the log with a stick. According to Catalan tradition, the eating of the scraps and the beating with the stick leads to Tió de Nadal pooping out presents and nougat on Christmas. And apparently, no one questions it.

6. BAVARIA—The Krampus

person wearing a scary looking horned mask

Krampus costume

Anita Martinz/Wikimedia Commons

In Bavaria (which includes Austria, Germany, Switzerland and some of the surrounding area), the Krampus is a centuries-old tradition that has been revived in modern times. The Krampus is a horned, hairy, hellish creature who follows St. Nick on his rounds to punish naughty children by scaring them (or tossing them in a sack and beating them). Many cities hold Krampus festivals each year, where people parade around in Krampus costumes like the one above.

7. VENEZUELA—Roller Skating to Christmas Mass

someone skating outside in pink roller skates

Venezuelans roller skate on Christmas

Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

Most of us don't association Christmas with roller skating, but that's not the case for Venezuelans. Christmas is an all-night roller skating party, which includes singing Christmas songs and culminates with everyone rolling their way to Christmas Mass at dawn. Most interestingly, according to a Venezuelan woman's explanation in America Magazine, it's not even like Venezuelans are a big roller skating culture the rest of the year—it's just a Christmas thing.

8. JAPAN—A Finger Lickin' Good Tradition

people lined up outside a Kentucky Fried Chicken

KFCs are packed for Christmas in Japan

Photo by Stabel Webel on Unsplash

Japan doesn't have a long history with Christmas and thus no long-standing traditions associated with it. What they do have is 50 years of eating KFC for Christmas, thanks to a "Kentucky for Christmas" marketing campaign launched by the first KFC restaurant owner in Nagoya, Japan, in 1970. Somehow, it stuck and is now a beloved tradition for millions of Japanese families.

9. UKRAINE—Spider Webs on Christmas Trees

spider and spider web ornament in tree

Ukrainians celebrate spiders at Christmas.

Erika Smith/Wikimedia Commons

According to Ukrainian legend, an impoverished widow and her children grew a tree from a pinecone outside of their house, but they were too poor to decorate it for Christmas. The household spiders heard the children's sobs and spun their webs into decorations overnight. When the children awoke on Christmas morning, they cried out “Mother, mother wake up and see the tree. It is beautiful!” As the day went on and the sun's rays hit the delicate webs, they transformed into silver and gold and the widow never wanted for anything again. Today, Ukrainians decorate trees with spider webs for good luck and fortune in the new year.

Whatever your family or cultural holiday traditions are, let's celebrate the differences that make our world so interesting.

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Pop Culture

UPS driver shares his weekly paycheck, and now everyone wants to apply

People are shocked to find out how much delivery drivers make.

@skylerleestutzman/TikTok

People were shocked to find out how much Skyler Stutzman earned as a UPS driver

People are seriously considering switching careers after finding out how much can be made as a UPS delivery driver.

Back in October, Skyler Stutzman, an Oregon-based UPS delivery driver went viral after sharing his weekly pay stub on TikTok.

In the clip, Stutzman showed that for 42 hours of work, and at a pay rate of $44.26 per hour, he earned $2,004 before taxes, and ultimately took home $1,300 after deductions.

This both shocked the nearly 12 million viewers who saw the video…not to mention it stirred their jealousy a bit.

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Do you ever feel like you could be doing more when it comes to making a positive impact on your community? The messaging around giving back is louder than ever this time of year, and for good reason; It is the season of giving, after all.

If you’ve ever wondered who is responsible for bringing many of the giving-back initiatives to life, it’s probably not who you’d expect. The masterminds behind these types of campaigns are project managers.

Using their talents and skills, often proven by earning certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI), project managers are driving real change and increasing the success rate on projects that truly improve our world.

To celebrate the work that project managers are doing behind the scenes to make a difference, we spoke with two people doing more than their part to make an impact.

In his current role as a Project Management Professional (PMP)-certified project manager and environmental engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Joshua Williard oversees the cleanup of some of America’s most contaminated and hazardous waste sites.

Courtesy of Joshua Williard

“Recently, I was part of a four-person diving team sent to collect contaminated sediment samples from the bottom of a river in Southeastern Virginia. We wanted to ensure a containment wall was successfully blocking the release of waste into an adjacent river,” Williard says.

Through his work, Josh drives restoration efforts to completion so contaminated land can again be used beneficially, and so future generations will not be at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.

“I’ve been inspired by the natural world from a young age and always loved being outside. As I gained an understanding about Earth's trajectory, I realized that I wanted to be part of trying to save it and keep it for future generations.

“I learned the importance of using different management styles to address various project challenges. I saw the value in building meaningful relationships with key community members. I came to see that effective project management can make a real difference in getting things done and having on-the-ground impact,” Williard says.

In addition, Monica Chan’s career in project management has enabled her to work at the forefront of conservation efforts with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US). She most recently has been managing a climate change project, working with a diverse team including scientists, policy experts, data analysts, biologists, communicators, and more. The goal is to leverage grants to protect and restore mangroves, forests, and ecosystems, and drive demand in seaweed farming – all to harness nature's power to address the climate crisis.

