We all have our own Christmas traditions, whether it be opening a new pair of pyjamas before going to bed the night before Christmas, going for a Boxing Day skate, or any other family outing. Likewise, there are plenty of traditions for the holiday season all across the globe. Some might seem a bit bizarre to you, but they are beloved and cherished by those who celebrate them.
Bavaria celebrates the season with a bang – quite literally. The townspeople dress in the traditional lederhosen and fire military artillery into the nearby hills.
In Bolivia, it is believed that a rooster was the animal who first proclaimed the birth of Jesus Christ. As a way of honouring the very perceptive animal, people take rooster along to Christmas mass as their guests.
Catalonia has one of the more unusual holiday decorating traditions. It seems that poop is acutally a big part of the Christmas astetic and several of the most prominent decoration include Caganar, which is a figurine of a man pooping figure, as well as a decorative “poop log” (don’t worry, it’s just a wooden log, thankfully)
Czech Republic use the holidays as a way of foretelling future romantic opportunities. Unmarried girls are meant to stand in a doorway and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the lands pointing back to the doorway, the girl will be married within the year.
In Estonia, the whole family heads to the sauna on Christmas morning to relax. Sound pretty nice, actually.
Ethiopia isn’t much for celebrating Christmas but the season marks the annual game of a hockey-like competition that is widely played among the people there.
Christmas in Finland is a bit more of a somber affair as they take it as an opportunity to remember and honour family members who have passed away.
Germany has a traditional game in which the family hides a pickle in the Christmas tree and the first to find it wins.
In Great Britain each member of the family takes turns stirring the holiday pudding and they make a wish as they do so. Though the wish will only come true if it is stirred clockwise – very important.
Iceland has a more scholarly approach to gift giving as it is traditional that only books are exchanged and they then spend the rest of Christmas Day reading their new books.
Latvia seems to have blended Christmas with Halloween as “mummers” (kids in dress up) go door-to-door exchanging blessings for treats. A nicer take on trick-or-treat for sure.
The kids in Lebanon have a good deal as they can ask any adult at all for a gift and the adult, if able, must provide the gift.
In Norway, legend tells that Christmas is the time when witches come out to wreak havoc and therefore it is tradition to hide the household broom.
Philippines holds the Giant Lantern Festival each holiday season, and it is really something to see.
Each year in Sweden, they construct a massive straw statue of a “yule goat”. And a new tradition was started in more recent years, burning down the yule goat.
Slovakia holds the tradition that the man of the house must take a spoonful of pudding and fling it at the ceiling. If the pudding sticks, it is a sign of good luck.
In Ukraine, they decorate the Christmas tree with fake spider and cobwebs.
Venezuela embraces an unusual tradition in which everyone heads into town, puts on roller skates and goes skating around together.
Santa By Another Name
In this neck of the woods, every kid knows Santa delivers presents on Christmas Day, but elsewhere in the world other colourful characters take on that highly important and prestigious job.
In Columbia, it is actually baby Jesus who delivers all the presents. Lot of work for a newborn.
Like various other cultures, Italy associates the holidays with witches, however it is a good witch named Befana who comes barring gifts
The Santa of the Netherlands looks quite like the version we’d all be familiar with as both are based off Saint Nicholas. His name is Sinterklaas and he rides a horse into town to deliver gifts to good children.
In Romania, their version of Santa Claus is Mikulas, an elderly gentleman who gives good kids present and bad kids a wooden spoon.
Syria has its Christmas presents delivered by one of the Three Wisemen’s camels.
While Santa handles all the good kids, who’s in charge of the naughty list? Cultures around the world celebrate darker figures who inject the Christmas celebrations with a bit of horror.
Austria has what might be one of the most well-known and terrifying creatures of the holiday season. The Krampus is called the shadow of Saint Nicholas who is a demon with horns, hooves and a long tongue. He comes to take bad kids away, whipping them with sticks and puts them in his sack to take away.
In France, Hans Trapp is a man who worshipped Santa instead of the true Christian god. As punishment he was exiled to the woods and at Christmastime he is said to steal bad children.
Germany’s evil Christmas figure is known as Belsnickel. He is a dirty peasant character who carries a whip to threaten bad children.
As legends tells, Greece is infested by goblins around Christmas who emerge from the sewers to wreak havoc on the town.
Iceland’s Yule cat is a ferocious feline beast who lives in the mountains and attempts to eat people.
In South Africa, they are haunted by the ghost of boy who was killed after eating cookies that were intended for Santa. Seems like a harsh penalty.
And Of Course… Food
What’s Christmas without a nice feast, some overeating and an expanded waistline? Here are what some people around the world fill up on during the holidays.
Austria is known this time of year for their gluhwein, a warm, spiced red wine drink.
Believe it or not, but the traditional Christmas fruitcake was originated in Egypt.
The Christmas cuisine of Greenland might turn the stomachs of tourists. They often eat a dish of seal stuffed with seas birds and left to ferment for days.
Thanks to a pretty genius and effective marketing campaign, Christmas dinner in Japan usually consists of a feast from KFC.
The people of Malta indulge in a unique cocoa-chestnut soup during the holiday season.
For some reason, in South Africa the eat deep-fried caterpillar.
In Sweden, the traditional pudding often has an almond hidden in it. The person who finds it will be married that year.
And those lucky people in Ukraine sit down to a 12-course dinner on Christmas. Plenty of leftover I assume.