Christmas is mostly about celebrations, gift-giving, merry-making and church-attending. There are so many different elements that contribute to the celebration that we have come to know as Christmas: tucking into the Christmas feast of yummy pudding and turkey, hanging up socks and leaving out cookies and milk for Santa, opening presents under the Christmas trees, and having a great time with family and friends.
At least, that’s what the common notion of Christmas is to most of us. But in some parts of the world, you may find strange and bizarre traditions and customs that would raise an eyebrow or two.
Here are some of the strange things people around the world do for Christmas in the name of celebration.
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1. Go Bananas With Christmas (India)
In India, only about 2.3% of the population are Christians, but because of the large population they have, we are talking about 25 million people here! Christians here celebrate Christmas with midnight mass and gift-giving like the rest of the world, but with the absence of fir trees or pine trees to decorate, they usually made do with banana trees and mango trees instead.
(Image Source: Tom Elliot)
That means instead of Christmas pine trees lining up celebrating households, you’ll find brightly lit, well-decorated Christmas banana or mango trees on the streets. They even use the leaves of those trees to decorate their houses.
2. Toss Your Shoes and Get Hitched (Czech Republic)
If you don’t want to celebrate another Christmas single, then try this: stand with your back to the door and throw a shoe over your shoulders on Christmas day! If the shoe lands with the toe pointing to the door, congratulations, you’re going to get married soon! There’s no clue as to how long before you meet your prince charming though.
3. Kentucky Fried Christmas (Japan)
No kidding – just like how Christmas turkey is a must on Christmas, for the Japanese it’s the Colonel’s Chicken. Since the beginning of this marketing campaign four decades ago, KFC has been associated with Christmas in the minds of the Japanese for generations, a tradition passed on from parent to child in spite of its commercialized beginnings.
(Image Source: katjamueller)
More than 240,000 barrels of chicken will be sold during Christmas, five to ten times its normal monthly sales. “In Japan, Christmas equals KFC.”
4. Christmas Cakes (Japan)
Another Christmas food associated with Japan is the Christmas cake. These sponge cakes with whipped cream, chocolate and strawberries on top are ordered months in advanced and are eaten on Christmas Eve. Any cake that is not sold after the 25th is unwanted.
(Image Source: Make Do & Mend)
For the same reason, single Japanese women over the age of 25 used to be called Christmas Cakes (yikes!).
5. A Christmas of Remembrance (Finland)
Families in Finland usually visit the graves of their ancestors and relatives on Christmas Eve to light candles in memory of the deceased. Even those who don’t have their kin’s graves nearby visit cemeteries to place candles in honor of their family members buried elsewhere. Hence, on Christmas eve, cemeteries would be lit up with candles presenting a beautiful sight.
(Image Source: Huffington Post)
Food will also be left on tables and family members leave their beds to sleep on the floor to give the dead a nice meal and a place to rest when they visit.
6. Skating your Way to Christmas (Venezuela)
In the capital city, Caracas, before young children go to bed on Christmas Eve, they tie one end of a string to their big toe, leaving the other end outside their bedroom window. The fun part of the Christmas celebration is on the day of the “Early Morning Mass”.
(Image Source: Mike Hartz)
Streets were closed off to cars until 8 a.m. for people to roller-skate to the service, and they customarily proceed to tug on any of the strings they see hanging.
7. Let the Goat Live Until Christmas (Sweden)
In 1966 a 13-metre tall goat figure made of straw was erected in the town square of Gavle. At the stroke of midnight, Christmas Eve, the goat went up in flames.
But the town never stopped building it year after year, and vandals never stopped trying to burn the goat down! By 2011, the goat has already been burned down 25 times. The burning of the Gavle goat happened so often that bookmakers began taking bets for the survival of the goat since 1988.
(Image Source: Nicole)
Just to be clear, the town doesn’t want the goat to be burned down; in fact, In 2001, an American tourist served time in jail and was fined for successfully doing so.
8. A Spidey Christmas (Ukraine)
Instead of glittering ornaments and tinsel, Ukrainian Christmas trees are covered with an artificial spiders and cobwebs. Why the eccentric taste in spiders? According to the local folklore, there was a poor woman who could not afford to decorate their Christmas tree.
But the next morning, her children woke up to see the tree covered with webs and when the first light of Christmas morning touched the web threads, they turned into gold and silver and the family was never left for wanting again. Hence, it is believed that seeing a spider web on Christmas morning brings luck.
(Image Source: Robin L. D. Rees)
9. The Christmas Sauna (Finland)
Most Finnish families have their own sauna because it’s believed that a sauna ‘elf’ lives in there to protect it and to make sure people behave themselves. And every Christmas Eve, people would head to their sauna, strip to their toes, and enjoy a nice, good soak, naked. After sunset though, the place is for the spirits of dead ancestors.
(Image Source: Destination 360)
10. Don’t Stuff It in My Socks (Phillipines)
Christmas is huge in the Phillipines since 80% of the population are Christians. Celebrations last all the way to January. Children will leave their brightly polished shoes and freshly washed socks on the window sills for the Three Kings to leave gifts in when they pass through their houses at night. The “Feast of the Three Kings” marks the end of the Christmas celebrations.
11. Pudding & Wishes (Britain)
The Christmas pudding is served on Christmas Day but the traditions we’re looking at has to do with how it is made. Every member of the family (especially the kids) is to stir the mix clockwise while making a wish.
(Image Source: 99holidays)
Earlier traditions include putting a coin in the mix which brings wealth to whoever finds it in their serving. Other additions include a ring for luck in marriage and a thimble for good luck in life.
12. Santa’s own Postal Code – H0H 0H0
Where do you send your letters to Santa to? The North Pole? Santa’s workshop? Actually Santa has his own postal code, H0H 0H0 (with zeros instead of the letter ‘o’) and it’s in Canada where postal codes are alphanumeric. Letters – the kind that bypass parents – used to end up undelivered because there was no centralized address for Kris Kringle.
(Image source: The Big Red Box)
But for the past 30 years, Canada Post volunteers (in the thousands) had been helping Santa reply to a million letters (every year!) from children around the world in different languages, including Braille.