Celebrating Christmas around the world, from Iceland to Vietnam

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KCRW’s staff members come from all around the world: Iceland, Israel, Vietnam, Mexico, Norway. They share how the holidays this season are celebrated in their native countries, along with other writers.


Press Play producer Alex Tryggvadottir and her dad Tryggvi Thorsteinsson explain that Christmas revolves around 13 Yule Lads. They’re brothers who used to terrorize the country’s natives. Sheep-Cote Clod was known for harassing sheep. Meat-Hook and Sausage-Swiper stole your meat. Door-Slammer slammed doors and kept everyone up at night. But in 1930s, they changed their ways. 

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Press Play producer Yael Even Or explains that Hanukkah is much more of a spectacle in the U.S. than in her native Israel. But one tradition that’s bigger there than here: eating sufganiyot (jelly-filled donuts).

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Press Play producer Amy Ta came to the U.S. around age 4, and Christmas was the most exciting time of the year growing up. She shares how her family celebrated the holiday -- plus Vietnamese New Year. Also, Saigon-based writer Andrew Lam says Christmas decorations are everywhere there, and American Christmas songs are played nonstop. He explains how the holiday became so popular... and it’s not focused on religion. 


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KCRW Communications Director Connie Alvarez says her family’s Christmas traditions involve going to grandma’s house and making tamales. Anaheim-based writer Gustavo Arellano explains the neighborhood party Las Posadas, which Olvera Street also puts on every year. 


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Press Play’s Resident Norwegian and producer Christian Bordal explains that Christmas in his native country begins at the start of December. Parties happen throughout the month, and there are special food, such as lutefisk (fish) and risengrynsgrøt (rice pudding). One of his favorite childhood holiday memories: advent calendars. We also hear from his friends in Oslo, Lasse and Ellen Thorkildsen.

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