More than any other time of year, Christmas means honouring traditions. However, what we find completely normal may seem very strange indeed to others. Let’s have a look at some of the most peculiar Christmas customs worldwide!
1. Tió de Nadal, the poop log – Catalonia, Spain
In Catalonia, an especially curious Christmas tradition is the Tió de Nadal (Christmas log), popularly referred to as Caga tió (defecating log). This small hollow log has a broad smiling face and two little legs, and is wearing a small red hat. Starting on December 8, the Caga tió is covered with a blanket to keep it warm and fed every day with fruits, nuts and sweets, so it may grow.
If the children take good care of the log, the Caga tió will poop Christmas presents for them. In order for it to do that, it is beaten with sticks, while traditional Caga tió songs are sung. The Tió de Nadal usually defecates small presents, candies, nuts and turrón, a traditional Spanish Christmas confection.
2. Beware of the Krampus – Austria and Germany
In Austria and the Alpine region of Germany, a demonic creature (half goat, half devil) traditionally accompanies Saint Nicholas and punishes naughty children. The Krampus stands on two hooves, has large horns growing out of his skull and carries a basket to haul away bad children. In most alpine towns, there are annual events such as the Krampuslauf, where people dress up as Krampus and parade around town with noisemakers. Who says Christmas can’t be scary?
3. Roller skating to mass – Caracas, Venezuela
In Caracas, there is a unique custom to roller-skate to church to attend the early morning Christmas mass. The streets are closed off until 8 a.m. to make it safe for skaters. The night before, children will tie a string to their big toe and hang the end out of the window, so that passing roller skaters may give it a friendly tug (and wake them up in time for mass).
4. KFC for Christmas – Japan
Christmas is not traditionally celebrated in Japan as there aren’t a lot of Christians there. Yet, in recent years, many Japanese have started to mirror Western Christmas traditions such as exchanging gifts, decorating trees and putting up lights. And it has become customary to have a festive feast of KFC on Christmas Day, due to a successful advertising campaign in the 1970s. Every Christmas, there are long queues outside every branch in the country. People even reserve their buckets of chicken well in advance to make sure that they don’t miss out.
5. Hiding brooms – Norway
In Norway, it is thought that on Christmas Eve, evil spirits and witches roam the streets. Therefore, families hide all their brooms before they go to bed, so the spirits and witches can’t steal them to fly around with.
6. Spider web decorations – Ukraine
In Ukraine, spider and cobweb ornaments are essential Christmas tree decorations. This tradition goes back to the tale of a poor widow’s family who couldn’t afford any decorations. Yet miraculously, they awoke on Christmas morning to a beautifully decorated tree with cobwebs glowing in gold and silver, all thanks to the Christmas spider. Finding a spider or cobwebs on the Christmas tree is thus considered good luck.
7. Oracle shoes – Czech Republic
There are a lot of customs and superstitions in Czech folklore relating to Christmas, many of which supposedly tell you what the future has in store. To predict their love lives for the coming year, unmarried women throw shoes over their shoulders. They stand with their backs to the door while tossing the shoe, and if it lands with its toe pointing towards the door, it means the woman will get married within the next 12 months.
8. Banana and mango trees – India
Although there are only about 2% of Christians living in India, with a total population of over 1 billion this works out to over 25 million Christians. Since there aren’t any fir trees in India, families traditionally decorate banana or mango trees and use mango leaves to decorate their homes.
9. Eating decomposed delicacies – Greenland
Among the delicacies eaten at Christmas in Greenland are whale skin with a strip of blubber inside (“mattak”) and “kiviak”, the raw flesh of little auks (arctic birds) buried in sealskin for several months until they have reached an advanced stage of decomposition. Bon appétit! Or not…
10. Hanging out in Bondi Beach – Sydney, Australia
Many Australians spend Christmas out of doors, going to the beach for the day or going camping, as it’s the beginning of summer down under. It has become a tradition for international visitors who are in Sydney at Christmas time to spend the day at Bondi Beach. Up to 40,000 people visit there on Christmas Day, many of them with Santa hats and other festive wear. If you want to see a surfing Santa, head to Bondi Beach at Christmas!
Do you know any other bizarre Christmas traditions? Let us know in the comments!
Don’t miss Christmas Traditions Around the World – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.