Christmas is a strange time of year if you really think about it. The big ‘get together’ with members of your family and friends is quite weird especially when eccentric cousins, aunties, uncles or other distant relatives such as in-laws join in this festive mix. Your immediate family probably has certain off-the-wall Christmas traditions that may raise an eyebrow or two as well but very few are as strange as these.
Christmas and the festive season is a fun time when people get together and celebrate the holidays with family or friends or both. It is the season of glad tidings and goodwill for most of us however, in other countries around the world there are some very weird and peculiar traditional activities that take place all to do with Christmas. Below we take a look at the way some unexpected Christmas activities and traditions happen in different locations all over the planet.
Re-shoe Your Lovelife - Czech Republic
Santa Claus, or Father Christmas as some like to call him, manages to get many presents down the chimney, but not a husband for a spinster because to be able to squish one down the chimney flue is a bit tricky. He would end up covered in soot as well which wouldn’t go down very well with the expectant spinster. She’d probably beat him over the head with a rolling pin, rather than think about dating him, for leaving sooty black footprints all over the carpet!
Well, in the Czech Republic, they worked out a better plan that doesn’t involve soot or dirty carpets. All they need to do is to stand near the front door with their back towards the door at Christmas time, then throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the shoe lands with the toe aiming at the door, they will find their dream husband within a year.
Spider web decorated tree - Ukraine
In the Ukraine, many people like to put spider web decorations on their Christmas trees as it’s a sign of good luck. This strange tradition originated from an old folk tale about a lady that could not afford to decorate her Christmas tree. One Christmas day, she awoke to find her tree all covered with beautiful glittering spider silk woven all over it.
It is said that this superstitious Christmas tradition arose from the belief that it is bad luck to break or destroy a spider’s web, or at least until the spider has managed to make his escape.
The Christmas Goat – Sweden/Norway
The Scandinavians have plenty of imaginative Christmas traditions, which of course you’d expect from a couple of countries that are close to the North Pole.
One of the most well-known of these traditions is the ‘Christmas Goat’ which is a symbolic gesture that is very popular in Sweden and Norway and originated back in the days before Christianity existed.
There is a town in Sweden called Gävle where they build a massive goat made of straw right in the middle of the town square. Even though the Swedish people are a pretty law-abiding and a relatively conservative lot, they cannot resist making the goat a target and take bets on how long it will be before one of the locals eventually sets it on fire.
Big Bad Cat - Iceland
Across the North Sea and North Atlantic from the coast of Norway lies the volcanic island of Iceland, where there is a very big and vicious cat called the Jólakötturinn or Yule Cat who lurks around the snowy countryside over the Christmas holidays.
According to Icelandic tradition, anyone who finished their chores before Christmas would get new clothes as a reward. On Christmas Eve, lazy children who didn’t get their work done and did not get new clothing would have to face the Jólakötturinn who would first eat the children’s Christmas food then eat the actual child afterwards. This message is told to children so they will work hard and if they don’t or are naughty, the massive Christmas Cat will munch on them.
Kentucky Fried Christmas - Japan
Kentucky Fried Chicken is a very popular food at Christmas time in Japan. Maybe it’s because of old Colonel Sander’s white beard, as he may be mistaken for Santa Claus during this festive time of year as the company enjoy a massive increase in sales over the Christmas holidays. Or maybe it was part of a very successful promotion?
Over the last forty years, the KFC marketing department have managed to make their fried chicken very popular at Christmas time in the whole country. It’s estimated that at least 3.6 million Japanese families will eat a KFC chicken meal over the Christmas season. Many of the people will wait in long lines to get their KFC Buckets of fried chicken or order weeks in advance to carry on this tradition.
Who knows, maybe one day it will catch on in a few other countries?
Skateway To Church - Venezuela
Many people from all over the world have a tradition of attending church on Christmas Day. It’s slightly different in the city of Caracas in Venezuela as they go to church on roller skates. They even close the streets to traffic early in the morning to allow the rolling congregation to skate their way to prayer.
As part of the tradition, the children of Venezuela are said to tie a piece of string to their toes with the string hanging out of the bedroom window. As the skaters roll past, they tug on the string to wake up the children.
Kramped Christmas - Austria
According to legend in Austria and some surrounding countries, there is the legend of Krampus, a frightening creature that is half-goat and half-demon and regarded as the ‘Anti-Santa’. Whereas Santa Claus rewards children for their good behaviour, Krampus would beat naughty children with a big stick then stuff them into his big old coal sack and take them away to his lair never to be seen again.
The Feast of St Nicholas happens on the 6th of December but the day before on the 5th of December is Krampus Night. St Nicholas, of course, gives nice well- behaved children presents for being good. Krampus seeks out the naughty badly behaved children and punishes them before whisking them away forever.
Something Fishy Happening - Poland
In Poland, there is a somewhat strange tradition where the Poles like to eat carp (a freshwater fish), instead of the traditional Christmas turkey.
Poland is one of a few European countries where they celebrate their Christmas on Christmas Eve (December the 24th) instead of Christmas Day (December the 25th). The carp is just one of 12 different courses served up on the Polish dinner table, each course celebrating one of the twelve apostles.
There is an old wives tale that suggests if you put one of the carp’s scales in your wallet, you will receive good fortune in the New Year ahead.
Singers And The Pub - Britain
In the UK and Ireland on the run-up to Christmas, many people like to go carol singing. It’s where a small crowd of people arrive on someone’s doorstep on a chilly winters evening and start singing Christmas songs often quite loudly so the homeowner can hear them from indoors. Most have a collection box for the owner to make a donation to charity or for homeless people to brighten up their Christmas. They then move on to other houses doing the same thing.
It must seem rather strange for other cultures to witness as they don’t practice this charitable endeavour in their home countries.
Others make the journey to their local church to sing Christmas Eve carols while the fun crowd rather prefer to spend their evening celebrating with a pint at the local pub. The reward for that is the famous Christmas Day hangover of course.
Mini Mooners - Catalonia, Spain
There is a very strange tradition called ‘Caga Tió’ that originates from the Catalonia region of Spain. Over a two week period, you feed and care for your Caga Tió until he is all grown-up. Caga, (pronounced Caca) means ‘poop’ while Tió means ‘tree trunk’ or ‘uncle’.
It is actually a small wooden log often covered in a blanket and usually given a warm, smiley face. The poop log is ‘fed’ then later burned to bring good luck.
The Catalonians also have a very very strange ‘caganers’.
Over the past two centuries, they’ve had a traditional nativity scene in Catalonia where Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the three wise men are all gathered around the baby Jesus in his manger.
Added to their nativity scene is a strange character called a ‘caganer’. The most polite direct translation is ‘the defecator’ where it’s mooning with bare buttocks showing a small brown deposit in the crack of the bum. Nice!
These tiny figures with their trousers down showing their bare bottoms are supposed to be lucky symbols that provide good fortune and fertility.
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