Unusual Christmas traditions
The Christmas holiday is celebrated the world over as families gather to make merry in a festive spirit of unity and thankfulness.
With the passage of time, these celebrations have evolved to suit local customs and communities, with some very interesting results!
The Flexicover Team looks at some of the different flavours of Christmas celebrations from around the world.
Austria, Bavaria, Hungary, Slovenia
Christmas is a great time to be in this region, the atmosphere and festive spirit gets into full swing from early December! In Austria and some other Alpine regions, tales are told during the festive season of Krampus, a mythical creature who accompanies Santa (Saint Nicholas) as his counterpart to punish and beat all the children that have misbehaved. Particularly bad children are said to be stuffed into his bag to be devoured later! On December 6th, Krampusnacht (“Krampus Night”), men dress up in the scariest devil costumes and go around town scaring the little ones – a parade like no other! It's a shame this is not coming to a street near us!
The Spanish region of Catalonia has many Christmas traditions that we might consider bizarre. One of these is the Tió de Nadal (“Christmas Log”), also popularly known as the caga tió ("defecating log") which involves creating a character out of a log The hollowed-out log is often dressed with a hat and scarf, propped up on leg-like sticks and a smiling face painted on! In the fortnight leading up to Christmas, it is fed every day with treats such as nuts, fruits and sweets and on Christmas Eve, the family will sit together and beat the log with sticks, whilst singing traditional songs, forcing the log to “excrete” its treats. It may sound strange but this is a long standing tradition in Catalonia and the surrounding regions of Occitania and Aragon!
In Venezuela’s capital city, Caracas, a well-attended early morning church service is held between the 16th and 24th of December and it is customary to roller-skate to the service! Neighbourhoods often close the streets to traffic to make the practice safer. The night before, children will tie one end of a piece of string to their big toes and the other end will hang out of the window; as roller skaters go by the next morning, they tug at the string. This way it ensures no one is late for church! Oh, where did all the church bells go?
Whilst the usual decorations, ornaments and lights are common, Ukrainian Christmas trees are traditionally adorned with an artificial spider with its web and good luck will befall anyone who finds it on Christmas Day! This tradition comes from the tale of a poor woman who couldn’t afford to decorate her tree and woke the next morning to find it covered in spider webs! Christmas takes place in early January in Ukraine; however, if you fancy a getaway before Christmas, Kiev, its capital, is a great city to visit, full of historical architecture and buzzing nightlife too. Don’t miss the sight of the huge Christmas tree in the main square at Maidan Nezalezhnosti!
It is very common for Norwegian households to hide their brooms the night before Christmas Day. With the long, wintery Scandinavian nights, it is believed that Christmas Eve coincides with evil spirits and witches who come out looking for brooms to ride on! And if you do have a weekend free before Christmas then Norway is a great place to fly to (even if you have to borrow granny’s broom) with lots of festive markets, fairs and seasonal concerts, sure to put anyone into the Christmas spirit!
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If you are travelling soon, have a great trip!