Christmas trees and Santa Claus have become global traditions, and it’s tempting to think people around the world celebrate Christmas in the same way. Nothing could be further from the truth! Here are some of our favourite bizarre Christmas traditions.
Christmas is almost upon us. At least in the west, that is: most Orthodox churches celebrate the holiday on 6 or 7 January, not 25 December. Indeed, while Christmas may have become the most globalized holiday, but some quirks remain in the way people celebrate around the world.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Believe it or not, KFC chicken is the traditional Christmas dinner in Japan. The American fast food chain landed there in 1974 and successful launched with a Christmas campaign. It was so successful the Japanese now associate fried chicken with the Christmas holidays – an example of good marketing if we ever saw one! Ten times more KFC chicken is consumed in the Christmas holidays. It can even be found on Japan Airlines in-flight menus in the run up to Christmas, so if you’re taking a flight to Tokyo this Christmas you’ll get to enjoy some fried wings on-board.
I’ve never noticed this figure in the nativity before! The Caganer is a crouching figurine that looks normal from the front, but is actually exposing his buttocks and displaying a small brown deposit beneath … charming! In Catalonia, this figure is a common part of nativity scenes. It entered Catalonian culture in the baroque period. Theories abound for the origin of this odd tradition, but none has been proven. Plausibly, the Caganer is fertilizing the Earth with his feces. In any cases, it is an intriguing addition to Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
Spiders and cobwebs
The traditional decorations on the Christmas tree in Poland are spiders and cobwebs. If you find a spider web on the tree on Christmas morning, it is supposed to bring happiness. The tradition is inspired by a fairy tale, in which a poor widow can’t afford Christmas tree decorations, but awakes on Christmas morning to a beautiful tree decorated with golden cobwebs.
Keep on rolling, rolling, rolling to mass
In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, people roller-skate to mass on the morning of Christmas Eve. Some roads in the city are even closed to ensure the skaters get to church safe and sound. The origins of this tradition are lost in the mists of time, but some suggest it might have started as an alternative to sledding. Makes sense considering daytime temperatures in December in Caracas are typically in the high 20s!
All the single ladies…
In the Czech Republic single women perform an unusual ritual on Christmas Eve. Standing with their backs towards the front door, they throw a shoe over their shoulder – if it lands with the toe pointing to the door they will be married in the following year.
Barbie/braai on the beach
Whilst we’re wrapping up warm and hibernating, December can be seriously hot in the southern hemisphere. It comes as no surprise that many Australians, Brazilians and South Africans spend their Christmas Day on the beach. In Sydney, a visit to Bondi Beach is a must.