Flying reindeer? Filling oversized socks with candy? The Christmas traditions we grew up with are, if you think about it, pretty bizarre. Thankfully, every country has its own Christmas quirks. Here are some of more unique holiday rituals—unusual, yes, but don’t you think that’s one of the things that make Christmas so fun?
1. Wish upon a pudding
Christmas in Great Britain wouldn’t be complete without pudding. And the poor person slaving away in the kitchen has some reward: he or she gets the chance to make a wish! But here’s the deal: the only way to make the wish come true is to stir the pudding in a clockwise direction. Apparently, doing it the other way ‘jinxes’ the wish. Hmm, wonder if that’s why Santa didn’t bring me what I wanted last year.
2. Witch hunt
The kids in Italy don’t wait for Santa… they wait for a witch, La Befana. She carries gifts on a broom, not a sleigh. That obviously poses some logistical concerns (it would be terribly difficult if somebody asked for a new refrigerator) but it’s no more surreal than a fat man in a red suit squeezing himself in a chimney.
3. Eensy weensy spider
Don’t throw away the Halloween decorations! The people in Ukraine dress up their Christmas trees with artificial spider and webs. They think that the spiders bring good luck, thanks to a traditional story of a poor woman who could barely afford to eat, much less dress up her cold home. But the spiders took pity on her, and spun beautiful webs so her children could still enjoy a beautiful Christmas. But that’s not all: in the morning light, a Christmas miracle happened: the spider webs turned to gold! Hmm—that gives me a reason not to bother vacuuming before Christmas.
4. White Christmas
Sending out Christmas cards to a Japanese friend? Better check the color, first. The Japanese associate red cards with funeral notices, so mailing one will only mean you’ll only be spreading bad luck (not Christmas cheer). Apparently, it’s the thought—and the color—that counts.
5. Christmas skates
Who needs Santa’s sleigh when you’ve got skates? The Venezuelans skate to church on Christmas eve, since the streets are closed to cars and the traffic is insane.
6. Diaper, please
Remember those charming nativity scenes with a serene Mother Mary and Joseph, and a smiling baby? Most include figures of the Wise Men, shepherds, a rather tame looking donkey…and, if you’re from Catalonia Spain, ‘El Caganer.’ No, you won’t find this personality in the Bible, but this character is thought to bring good luck. His name means ‘The Great Defecator’ which gives you an idea of the ‘gift’ he’s planting in the manger. They believe his ferilizer ensures a good harvest.
7. Mumming it up
In Latvia, people wear masks that bear the faces of goats, horses and bears and then run out into the streets. Think of it as one big party involving zoo animals. But it’s fun and much-awaited by tourists!
Photo from blog.cheapoair.com