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Weird and Wonderful Christmas Traditions from around the world

04 December 2015

Christmas means many things to different people; what started off as a religious holiday to celebrate the birth of a chap called Jesus, has grown into a festive season of giving gifts and spending time with your loved ones.

Everyone has their own special traditions at Christmas, and for most Brits what probably comes to mind is endless mince pies, or hanging up our stockings. There are though, a few unusual Christmas traditions celebrated across the globe. Let’s start with a grumpy take on the whole Santa thing!

Krampus
Krampus
Image source: Wikipedia [Public Domain].

Santa’s making his list and checking it twice to find out who’s been naughty or nice, but it’s not him you want to watch out for in Germany. The Germans believe in Santa’s little helper, a devilish character called Krampus. Where Santa will reward little boys and girls who have been good, Krampus follows in his wake to punish those who have been naughty.

Tió de Nadal

Tió de Nadal
Image source: Slastic [Public domain].

A peculiar tradition in Catalonia, Spain, is that of Tió de Nadal, or sometimes known as Caga Tió, which literally translates as ‘pooping log’. The log has a decorated face and is half covered by a blanket; children are encouraged to feed him sweets and treats throughout December. On Christmas eve, he is placed half in the fire and they then beat the log with a stick until the treats magically fall out. Once the treats have appeared the Tió de Nadal is seen as useless, and is thrown onto the fire for warmth.

Christmas feast

KFC
Image source: Unsplash.

Christmas isn’t really a big thing over in Japan, but their traditional Christmas eve dinner is. A KFC chicken feast is on the menu; way back in 1974, the fast food restaurant released a campaign implying that it’s food was a Christmas essential for Americans. The campaign did so well in Japan, that it has become a staple on Christmas eve to book a table to sample the fried chicken delicacy.

Mari Lwyd

Mari Lwyd
Image source: R. fiend [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)].

An ancient custom in Wales is to perform the Mari Lwyd. This involves a horse’s skull decorated with ribbons and mounted on a stick; the person carrying the Mari Lwyd is hidden under a blanket, which also hides the stick to give the illusion that the horse’s head is moving on its own. The Mari Lwyd and its companions will go from house to house asking to be let in for some food. The company will ask in song, and it is generally expected that the house’s inhabitants deny them entry in song; the two sides take turns to sing their replies until the Mari Lwyd party are allowed in for some food and drink. It’s not a custom that is practiced much nowadays but it did have a revival in the 20th century, and has become a regular occurence in Chepstow every year.

The glass pickle

Glass pickle Christmas ornament
Image source: Getty images.

Another tradition in Germany, is hiding a glass ornament in the shape of a pickle on their Christmas tree. The first child to find it on Christmas gets a special prize, and will have good luck throughout the rest of the year.

Spider web tinsel

Spider webs on a Christmas tree
Image source: Erika Smith [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)].

In Ukraine, it is customary to decorate their Christmas tree with fake spider webs. The tradition supposedly comes from an old folk tale about a house wife who wept about the fact she couldn’t afford to decorate her tree for her children. When she came downstairs on Christmas morning, the tree had been decorated with silver spider webs!

Day of little candles

Candles
Image source: Unsplash.

In Colombia, they celebrate the day of little candles at Christmas time. This involves people placing candles and paper lanterns in their balconies, windows, and front gardens. Neighbourhoods will compete to see who can create the most impressive display.

Caganer

Caganer
Image source: Slastic [Public domain].

Spain seems to have a thing for bowel movements - another fond tradition of theirs is to hide a caganer, or pooping man, amongst their nativity scenes. No one knows where this figure originated from, but he has become a staple for Catalonians at Christmas time.

Epiphany witch

Epiphany Witch
Image source: Getty images.

Italians don’t believe in good old Saint Nick; they believe their gift giver to be the Epiphany Witch, known as La Befana. She delivers presents to good children, travelling on her broomstick - naughty children can expect to receive a bag full of ash instead of sweets.

Night of the radishes

Night of the radishes
Image source: AlejandroLinaresGarcia [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)].

The Noche de Rabanos, or night of the radishes, is celebrated in Mexico. Radishes are carved into characters, and arranged as a large display for a yearly competition. The works can only be displayed for a few hours, as they tend to wilt soon after cutting.

Will you be giving any of these peculiar festive traditions a go? Or have you and your family got your own Christmas traditions? Let us know on our Facebook page!

Lead image: freestocks.org

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