Courtesy of Monica Chan

“As the project management lead for WWF-US, I am collaborating across the organization to build a project management framework that adapts to our diverse projects. Given that WWF's overarching objectives center on conserving nature and addressing imminent threats to the diversity of life on Earth, the stakes are exceptionally high in how we approach projects,” says Chan.

“Throughout my journey, I've discovered a deep passion for project management's ability to unite people for shared goals, contributing meaningfully to environmental conservation,” she says.

With skills learned from on-the-job experience and resources from PMI, project managers are the central point of connection for social impact campaigns, driving them forward and solving problems along the way. They are integral to bringing these projects to life, and they find support from their peers in PMI’s community.

PMI has a global network of more than 300 chapters and serves as a community for project managers – at every stage of their career. Members can share knowledge, celebrate impact, and learn together through resources, events, and other programs such as PMI’s Hours for Impact program, which encourages PMI members to volunteer their time to projects directly supporting the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“By tapping into PMI's extensive network and resources, I've expanded my project management knowledge and skills, gaining insights from seasoned professionals in diverse industries, including environmental management. Exposure to different perspectives has kept me informed about industry trends, best practices, and allowed me to tailor my approach to the unique challenges of the non-profit sector,” Chan says.

“Obtaining my PMP certification has been a game-changer, propelling not only my career growth, but also reshaping my approach to daily projects, both personally and professionally,” Chan says. Research from PMI shows that a career in project management means being part of an industry on the rise, as the global economy will need 25 million new project professionals by 2030 and the median salary for project practitioners in the U.S. is $120K.

PMI’s mission is to help professionals build project management skills through online courses, networking, and other learning opportunities, help them prove their proficiency in project management through certifications, and champion the work that project professionals, like Joshua and Monica, do around the world.

For those interested in pursuing a career in project management to help make a difference, PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification could be the starting point to help get your foot in the door.

Courtesy of the Carbondale Public Library

Library book checked out in 1904 is finally returned

Just about everyone has had the misfortune of forgetting to return a library book. Some turn it in and pay whatever fine that's been assessed while others never find the book and decide to pay for the replacement. But there's a small group of people that don't return the missing book or pay the library to replace it. It's simply checked out forever for reasons no one knows.

Horace Short fell into the latter category. Back in 1904, Mr. Short checked out "The Cruise of the Esmeralda" by Harry Collingwood, a novel about adventures at sea, from the Carbondale Public Library. For some reason, Short never returned the book and librarians assumed it had been discarded according to Jessica Pratt, Adult Services Librarian at Carbondale Public Library.

Much to the delight and surprise of the librarians, the book was recently returned, 120 years late. Hawley Public Library found the antique book at their book sale and informed the Carbondale library of their discovery.

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A couple shares why they decided to leave the United States.

Although it is difficult to tell if there is a trend of Americans moving out of the country, rough estimates show that around 8 million currently live in other countries—double the 4.1 million living abroad in 1999.

The most popular countries for Americans to move to are Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom, in that order.

A big reason why some are leaving the U.S. is that an increasing number of employers allow people to work abroad. Others are choosing to leave because of cost of living increases and “golden visa” programs. Golden visas offer the chance to get a foreign residency permit by purchasing a house or making a significant investment or donation.

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Joy

People are sharing good things happening in America that are flying under the radar

Don't let negative headlines overshadow the positive things happening all around us.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

We can all use some good news, and thankfully, there's plenty of it.

When you watch or read the news, it can be easy to get down on the world. It's not your imagination that the news has a negativity bias. One study showed that headlines denoting anger, fear, disgust and sadness steadily increased from 2000 to 2019, making it even harder to stay informed without feeling a sense of despair or hopelessness.

But that doesn't meant that everything is bad. The reality is that there are wonderful things happening all around us that fly under the radar. Just because good news isn't flooding our social media feeds doesn't mean it isn't there—we just might have to dig through the muck and mire of the media to find it.

Or, as one person discovered, ask people to share in a Reddit thread.

When Reddit user u/NorthPengyyy asked the Ask Reddit board, "What is a good thing happening in the US right now that people aren’t aware of?" people delivered.

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Why North American can't build nice apartments.

One of the most beautiful features of old European neighborhoods are the rows of quaint, walk-up apartments that are the backbone of walkable neighborhoods. They help create a community where people can exit their front door and walk to a local café or market without getting in their car.

Unfortunately, these neighborhoods are hard to find in the United States, where these types of apartment buildings are exceedingly rare. Why is that? In the video below, About Here’s founder, Uytae Lee, explains why regulations in North America have made these quaint walk-up apartments, known by architects as point access blocks, nearly impossible to build.

Uytae Lee is an urban planner and videographer passionate about sharing stories about our cities.

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@nativeamerica_tiktok/TikTok

Creating magic for kids is the best.

There’s nothing quite like creating Christmas magic for kids. Seeing them light up at the mention of Santa, squeal with glee at Elf on a Shelf antics, look with pure awe and wonder at all the sights and sounds of the season…it all helps rekindle that inner child spark that tends to fade as we grow older. It’s one of the many things that makes being a parent so rewarding.

In an effort to create a little extra holiday whimsy for his daughter, a father named Chinook used his natural storytelling skills to make a unique tradition—all involving a pinecone and the magic of the moon.

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