5 unique Christmas facts and traditions from around the world

Published: Saturday, December 23, 2017 @ 3:33 PM

Christmas decorations in Beirut, Lebanon
Christmas decorations in Beirut, Lebanon

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! With decorations popping up and cooler temperatures, the season is definitely upon us.

While you prepare for the holiday, with last minute shopping, finding the right tree and coordinating with family and friends, billions of others around the world will also be prepping for the season. Find out some interesting Christmas facts and how other nations around the world celebrate the season.

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1. Lebanon

Home to 18 recognized religious groups, including several major Christian sects, Lebanon actually marks Christmas twice each year. Maronites, Protestants and Catholics celebrate the holiday on Dec. 25, as in the U.S. However, Lebanese Orthodox and much of the country's sizable Armenian population mark the day according to the Gregorian calendar, meaning the day is celebrated on Jan. 6. Both dates are official holidays in the country.

While the country also has a large Muslim population, the entire country lights up for the holiday. Beirut, the capital, annually features a prominent Christmas tree in the city center, next to a large mosque and cathedral, which stand side by side. Colorful lights illuminate neighborhoods throughout the country, and Christians and many Muslims mark the holiday by spending time with their families.

2. Venezuela

While it may be normal for Christians around the world to attend church on Christmas Day, residents of Caracas have decided to add a special twist. Each Christmas Eve, Venezuelans in the capital head to church ... on roller skates. Streets are shut down, just to make way for the mass of roller skaters making their way through the city.

Throughout the country, Venezuelans begin celebrating on Dec. 16, with special programs and church services happening each day until Christmas Day.

3. Philippines

Each year, on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, the city of San Fernando hosts The Giant Lantern Festival (Ligligan Parul Sampernandu). The festival has led to the city being dubbed the "Christmas Capital of the Philippines." Visitors from throughout the country and around the world come to take part in the festivities. As it's also a fierce competition, 11 barangays (villages) work tirelessly to build the most elaborate lanterns, attempting to outdo their neighbors.

The tradition comes from simple paper Japanese lanterns, no bigger than half a meter in diameter. Now, due to the competition, the lanterns can be made from a variety of materials and are up to six meters in size. Instead of candles, electric bulbs are used, sparkling in colorful designs.

4. Ghana

In Ghana, where more than 30 languages are spoken, each group has its own unique traditions associated with Christmas. However, overall, the population celebrates from Dec. 20 through the first week of January. What kid wouldn't love two weeks of Christmas?

Although there are celebrations during the entire Christmas season, the biggest parties take place on Christmas Eve. Church services, which people attend wearing their colorful traditional clothing, feature drumming and dancing, as well as nativity plays and singing in languages understood by most people.

5. Sweden

Ever since 1966, the Swedish city of Gävle has erected a massive 40-foot-tall Yule Goat in Castle Square to prepare for Christmas. But the goat doesn't always survive until the holiday.

The bizarre tradition has led to a related one, where city residents attempt to burn the goat. These efforts have been successful 29 times, with the most recent success being last year. 

Will the goat survive the 2017 season? When it goes up on Dec. 1, there will be a live stream so you can keep tabs for yourself.

New Year's baby born on freeway after South Carolina police chase

Published: Thursday, January 04, 2018 @ 5:31 AM

VIDEO: New Year's Baby Born on Freeway Following Police Chase

A South Carolina father watched his baby girl’s birth while he was in handcuffs.

>> Watch the news report here

WCIV-TV reports Carl Alewine’s fiancee’s water broke early on New Year’s morning and he was racing down Interstate 26 near Charleston to get her to the hospital.

>> On WSOCTV.com: South Carolina woman slips out of handcuffs, hijacks cruiser, deputies say

The car was traveling at more than 90 miles per hour when several law enforcement officers started chasing Alewine.

He just kept going until officers eventually boxed him in and forced him to pull over.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

They had Alewine in handcuffs when his little girl, Anastasia, came out with one push.

>> On WSOCTV.com: New section in North Carolina DMV handbook explains what to do when pulled over

"I'm sitting there, watching her born on the hood of the car, fireworks going off in the background, because it's 1 in the morning on New Year's and then they let me out of handcuffs and all the cops started clapping and congratulating us," Alewine recalled.

>> Read more trending news 

The baby was born healthy, even though the mother went through a high-risk pregnancy. 

The family said they're thankful for the first responders' help. 

Tiffany Trump rings in new year at Playboy party

Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 1:35 AM

Tiffany Ariana Trump is the 24-year-old daughter of Donald Trump and his second wife, Marla Maples. She was named after jewelry store Tiffany & Company, which is adjacent to Trump Tower. She is known for her active social life and Instagram with more than 946,000 followers. Tiffany spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention on its second night.

After a week at Mar-a-Lago with her presidential family, Tiffany Trump headed to California to spend New Year’s Eve with a very different kind of group.

>> Trump golfs, meets with Florida's governor before hosting gala event

The first daughter was a guest at a Los Angeles bash hosted by heir to the Playboy throne Cooper Hefner. The 24-year-old was photographed speaking to Hefner and posing beside his fiancee, Scarlett Byrne, as well as other friends, multiple media outlets reported, including the Washington PostPage SixPeople and the Daily Mail.

