12 Bizarre Christmas Traditions from Around the World
In America we have no shortage of strange Christmas traditions. However if you compare these 12 Bizarre Christmas Traditions from Around the World to ours you will see that the rest of the world have some pretty insane ways to celebrate Christmas!
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12 Bizarre Christmas Traditions from Around the World
Have Yourself a Crappy Little Christmas
Spain, Portugal and Italy
A traditional Christmas tradition in parts of Spain, Portugal and Italy, is to set up a model village of Bethlehem. Along with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, a Caganer, or “Shitter” in English, is placed in the scene. The Caganer is a figurine, traditionally of a man, in the act of defecating, pants around his knees bending over with pile of feces at his heels. He is usually placed in a corner, perhaps because he needs privacy. The Caganer has been around for a few hundred years and in recent times it has evolved from a traditionally dressed man taking care of business to figurines of celebrities, nuns, politicians and Santa Claus.
Let’s Play Hide the Broom
Norwegian legend says that on Christmas Eve witches and evil spirits come out looking for brooms to ride on (a bad omen). To thwart the witches, all brooms in the house are hidden and men go outside and fire a shotgun to scare the bad spirits
Buckets of Christmas Cheer
For many Japanese, traditional Christmas dinner is Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is so popular and well marketed that reservations may have to be made to eat at a KFC on Christmas in Japan.
Hide the Pickle
Germany Sort of
The story goes that when German families decorate the Christmas tree, the last ornament to be hung is the Christmas pickle -usually a blown glass ornament that may have been passed down through generations. It is tucked away in a hard-to-see spot (it is green, after all). The first child who finds the pickle on Christmas morning gets a special gift and good luck all the next year. The trouble with this legend is that people in Germany were unfamiliar with it. Glass tree ornaments were indeed made in Germany, in the shape of fruits and vegetables and other objects. These ornaments became very popular in America when F.W. Woolworth began importing them in the 1880s. An old German legend no doubt helped to sell more glass ornaments! (Image by Flickr user the queen of subtle.)
I See Dead People
Families in Finland usually visit the graves of their ancestors and relatives on Christmas Eve to light candles in memory of the deceased. Even those who don’t have their kin’s graves nearby visit cemeteries to place candles in honor of their family members buried elsewhere. Hence, on Christmas eve, cemeteries would be lit up with candles presenting a beautiful sight.
Food will also be left on tables and family members leave their beds to sleep on the floor to give the dead a nice meal and a place to rest when they visit.
Welcome to Burning Goat Festival
In 1966 a 13-metre tall goat figure made of straw was erected in the town square of Gavle. At the stroke of midnight, Christmas Eve, the goat went up in flames. But the town never stopped building it year after year, and vandals never stopped trying to burn the goat down! By 2011, the goat has already been burned down 25 times. The burning of the Gavle goat happened so often that bookmakers began taking bets for the survival of the goat since 1988.
Just to be clear, the town doesn’t want the goat to be burned down; in fact, In 2001, an American tourist served time in jail and was fined for successfully doing so.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Instead of glittering ornaments and tinsel, Ukrainian Christmas trees are covered with an artificial spiders and cobwebs. Why the eccentric taste in spiders? According to the local folklore, there was a poor woman who could not afford to decorate their Christmas tree. But the next morning, her children woke up to see the tree covered with webs and when the first light of Christmas morning touched the web threads, they turned into gold and silver and the family was never left for wanting again. Hence, it is believed that seeing a spider web on Christmas morning brings luck.
Grab em by the Christmas Kitty
The Yule Cat (Jolakotturinn)
The Icelandic people are big fans of myths and hard work. (They have the most overtime in Europe.) One famous Christmas character is the scary Yule Cat who eats children who haven’t worked hard enough. Basically, if you have finished all your work before Christmas you get new clothes and you are safe. The scary Icelandic Yule cat only looks for the lazy ones in old clothes. A good reason to go clothes shopping.
The Virgin Was Simply Radishing!
Noche de los rábanos is celebrated in Oaxaca every December 23. Stalls at the city’s zocalo fill up with radishes sculpted into nativity scenes, historical figures and more.
Christmas In Hell
If you thought that being on Santa’s naughty list was the scariest thing to happen around Christmas, you’ve never heard of Krampus Night. Krampus is Santa’s evil twin whose job is to beat and punish all the children who have misbehaved. On December 5th men dress up in some of the scariest devil-like costumes you can imagine and drunkenly run around towns hitting people with sticks and switches. The Krampus legend originates in the Germanic alpine regions and is widespread throughout Hungary, Bavaria, Slovenia and is especially popular in Austria.
Shoes Full of Rotting Potatoes
The Yule Lads (jólasveinarnir or jólasveinar in Icelandic) visit the children across the country over the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. For each night of Yuletide, children place their best shoes by the window and a different Yule Lad visits leaving gifts for nice girls and boys and rotting potatoes for the naughty ones.
Wanna Decorate My Banana!
In India, only about 2.3% of the population are Christians, but because of the large population they have, we are talking about 25 million people here! Christians here celebrate Christmas with midnight mass and gift-giving like the rest of the world, but with the absence of fir trees or pine trees to decorate, they usually made do with banana trees and mango trees instead.
That means instead of Christmas pine trees lining up celebrating households, you’ll find brightly lit, well-decorated Christmas banana or mango trees on the streets. They even use the leaves of those trees to decorate their houses.