Hanging stockings, intentionally wearing horrendous sweaters, exchanging questionable cakes or leaving cookies for a visitor in the night are just a few of the ways we celebrate the holiday season in the United States. As odd as these might seem to even Americans, there are some fun and quirky traditions around the world that might have American traditions beat.
DECK THE HALLS
Think a silver, tinsel Christmas tree is strange here? Well, other countries might have that beat! For luck and prosperity, Ukrainians decorate their trees with spider webs (fake, thankfully). In India, you won’t find the beautiful evergreens trimmed but instead you will and mango trees and banana trees decorated. If you are in the market for a unique nativity scene, head to Oaxaca, Mexico for the Night of the Radishes, where you will find oversized radish carvings galore at the annual event.
HOLIDAY FOOD FAR
The Japanese will wait hours in line to get their bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken as a result of a successful advertising campaign in the 1970s. In South Africa, you might and the Emperor Moth served deep-fried, as this is a popular Christmas Day dish. Not a fan of fruitcake? Well, you might want to head to Portugal and try their cross between fruitcake and king cake to make Bolo Rei, which has a prize hidden in the cake and brings the finder luck (as well as responsibility for bringing the cake next year).
Instead of a lump of coal from Santa, in Austria, Germany and Hungary a Christmas devil known as Krampus will punish disobedient children. In Iceland, you better look nice for Christmas because if not, the Yuletide Cat may eat you! South Africans protect Santa’s cookies from hungry children by telling a tale of a boy who ate them and was killed! In Greece, evil goblins are said to come out at night during the 12 days leading up to Christmas to cause mischief. There will be no cleaning up after those goblins if you are in Norway, as brooms are hidden on Christmas Eve to keep them from being stolen by witches.
Throughout the holiday season, Italians play tombola, a bingo-like game. In Germany, it is said that the first child to discover a hidden pickle in the tree on Christmas morning receives a prize. Ethiopians have never really celebrated Christmas, despite its strong Christian culture, but instead play a hockey- like game called Ganna once a year: on Christmas afternoon.
Check out these crazy traditions! If your stockings are hung by the chimney with care, how do you wear shoes to the traditional Christmas morning mass in Venezuela? You roller skate! In Portugal and the Netherlands, children leave one shoe next to the chimney to be filled instead of a stocking. German and Brazilian youth leave their shoe outside to be filled with sweets, but beware, as naughty children wind up with a tree branch in Germany! In Iceland 13 ogre-like Santas called ‘yule lads’ leave gifts in shoes for 13 nights leading to Christmas, but those who misbehave get a rotten potato.
BY DANIELLE SPANO