T’is that time of the year again, and we would like to start this month of festivities and joy with a list of things you may encounter during the holidays, if you won’t be returning to your country for Christmas. Sure, the standard holiday celebrations involve Christmas trees, presents, festivities and lots of food, but in different parts of the world, there are traditions that are not so standard. For example, you’d expect that the image of Santa Claus riding in a sleigh led by reindeers is a version everyone knows about—but around the world, Santa’s mode of transportation varies, depending on the country. In Australia, he rides a kangaroo; in Hawaii he uses a canoe. In Switzerland, Santa is carried by a donkey and in the Netherlands, he’s on a horse. Aside from Santa’s change of rides, here are some of the most bizarre Christmas traditions all over the world.
In Germany, they have a special Christmas ornament called the Christmas pickle. Every year, a family keeps one Christmas pickle hidden in the Christmas tree, and on Christmas Eve, the child who finds the pickle first will receive an extra present from Santa Claus and will have good fortune for one year.
Papa Noel Bonfire
In Louisiana, they believe that “Papa Noel” their version of Santa Claus, rides a pirogue led by Alligators, and by tradition, they light a big line of bonfires along the Mississippi River to light the way for him and are simultaneously lit at 7pm on Christmas Eve every year.
I bet you’ve seen or heard of the nativity scene figurines that are put out as decorations for Christmas, but have you ever seen a Caganer? A Caganer is a figurine famous in countries with major Catalan culture influences like Andorra, Spain, Portugal and Italy. This figurine depicts defecating and it is places beside the nativity scene. “El Caganer” means “the crapper”. The Caganer is believed to represent the equality of all humanity, regardless of status, title, gender and race, every human being defecates. Putting the Caganer in the nativity scene every Christmas is still observed by many not only because of tradition, but also for its humour.
In Ukraine, spiders and spider webs are lucky for Christmas. Spiders and spider webs are traditional Christmas decorations for Ukrainians. This tradition came from an old local legend about a spider that decorated a poor family’s Christmas tree and brought good luck to them for the rest of their lives.
Krampus is believed to be Santa Claus’ evil twin. In Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Croatia, young men are traditionally dressed up as Krampus on the evening of St. Nicholas’ day (December 5th) and scare off children in the streets. According to the legend, Krampus is tasked with punishing children who fall on Santa’s naughty list.
Rolling to Mass
Like most countries who are predominantly Catholic, locals of Venezuela especially in their capital city, Caracas attend the “Misa de Aguinaldo” on Christmas eve to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but in Caracas, people don’t just go to church, they all roll to church. The streets of Caracas Venezuela are closed to vehicles up to 8 am on Christmas to give way to their locals who travel by roller skates to and from the church.
In South Africa, it’s traditional to eat plump and fuzzy caterpillars called “Gonimbrasia belina” fried in oil for Christmas. Another Christmas delicacy in Africa is Fufu and Okra soup which is a traditional Christmas dish in Ghana. In Zimbabwe they feast on bread, jam, tea… and goat meat.
In Japan, nothing says Christmas more than a bucket of KFC fried chicken. The very Kentucky Christmas madness in Japan started with a Christmas ad for KFC Chicken back in 1974. The marketing campaign was for “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (Kentucky for Christmas). KFC was among the first few companies that hit the market at a proper timing just when Japan was starting to learn about Christmas and the celebrations that go with it. The campaign became a sensation and soon after that, it has become a tradition for the Japanese to line up at KFC to get their fried Christmas chicken.
Banana Christmas Trees
Pine trees don’t grow anywhere in the world, but that doesn’t mean that countries without pine trees would have to do without a Christmas tree that isn’t artificial. In India and Africa for example, it is very common to use banana or mango trees as Christmas trees. Ornaments, decorations and Christmas lights are placed on these trees. Although very unusual, they still fulfil the purpose of Christmas trees and decorations which is to spread the Christmas spirit to the people who decorate them and the people who see them.
Keywords: Christmas Traditions, Christmas Around The World, Weird Traditions