Many people in other parts of the world struggle to understand the Australian take on Christmas, with our beaches, barbeques and board short-clad Santa Claus. However, our traditions pale in comparison to some of the more unusual Christmas traditions from around the globe.
Krampus, the Christmas Devil – Austria
While children in Australia expect gifts from a plump, bearded man come Christmas, their counterparts in Austria are living in fear of Krampus, a half-goat, half-demon who punishes children who have misbehaved. Parades featuring these unsettling figures are a deeply rooted folk tradition in Austria, and young men donning the Krampus costume of terrifying masks, shaggy pelts and jangling bells provide the perfect combination of entertainment and terror for Austria’s youth.
Roller skating to mass – Venezuela
In Venezuela’s capital of Caracas, religious celebrations for Christmas kick off on 16 December, with early morning mass a daily ritual. From that date until Christmas Eve, the city streets are closed until 8am to allow churchgoers to take an unusual form of commute: roller skating. Small children will tie a piece of string to their big toes and dangle them out of windows, which will be tugged by passing roller skaters on the way to church.
Kentucky Fried Chicken – Japan
Due to a successful advertising campaign in the 1970s marketing fried chicken as a Christmas meal, many Japanese families still tuck in to a tub of the Colonel’s finest to celebrate the holiday.
Spider web-covered Christmas trees – Ukraine
Ukrainian folklore has led to the popularity of fake spiders and webs being used as decoration on Christmas trees. According to one version of the legend, a poor widow hung nuts and fruit outside the door of her home, and prayed for joy and cheer for her children on Christmas Day. The spiders heard her prayers on Christmas Eve, and decorated her bare Christmas tree overnight with webs that sparkled in the sunlight. Many Ukrainians continue this tradition with spider and web ornaments, in the hopes that they will bring good luck and fortune in the coming year.
Shoe throwing – Czech Republic
Unmarried women will throw a shoe over the shoulders towards a door at Christmastime. If the shoe is pointing towards the door when it lands, a year of successful romance is ahead of them. If the shoes points away, the woman may be in for a lonely year ahead.
Sweet-bearing Christmas log - Spain
According to Catalonian tradition, a Tió de Nadal is a hollow log with a smiling face and four legs. Beginning on 8 December, children are encouraged to cover the log with a blanket to keep it warm, and ‘feed’ small sweets, nuts and nougat into the hollow. On Christmas Day, children beat the log with sticks in order for it to defecate the food it had been fed.
Page last updated: 2017-12-01
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