Whilst in the UK Christmas can mean nativity scenes, presents, Christmas trees and turkey, in various countries around the world Christmas looks quite different with lots of unique traditions.
1. Central Europe
According to folklore, the Krampus is Father Christmas’ scary friend, depicted as half goat and half demon with hairy hooves and large horns. During the festive season, while Father Christmas rewards the good children with gifts, the Krampus punishes children who have misbehaved. This tale is popular across Central Europe including Austria, Bavaria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.
In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, many early morning church goers roller skate to mass on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, children go to bed with a piece of string tied round their toe, and dangle the other end out of their bedroom window. As skaters skate past, they give the string a tug to let the children know it’s time to get their skates on and head to mass. The roads are even closed off especially for this event!
Although Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, Santa Claus is still celebrated in the same way we are used to. Although there is a slight difference with the Japanese Santa Claus or Santa Kuroshu, and that’s that he has eyes in the back of his head to keep an eye on the naughty children!
Families often set extra places at the Christmas table for deceased relatives. The practice is called ‘consoda’ and is thought to bring good fortune to the household.
It is believed that Christmas Eve coincides with the arrival of evil spirits and witches and therefore to protect themselves, families hide all of their brooms before they go to sleep to stop any passing witches from stealing them.
Mattak is a Christmas delicacy eaten in Greenland which is made of raw whale skin with blubber which is believed to taste like fresh coconut. Another delicacy is Kiviak which is a small bird wrapped in seal skin, buried for several months, and then eaten once decomposed. The thought of sprouts with your Christmas dinner may not be so bad after all!
In the Ukraine, there is an old wives’ tale that tells the story of an old lady who was so poor that she could not afford to decorate her Christmas tree. The lady awoke on Christmas morning to find that a spider had covered the tree in a glistening web. Ukrainians now believe that it is good luck to decorate their trees with fake spiders webs.
Compared to many other religious festivals, Christmas is quite low key in India due to only around 2% of the population being Christian. For those that do celebrate Christmas, midnight mass is a very important part of celebrations as families walk to mass together then afterwards enjoy a huge feast of many different Indian delicacies and take part in gift giving too.
When it comes to Christmas decorations, traditional fir trees aren’t found in India so instead it is common to decorate banners or mango trees instead.
9. Czech Republic
Some unmarried women in the Czech Republic use the festive season to predict their love lives for the coming year. The women stand with their backs to their front door and hurl a shoe over their shoulder. If the shoe lands with its toe pointing towards the door, it is believed that the woman will be wed within the year.
Since 1966, the 43-foot-tall straw Gävle Goat can be seen every year from the beginning of advent in Castle Square in Gävle in Sweden. This tradition has also led on to another one, which is to try and burn the goat to the ground. Since the tradition started, it has been burned down over 30 times!
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