The holidays are a time for celebration, but for the 8,800 Western Union employees located in 55 countries, the ways in which we mark the season can be as diverse and unique as our team members. Here are some traditions shared straight from our colleagues:

Brandon Singleton of the U.S. Virgin Islands enjoys a popular New Year’s tradition known as J’ouvert.

“Beginning at sunrise, a flatbed truck with a steel band playing on the back begins driving down the street. People line up behind it and dance through the street, with the dancing parade usually ending at the festival village. It’s exhausting – but it’s a lot of fun.”

In the U.K., Elizabeth Roscoe looks forward to Christmas pudding and a little football.

“On Christmas day, people have X-mas pudding. It was traditional years ago to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The coin was believed to bring wealth in the coming year. … The day after X-mas is Boxing Day and is also a national holiday – it’s a big traditional football (soccer) day.”

Valerie C. O’Donnell says in Ireland, crackers are typically pulled at holiday parties. A cracker is a cardboard tube wrapped in a festively decorated twist of paper. It’s pulled from each end wishbone-style by two people, and the person who ends up with the larger portion empties the contents of the tube – usually a colored paper hat, a trinket or toy, and a joke or riddle on a strip of paper – and keeps them.

Caroling and Sri Lankan Christmas cake are always on the menu for Niro Perera.

“I am a Catholic and therefore Christmas in Sri Lanka included exchanging gifts with family and friends, gifts under the tree, midnight mass, singing carols at friends’ houses, a Yule log, Sri Lankan Christmas cake, and lots of goodwill and good cheer, and of course … Santa Claus.”

In Mexico, Lidia Teresa Cabrera celebrates the new year with “the 12 grapes of luck,” a tradition where you eat a grape with each bell strike at midnight on Dec. 31. Each grape represents a wish for the new year. She also enjoys “posadas,” a nine-day celebration symbolizing Mary’s pregnancy carrying Jesus, festive piñatas, and food and drink relating to the season, specifically “Mexican Ponche” (a warm, aromatic beverage made of tejocotes, tamarind, guavas, green apples, cane, orange juice and piloncillo) and “buñuelo,” made from a yeasted dough with a hint of anise that’s deep-fried, then drenched in a syrup of brown sugar, cinnamon and guava.

Lidia Grapes

Photo Courtesy of Lidia Teresa Cabrera

Christmas celebrations come a little early in the Czech Republic, says Nicole Kucera.

“One of the main Christmas traditions in the Czech Republic is going to the Christmas markets and picking out a carp fish. Oftentimes, they are brought home alive and stay in the bathtub until dinnertime. Czechs celebrate Christmas on the 24th, so the dinner is the most important part of the night, after which presents are then opened. The carp are breaded and fried into schnitzels and served with potato salad.”

Christmas Market - Nicole

Photo Courtesy of Nicole Kucera

Simon Millard says cricket plays a part of the tradition in his home in Australia. “Two of the great Australian Christmas traditions: The beach – nothing says Christmas quite like a prawn on the BBQ down at the beach; and cricket – The Boxing Day Test is one of the sporting highlights of the year, with Melbourne hosting the first day of the test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.”

Nicole Vogrin enjoys heading to the markets in Vienna, Austria, during the holidays.

“One of the major traditions in Austria (and I believe as well in most parts of Germany) is to visit Christmas markets during the Advent season (through December 24th). People have Punsch (a hot drink) and yummy food, and sometimes buy some handcrafted Christmas presents at those markets.”

A unique aspect of Frederick Crosby’s celebrations in Peru involves a home recipe.

“My Peruvian mother has a rice and raisin stuffing recipe she’s been using forever. It’s a little different – I don’t even know if it’s Latin or her own recipe. Otherwise, it’s not much different at our house than anyone else’s – turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans – some football watching beforehand.”

In Canada, Michelle Lindsay doesn’t let the winter cold stop her holiday festivities.

“We curl! On the ice at my cottage with bleach bottles filled with sand.”

Michelle - Curling

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Lindsay

Whether your festivities include caroling, curling, cricket, crackers, Christmas cake or carp, have a safe and happy holiday season!

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