From tinsel to Brussels sprouts, Christmas is just one wacky tradition after another. In celebration of these festive eccentricities, we’ve rounded up ten of the most unusual customs from across the globe…
The star of a new Hollywood horror film, the Krampus is Father Christmas’ scary friend, a devilish creature who punishes naughty children throughout the festive period. The mythical beast, which stems from Austro-Bavarian German-speaking Alpine folklore, is hairy with hooves and large horns.
There are a couple of strange Catalonian traditions, one of which is the caga tió or “defecating log”. In the fortnight leading up to Christmas, a grinning creature is created out of a small log and placed on the dining room table. The log must be fed every day with fruit, nuts, and sweets, before – on Christmas Eve – it’s beaten with sticks, excreting its goodies. Another fecal-themed Catalonian custom is a caganer, a small defecating figurine, which traditionally appears in nativity scenes.
In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, revellers travel to early-morning church services on roller skates throughout the festive period. The roads are even closed off specially.
Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan but that doesn’t stop a large number of people celebrating the festival. Santa Claus, or Santa Kurohsu, is said to have eyes in the back of his head to keep an eye on naughty children, while Japanese Christmas cake is usually made up of sponge, whipped cream, and strawberries.
In Portugal, families set extra places at the dining table on Christmas morning for deceased relatives. The practice is called “consoda” and is thought to bring the family good luck.
Over Christmas, Czech women use a clever trick to predict their love lives for the coming year. Unmarried women stand with their backs to their front doors and toss shoes over their shoulders. If a shoe lands with its toe pointing towards the door, the woman will get hitched within the next 12 months.
In Norway, it’s thought Christmas Eve coincides with the arrival of evil spirits and witches. To protect themselves, families hide all their brooms before they go to bed.
Ukrainian Christmas trees are traditionally decorated with a fake spider and web. The custom, which is said to bring good luck, stems from an old wives’ tale about a poor woman who could not afford to decorate her tree. She woke up on Christmas morning to find a spider had covered it in a glittering web.
If you think sprouts are bad, you should try one of Greenland’s Christmas delicacies. Mattak – raw whale skin with blubber – is one. Another is kiviak, which is when an auk (a small bird) is wrapped in seal skin, buried for several months, and then eaten once decomposed.
Only about 2.3 per cent of the population of India are Christians, but that still works out as about 25 million people. The day is celebrated with midnight mass and present-giving, but in the absence of fir trees or pine trees, banana trees and mango tree are decorated instead.