There are many universal Christmas traditions that are acknowledged around the world. The Christmas tree is one, decorations are another and even the very act of giving presents is another. Some of us have our own personal or family traditions that we stick to each year to make the holiday season that bit more personal. There are also many traditions that are celebrated in specific countries that never made it globally. Here we take a look at some of the more interesting international Yuletide customs.
Roller Skating To Mass – Caracas, Venezuela
Every year in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, you will see hundreds of people making their way to mass on roller skates on Christmas morning. The tradition is no such a spectacle that some of the city’s main streets are closed for the morning to ensure the skaters’ safety.
The Yule Cat – Iceland
The Yule Cat is a traditional monster from Icelandic folklore. The story goes that if you have not gotten any new clothes before Christmas Eve, the Yule cat will come and eat you. The cat is supposed to be huge and vicious, and traditionally farmers would use the Yule Cat as an incentive for their workers. If you worked hard you would receive a new set of clothes, but if you didn’t, you would be eaten.
The Gävle Goat – Sweden
The Gävle Goat is a traditional Christmas display erected annually at Slottstorget in central Gävle, Sweden. It is a depiction of the traditional Yule Goat, straw goat figures, that are an ancient Christmas tradition in Nordic countries. In Sweden, people regarded the Yule goat as an invisible spirit that would appear some time before Christmas to make sure that the Yule preparations were done right.
A Pickle In The Tree – America
One particularly weird Christmas custom is the hanging of a decoration in the shape of a pickle on the tree. The first child to find the pickle is said to get an extra present on Christmas morning. What is really strange about this custom though, is that no one is really sure where it comes from. Originally, it was thought to have come from Germany. However, this has been debunked. It is now accepted to have origination in the United States, but no one is really sure why!
KFC For Christmas – Japan
In 1974, KFC in Japan launched an advertising campaign that promoted chicken as a Christmas meal. The slogan, “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!” spawned a national tradition that still thrives to this day. Although Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, families from all over the country head to their local KFC for a special Christmas Eve meal.
Befana The Witch – Italy
In Italy, on the eve of January 5th, according to folklore, an old woman named Befana visits all the children of Italy to fill their stockings with candy and leave them presents if they’ve been good. Just like Santa Claus, Befana enters through the chimney and treats are left out for her by the children of the house.
The Poop Log – Catalonia
Tió de Nadal, the Christmas log is a tradition in Catalonia, Spain and is made from a hollow log, with stick legs, a smile, and a red hat. Each night from December 8th until Christmas Eve, children feed the log small treats with water, and leave him under a blanket to keep him warm. On Christmas Eve, children beat the log with small sticks and sing songs including this little gem: “Poop log, Poop nougats, Hazelnuts and mato cheese, If you don’t poop well, I’ll hit you with a stick, Poop log!”. Once this ritual has been completed, Tió de Nadal poops out presents and candy. Once he has done this he is then used on the fire by the family for warmth.
Perchta – Austria
We have all become very familiar with the folklore behind Krampus, the Christmas devil. There have been a number of films made about him over the last few years, however there has been very little mention of Perctha. In Austrian tradition, Perchta is a demon who roams the countryside between Christmas and Epiphany to find naughty children. It is said that she would know whether the children and young servants of the household had behaved well and worked hard all year. If they had, they might find a small silver coin the next day, however, if they had been bad, she would slit their bellies open, remove their stomach and guts, and stuff the hole with straw and pebbles. She would also slit people’s bellies open if she found out that someone had eaten something on the night of her feast day, other than the traditional meal of fish and gruel.
So there are some weird and wonderful Christmas traditions from around the world. Will you be adopting any of them yourself this Christmas? I know we might just decide to tell people a little bit more about Perchta if we aren’t happy with their behaviour over the Christmas period!