Christmas 2015: Ten Christmas traditions from around the world
Christmas is coming to town! As evidenced by the beautiful lights decorating the streets, the smell of mulled wine and mince pies, and the fact that every thing that could possibly be turned red has become red. But, from malicious spirits to fried chicken and wooden logs that need a help with their digestion, Christmas is not all Santa Claus and carols for many places around the world. Here are some traditions that give new meaning to the phrase “It’s beginning to look like Christmas!”
Kallikantzaros – Southeastern Europe
The tale has it that from 25th of December till 6th of January, an evil goblin that lives under the surface during the rest of the year emerges from the underground to scare people and play mischievous pranks. You’d better watch out!
Roller Skating to Mass – Caracas, Venezuela
For the people of the Venezuelan capital, the holiday spirit arrives on four-wheels! One week before Christmas Eve and until that moment, the city streets close before 8am and are turned into a great skating rink that people can use to get to mass.
With less than 1% of Japan’s population registered as Christian, Christmas day is the busiest in the year for a KFC. After they ran a very successful “Christmas Chicken” campaign in the 1970s, which highlighted the scarcity of turkey meat in Japan to prepare a proper Christmas feast, it has become a Japanese family tradition to gather there on the 25th. The menu consists of a bucket of fried chicken, cake and wine or champagne.
Christmas Straw Goat – Gävle, Sweden
Every 1st December, the 13-metre Gävle Goat, a holiday twist on the traditional Swedish goat of straws, is placed in a main square. The first time this happened in 1966 it was inexplicably set on fire. Although it is illegal to purposely do it, it has been burned 27 times since, and that is what has made it such a famous happening after all. Let is snow and let it burn!
Krampus – Austria, Germany, Hungary
What is the worst thing that can happen to a kid at Christmas if she or he is naughty, not nice? Well, in some German-speaking countries, children who misbehave receive a visit from Krampus and are punished by this dark and horned figure.
This witch from Italian folklore will visit the homes of children to give them either coal, if they’ve been naughty, or candy, if they’ve been nice. On 5th January, kids hang a sock on the chimney for La Belfana to deposit her verdict, and she will sweep the house before she leaves.
La Noche de los Rábanos – Oaxaca, Mexico
Night of the radishes is an annual holiday competition in the southern state of Oaxaca in Mexico, where people carve radishes into figures, depicting different scenes. The event is held on the 23rd and attracts thousands of visitors who queue four hours only to witness these amazing carvings.
Spiders are surprisingly welcome in Ukrainian homes over Christmas. A traditional story tells of a little spider that helped a poor family have a decorated Christmas tree, after spinning its web around a pine cone. Recalling this holiday miracle, and as a symbol that summons good luck for the next year, most Ukrainian Christmas trees are decorated with ornamental spider webs.
Hiding Brooms – Norway
The witches of Norway are not like those other dark creatures that emerge during the holidays to assess how everyone has behaved; they will only steal brooms to have a nightly ride. Based on this folkloric belief, people still hide their brooms away, preventing witches and evil spirits from taking over.
Tió de Nadal – Catalonia
Commonly known as the Caga Tió, this holiday figure is a wooden log that is fed and kept warm during the days before Christmas to help him develop better digestion. Then, on Christmas day, kids will sing a song and hit the log to make it defecate gifts for them. Definitely one of the weirdest and funniest traditions worth trying as something new this year!