Do you cringe when friends ask you what you and your family usually do for Christmas?
Well, if you think your Christmas traditions are a bit weird, these festive habits from around the world may make you feel a little better…
1. Opening presents after New Year – Spain
Small presents are exchanged in Spain on Christmas Eve, called Nochebuena in Spanish, an evening filled with a special meal and lashings of cava.
Christmas day isn’t really about gifts, although some children may get a little something from Santa. The largest gift-giving day is January 6, when the Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the three kings to Bethlehem. The three kings leave gifts for children in their homes, much in the way that Santa does on Christmas day.
2. Krampus – the Austrian Christmas Villain
According to folklore legend, Krampus is the evil sidekick of St Nicholas. His particular job is to punish naughty children, kidnapping or beating them with a bundle of birch branches.
Towns around Austria and some other European states like Germany and Hungary put on Krampuslauf (Krampus run) parades, where people dress up as the mythical monsters to terrify the public into behaving well.
3. Live carp in the bath – Poland
Carp is served as the main dish of a traditional Polish Christmas eve meal, partly because meat is not eaten that day. The carp is usually bought alive a few days before and kept swimming about in the bath until the final moment, when the matriarch dispatches it and cooks it up for the family to enjoy.
It is also thought that keeping a scale from the carp brings good luck throughout the year. Many people do skip this tradition nowadays, opting instead for fillets of carp from the supermarket.
4. Feeding the Poo log – Catalonia
Back to Spain for this rather peculiar tradition. On December 8, a log with a smiling face and spindly legs is put out in the home.
Children are encouraged to ‘feed’ the log, called a Caga Tió, – that translates to poo log – and look after him. This includes covering him with a little blanket to keep him warm.
Come Christmas Eve the blanket is removed to reveal the Caga Tió’s poo – sweets and treats for the kids. Nice, isn’t it? Well not really, because as soon as the family is done with the little fella he is chucked on the fire for warmth.
5.Kentucky Fried Christmas – Japan
KFC has got the Christmas market well and truly cornered in Japan. It all started in 1974 when an extremely successful marketing campaign – Kentucky for Christmas – took advantage of the fact that foreign visitors found it hard to get their hands on turkey, so visited the fast food chain instead.
KFC invented a special meal for the occasion, including cake, and a strange tradition was born. Although Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, (around 1% of the population are christian) queues of up to two hours can be seen outside stores on the day.
6. Rollerskating to Church – Venezuela
In the capital city of Caracas, roads are closed to allow residents to skate to early morning mass, then reopened at 8am.
Morning masses, called Misas di Aguinaldo are held from December 16 to 25.
7. Nativity in Vegetables – Mexico
The night of the radishes – Noche de Rabanos – takes place in Oaxaca on December 23.
Children are taught to carve radishes into elaborate shapes and adults enter competitions with carved radishes depicting world events, including religious scenes like the nativity and the last supper.
8. Spider on the Christmas tree – Ukraine
Ukrainians add a spider and web ornament to their Christmas trees every year.
This tradition is based on a folklore tale that an old woman could not afford to decorate her tree. She went off to bed on Christmas eve feeling glum and in the morning she woke to a tree beautifully decorated in spiders web.
Hanging the decoration is supposed to bring good luck.