>> PHOTOS: Tiffany Trump through the years

Tiffany Trump and Scarlett Byrne, @playboy #NYE2018

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@playboy #NYE2018

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Tiffany Trump has joined the @playboy party!

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The event marked the first New Year’s Eve bash since magazine founder Hugh Hefner’s death on Sept. 27. He was 91 years old.

The late Hefner reportedly had wanted Marla Maples — Tiffany’s mother and Donald Trump’s second wife — to pose in his controversial magazine just three years before Tiffany’s birth. However, the actress turned down the offer.

>> Read more trending news 

“I’m thankful for my body, but I didn’t want to exploit it,” she reportedly said. “How would I ever be taken seriously?”

Here's what Kathy Griffin did on first New Year's Eve after CNN fired her

Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 6:45 AM

What You Need To Know: Kathy Griffin

Comic Kathy Griffin‘s social media post depicting a bloody image of herself posed with a prop head of President Donald Trump prompted tour cancellations and got her fired from her gig co-hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve broadcast.

>> PHOTOS: New Year's celebrations around the world

That was seven months ago.

By New Year’s Eve, Griffin had found new footing – and made some new plans with her mom and her puppy:

>> Watch the video here

Griffin posted a somber video shortly after the firestorm sparked by the image, saying, “I sincerely apologize. I’m a comic. I crossed the line ... I went way too far. The image is too disturbing. I understand how it offends people. It wasn’t funny. I get it.”

>> Mariah Carey finds her New Year's tea, takes Twitter by storm

She soon struck a more defiant chord, suggesting during a news conference that anger over the image was a political cover.

“We all know what’s going on here. They’re using me as a shiny object so that nobody’s talking about his FBI investigation…I’ve had everybody turn on me. I just want to make everybody laugh.”

She went on to call Trump a “fool.”

>> Read more trending news 

“My impression is that they have mobilized their Army,” she said at the time. “It’s quite clear to me that they are using me as a distraction. I’m not going to be collateral damage for this fool. I think he’s a fool. I think the president is a fool.”

She became emotional, asked what the future holds: “I don’t think I will have a career over this. I’m going to be honest. He broke me.”

Turns out, he didn't.

10 tips for sticking with your exercise plan in the new year

Published: Tuesday, January 02, 2018 @ 8:34 AM

Tips For Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions

It’s the New Year’s resolution that everyone has and virtually no one keeps: We want to get in shape.

Here are 10 tips to help you keep on track:

>> New Year's resolutions: 4 tips for avoiding gym membership scams

1. Make a plan

If you made your decision on New Year’s Eve, that’s only making a decision based on your emotional state that day. Make a plan for big and small goals and particular parts of your body you want to target to help keep you focused. A health professional can help with this.

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2. Be realistic

While you might be adamant that you’ll never eat bread, meat or chocolate chip cookies again, making that one of your goals is setting yourself up to fail. Instead, go for what’s attainable: Instead of having your favorite food three days a week, you’ll only have it once. Start small and build.

>> How to keep your New Year's resolutions this time

3. Create a battle plan

Despite all your best efforts, temptation will come knocking. Try to decide in advance how you will deal with wanting to skip that exercise class or have that piece of cake. This could include calling or texting a weight loss buddy, practicing positive thinking and self-talk, or reminding yourself how your “bad” will affect your goal.

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4. Talk about it openly

Wanting to live a healthier life is something to be proud of, not ashamed of. Don’t treat your resolution like a dirty little secret. Tell friends and family members who will be there to support your resolve.

With any luck, they’ll help you find a buddy who shares your New Year’s resolution and can help you stay motivated.

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5. Document your feelings

Why is getting in better shape a good idea? Write down all the reasons that are motivating you, from wanting to be able to walk up the stairs without losing your breath to wanting to look better on the beach. Keep your list with you and refer to it when you need help keeping your resolve.

6. Keep track of your progress

It sounds like this list has more writing down than working out, but it is important to keep track of your progress. Being able to see where you were and how far you’ve come is an important way to keep yourself motivated.

For example, instead of focusing on losing 30 pounds, focus on losing the first five. Keep a food journal to help you stay on track, and reward yourself for each five pounds lost.

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7. Rewards are OK

Rewards are a good thing. Don’t think that because you’re losing weight, you have to become an ascetic. Instead of going out to eat to celebrate a milestone, treat yourself to new fitness clothes or by going out to a movie.

>> 9 inspiring New Year's resolution quotes to motivate you in 2018

8. 21 days

Exercising and working out won’t become good habits overnight. By Tuesday of the second week, all the newness will have worn off, and it’ll start getting harder to get up and get moving, especially if you’re exercising before work.

Experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your personality. Get through that first three-week stretch, and you’ll be making real progress.

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9. Give yourself a break

It’s not the day missed at the gym or the indulgence in ice cream that’ll knock you off track – it’s the obsessing about it afterward.

Negative thought patterns won’t help maintain your positive plan. Do the best you can each day, and take one day at a time.

10. Don’t give up

Maybe you hit the Valentine’s Day wall – or even the Jan. 15 wall. But that’s not a reason to give up.

Start with one meal, then one day. You can do anything for 24 hours. Once you start building on the 24-hour increments, before long you’ll be back in the groove.

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