Christmas Traditions: The Weird & The Wonderful From Around The World
There's no escaping the festive period... whether you choose to dive head-first into hype and hysteria, to embrace heart-warming festivities, or to self-confess as a proud scrooge, avoiding any jingling of bells, tinsel and carols. Traditions pass down from generation to generation, year after year. Whether families grow, change, move apart or together, we all develop our own little Christmas habits. We may be religious, we may not, but the close of the year brings with it a sense of reflection and a time to re-evaluate the year ahead. With this in mind, we thought we'd take a look further afield and find out some traditions, wonderful and weird, from around the world! Some will be old wives tales, and we are sure to have missed many... so share with us any traditions you know and love, we'd love to hear from you.
Sweden has become famous for its 13 metre tall Yule Goat at Christmas time - built in the centre of Gävle's Castle Square for the period of Advent. Too good to resist, this attraction has encouraged revellers to attempt burning it down each year. Since 1966, it has been successfully burned down 29 times!
As well as these pyromaniac Christmas rebels, watch out for St. Nicholas' evil accomplice Krampus in Sweden! Roaming the city streets frightening and punishing bad children, Krampus threatens to capture the naughtiest children and whisk them away in his sack.
The city of San Fernando - known as the "Christmas Capital of the Philippines" - hosts The Giant Lantern Festival, Ligligan Parul Sampernandu. This spectacular festival attracts spectators from across the world, drawn by the impressive displays of lanterns. With eleven villages competing against each other to create the most elaborate, the lanterns are stunning and create a sight to behold.
Christmas celebrations are primarily on Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic. People are known to fast during the day with the hope that they will see a vision of 'the golden pig' appear on the wall before dinner for good luck!
If no vision comes this way, try throwing a shoe over your shoulder. For an unmarried woman, if the toe is pointing towards the door when it lands,
tradition says they'll be married within the next year.
Children in Germany can expect treats and chocolates on the 6th, earlier on in December, when their celebrated Nikolaus travels by donkey to homes and schools in return for a small recital, drawing or creation from the children. Beware for Knecht Ruprecht - the devil like character with stick or whip in hand, to punish any children who misbehave!
Many of us will be familiar with the carol Silent Night, Stille Nacht, first written in Austria in 1818. For the Austrians truly begin their Christmas traditions on Christmas Eve, Heilige Abend, when they light their trees for the first time and people sing carols around the tree. Their trees will traditionally be brought in on this day and decorated with candles and sparklers, not forgetting some sweet tasty decorations too!
In Japan, Christmas is treated as a normal day, with parents going to work and children going to school. Nonetheless, a Christmas tradition has still arisen. In Japan it's all about KFC! People will queue for hours to get their very own Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner for a Christmas treat.
Watch out for the Yule Cat in Iceland - said to stalk the Icelandic hills. Here the tradition is to receive new clothes before Christmas Eve, otherwise you may be devoured by this mythical beast!
Instead of stockings, children in Iceland leave a shoe on their bedroom windowsill during the 12 days of Christmas and each night it’s filled with sweets or gifts for the morning.
It's tradition in Guatemala for the people to sweep out their houses before Christmas. Each neighbourhood will then create a large pile of dirt, before placing an effigy of the devil on top and burning it.
In contrast, not a tradition for the cleaning-conscious, in Slovakia the most senior man of the house may take a spoonful of loksa pudding and throw it at the ceiling for Christmas - the more that sticks, the better!
Every December, the Cuban city of Remedios plays host to the Parandas festival. The carnival-like festival is a beautiful sight, with the city dividing into two halves, and each building transforming into a themed sculpture from light bulbs, in preparation for Christmas Eve.
Bulgarians have a special tradition with Walnuts! If your walnut is delicious you will have a good year, but if it's empty or has a small nut you'll have a bad year! Then after the Christmas Eve celebratory meal, the table is left with all of the food on it until the morning of Christmas day. It's thought that ancestors might like something to eat during the night!
In Colombia, Christmas celebrations and preparations start on the evening of 7th December, known as Día de las Velitas or Day of the little Candles. Houses and streets are decorated with candles, lanterns and lots of lights, with big firework displays and music.
The city of Naples in Italy is world famous for its cribs and crib making, known as Presepe Napoletano. The first crib scene in Naples is thought to go back to 1025 and was in the Church of S. Maria del presepe. Cribs are traditionally put out on 8th December, but tradition dictates that the figure of the baby Jesus should not be put into the crib until the evening of 24th December.
In France tradition says you can expect the delicious smell of Cherry Wood and red win, with Yule Logs being burned in French homes as part of their Christmas festivities. There is a custom that the log and candles are then left burning all night with some food and drinks left out in case Mary and the baby Jesus come past during the night.
Greece has an affinity to the sea at Christmas, with a huge three masted sailing ship being put up in the Aristotelous Square in the city of Thessaloniki as well as the typical Christmas tree. As well as this, the children are known to go out singing kalanda - carols - in the streets, carrying model boats decorated with nuts and painted gold.
In Ethiopia, communities celebrate Christmas on 7th January. Celebrations involve wearing white clothes, as well as playing a game of Ganna - a fast paced game with wooden sticks and balls.
Not every country recognises Christmas of course. Yet, with the New Year there's always an excuse to celebrate. In Hong Kong, for example, there is a 'Winterfest': a huge winter party that involves the shops, theme parks and other attractions in Hong Kong. With a famous New Year's countdown and amazing fireworks displays all of the city, it's sure to bring in 2018 with a bang!