The festive season brings joy and excitement to millions around the world and while the happiness is shared, some traditions are not. Celebrations vary from country to country and what are ‘normal’ traditions in one place may be perceived as strange in another. The festive season throws up an array of unconventional ways to celebrate the holiday season depending on where you’re celebrating it.
Father Christmas will (hopefully) soon be sliding down your chimney with a sack full of gifts, and while some of us will be leaving out the mince pie and milk, others around the world are getting into the festive spirit in other weird and wonderful ways. Christmas traditions in other parts of the world include terrifying cats, mythical beasts and even competitive radish carving.
Here’s a look at some of the most weird and wonderful Christmas traditions from around the world.
For those who love Christmas one of the best places to celebrate it is the Philippines as it can go on for up to four months. People gradually get in the festive spirit in September and attend up to nine Masses in the run up to Christmas Day, known as ‘Simbang Gabi’. The festive season also spills over into the New Year with celebrations officially ending on January 9th. Phew.
This year in Manila, popular local brand Kultura is championing a sustainable Christmas market by selling eco-friendly, handmade presents made by local craftsmen.
If you’re going away for a white Christmas to Iceland, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the famous Jólakötturinn, or Yule Cat as they’re also known, which supposedly search the streets for people that haven’t received any new clothes for Christmas. The story goes that bosses used to warn wool workers that the cat would come looking for them if their work wasn’t completed before Christmas Day. Now there’s an incentive to work harder!
Austria and Germany
Naughty kids look away now. If a lump of coal wasn’t bad enough, in both Austria and Germany little ones need to be wary of Krampus, a frightening mythical beast roaming the streets and wielding sticks. The furry figure has horns on his head and is scary enough to keep children in check all year round. Germans also celebrate Christmas by leaving shoes on their doorsteps on December 5th, and if they’ve been good, it’ll be filled with sweets the following morning.
Christmas markets in Austria and Germany are some of the most popular in the world, and this year they’re taking a firmer stance on sustainability. The International Christmas Market Essen brings together market sellers from over 20 countries across 170 stalls, and this year all single-use plastic and plastic bags have been banned from the event. Also, traders have been hand-picked and more stalls than ever will be selling fair trade and organic products.
Christmas traditions don’t get much more bizarre than this. Caga Tio, translated to ‘pooping tree/log’ in English, sees families tend to a hollow log with a face painted on the end of it, and propped up on two ‘legs’. Kids give the log ‘food’ and wrap it in a blanket during cold winter weather, however the mood changes on Christmas Eve when the very same families turn on their logs and beat them with sticks until they supposedly surrender gifts and sweets, when the family leaves the room.
Venezuelans have an unusual way of getting to church on Christmas Day. Those living in Caracas have no time for walking, opting instead to arrive on roller skates. The roads get so busy police are forced to make closures as the crowds get so big it’s the only way to ensure groups of families and friends can skate safely. Once mass is over people stick around and share food and drink in the streets.
Last year a gigantic Christmas tree was erected in Caracas made entirely from plastic bottles to highlight excessive plastic consumption. The tree is rumoured to be in place again this year as the battle for a greener planet continues.
Forget dating apps, single ladies in the Czech Republic have a unique way of finding Mr. Right. Christmas is the time when the old tradition of throwing shoes apparently helps predict whether marriage is on the horizon in the New Year. Ladies stand by a door and throw shoes over their shoulders and the direction the toe is pointing in when it lands determines whether they’ll be walking down the aisle in the next twelve months.
Earlier this year Prague topped a poll to become Europe’s most sustainable shopping destination, so if you’re looking for gifts from an eco-friendly city, this is the place to visit.
All I want for Christmas is… radishes? Once upon a time in Mexico shopkeepers would carve sculptures out of vegetables, notably radishes, in the hope of attracting more customers. ‘Noche de Rabanos’, translated to ‘Night of the Radishes’ sees locals in Oaxaca carry on the tradition by carving detailed radish sculptures and competing for the best in show. Past carvings have included sculptures of dragons, celebrities and even former presidents. People take the tradition seriously as there’s a cash prize up for grabs.