In the UK and USA, we are all well accustomed to the idea of Santa Claus, nativities, presents and good food. Elsewhere in the world however, Christmas harbours some very different traditions. Here’s a selection of some of the strange Christmas traditions around the world that we’ve come across!
In Austria, as well as Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and other Alpine countries, Krampus is a well-known Christmas character. Terrifying and demonically beast like in appearance, Krampus is the evil opposition to kindly Saint Nick; rather than rewarding well behaved children, armed with a whip, he captures naughty kids and carries them off in his sack! Krampus night which falls on 6th December, the eve of Saint Nicholas’ Day, sees people dress up as Krampus and roam the streets scaring children! Like the Grinch but 10 times more terrifying, it’s a threat more likely to encourage children to behave than simply receiving no presents!
Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic sees unmarried women take to a spot of fortune telling. It is thought that they determine whether or not the coming year will see them enter into marriage or not. To do so, they stand with their back to the door and throw their shoe over their shoulder. If the toe of the shoe lands facing the door, it is thought that you will be married within the year whereas if it lands in with the toe pointing away, you are unfortunately due to experience another unmarried year.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Food is a huge focus of celebrations around the world, usually involving a large meal of Turkey, Goose or other meat, accompanied by vegetables and potato dishes, washed down with various sweet traditional treats. In Japan however, Christmas day is celebrated with a meal from the Colonel himself, a bucket of chicken from KFC! It’s so popular that reservations are often required!
One of the stranger Christmas traditions in Portugal could be perceived in different ways as the tradition of Consoda sees families set places at the dinner table and serve food for deceased relatives. Held on Christmas morning, this feast is thought to bring good luck and fortune for the New Year.
Greenland being relatively isolated compared to other parts of the world, doesn’t have quite the level of choice when it comes to Christmas foods. Christmas delicacies here include Mattak which is raw whale skin complete with a little blubber and the more gruesome Kiviak which is the name for small arctic birds named Auks wrapped in seal skin and buried in the ground for several months. By the time it comes to eating Kiviak, the flesh is very much decomposed but is eaten regardless!
In Latvia, the tradition of Mummers is more associated with Winter Solstice than Christmas but takes place around the same time, celebrated from 22nd – 25th December. Participants dress themselves in masks and costumes resembling animals such as bears, horses, goats and wolves and travel from village to village, bringing blessings and frightening away any evil spirits.
What family traditions do you have at Christmas? Tell us using the comments box below!