Wherever in the world Christmas is celebrated, certain traditions are also observed. Some are more or less obvious and general, like putting up Christmas trees, having succulent family dinners, and exchanging gifts, but there are others that, at first sight, seem to have little to do with Christmas. Nevertheless, they are deeply ingrained in the countries where they are practiced. We will tell you about the most unique Christmas traditions in the world and help you to understand what’s behind their meaning.
1. Hiding Brooms In Norway
Norwegians have an age-old superstition. On Christmas Eve, evil spirits and witches come out. Therefore, all the brooms in houses across Norway are hidden so the witches cannot ride around on them and cause havoc or even break them under the Christmas tree. For good measure, sometimes the male members of the household will go outside and fire a few shots in the air to scare away the witches.
Another belief and tradition is that a gnome called Nisse, who guards the farm animals, will play nasty tricks on Christmas Eve if the kids don’t put out a special bowl of porridge for him.
2. Roller Skating To Church In Caracas, Venezuela
In the week leading up to Christmas, the citizens of Caracas attend daily early morning mass, called Misa de Aguinaldo. But, they don’t walk to mass, instead, they strap on their roller skates and skate to church. Why? Nobody really knows, but it is a tradition. Many roads in the capital are closed until 8 a.m. to allow the worshippers safe passage to church. Once they have roller skated home after the service, they plunge into their favorite tamales.
3. The Pooping Logs Of Catalonia, Spain
Visit any Christmas market in Barcelona and you’ll see a strange sight everywhere: short logs, either made from wood or chocolate with a Santa face, beard, and cap at one end and a blanket at the other. From underneath the blanket flows a stream of colorful sweets. These are called caga tios, which translates to “pooping guys” and a favorite Christmas treat for kids. They are also placed under the Christmas tree. The tio is prepared for a while before Christmas by being fed scraps of food, then, on Christmas Eve, it is beaten, threatened, and a song is sung to encourage the log to ‘poop’ candy, preferably turrons or even small presents. Bizarre to say the least.
4. Krampus, Santa’s Evil Counterpart In Austria
The appearance of the Krampus is a truly scary event. During the advent weeks and especially during the night of December 5, Nikolas brings sweets and little gifts to the children that have been good. But those that have misbehaved have reason to fear the Krampus. He is a hairy, horned creature, carrying chains and sticks and punishing bad kids by beating them and carrying them off to hell. He wears bells to announce his arrival and in Austria, there are even Krampus clubs where young men, disguised as the Krampus, roam the streets and scare the kids.
5. Decorating The Christmas Tree With Spider Webs In Ukraine
Sure, in Ukraine there are the usual Christmas tree decorations like baubles, ornaments, and candles (electric or otherwise), but in addition, sparkling, artificial spider webs are thrown over the tree. Legend has it that this tradition goes back to a poor woman who couldn’t afford any kind of decoration. On Christmas day, she found that spiders had woven glistening nets over the modest tree.
6. Two Extraordinary Christmas Treats In Greenland
Greenlanders, or Kalaallisut, as they refer to themselves, have a long tradition of not wasting any food. Whales, in particular, are much appreciated, and their meat, skin, oil, and bones are put to good use. An old legend has it that the Mother of the Sea will catch all the fish in her hair and drag them to the bottom of the sea, thus causing starvation, if the Greenlanders have been wasteful. Therefore, they are very careful with their seafood and have a unique Christmas treat called mattak. It is, in fact, the most expensive delicacy in Greenland and consists of raw whale skin covered in blubber that’s cut into cubes and chewed. It is their Christmas candy. Another Christmas treat is called kiviak. This also requires preparation as it consists of a small arctic bird that is wrapped in sealskin, buried for months in the ground, and then the decomposed flesh is eaten at Christmas time.
7. Feeding The Dead In Portugal
Portugal’s traditional Christmas feast is called consoda. It includes dried cod with boiled potatoes, rice puddings, honey glazed roasted ham and/or roast turkey, and any amount of the best Portuguese wines.
It’s tradition to lay place sets for deceased relatives and even to leave out food crumbs in the kitchen for them. This custom is believed to bring good fortune to the household and its members.
7. An Old Witch Plays Santa In Italy
The 6th of January, Epiphany, is the day when kids in Italy get their presents. But they are not delivered by Santa gliding down the chimney but by an old witch, called La Befana. Legend has it that the three wise men, in their quest to bring presents to baby Jesus, happened upon a witch, who, hospitably, put them up for the night in her house. The wise men invited her to accompany them on their journey, but she declined, saying she was too busy cleaning her house. After their departure, she had second thoughts and followed, but was too late to reach the manger before the kings. The legend continues, saying that to this day she is flying around the world on her broom, visiting every house and child, bringing sweets and little gifts to the good children and a lump of coal to the bad. Kids wake up on the morning of the 6th to find out if they have been good or bad. This being Italy, the sweets the good kids find are the traditional Christmas sweets: panettone and pandoro.
8. Flashing Red Underwear In Spain
Rather a New Year’s tradition than a Christmas one is the famous red underwear of Spain. It’s supposed to bring good luck in love (or even marriage) if you sport red knickers on New Year’s Eve. Men and women! Some say that it only works if the underwear in question is a gift. One town in Spain, La Font de la Figuera, takes the tradition a step further: People only clad in red underwear run around town on New Year’s Eve. The town is located in the province of Valencia, and it’s usually freezing cold. But Spaniards are sticklers for tradition!
9. Burning The Devil In Guatemala
Cleanliness equals holiness in Guatemala. People believe that the devil and evil spirits lurk in the dark corners of their homes. Therefore, in the week running up to Christmas, they thoroughly clean the house, collect all rubbish and dirt, take it outside to their backyard, and make a huge pile. Then, an effigy of the devil is put on top and the whole thing is set on fire. A new, clean life will arise from the ashes. The custom is called La Quemada del Diabolo, which translates to “the burning of the devil.”
10. Throwing A Shoe In Czech Republic
We have already said that some Christmas traditions are downright weird, and this one in the Czech Republic is an example. On Christmas Eve, unmarried Czech women stand outside their door and toss a shoe over their shoulder. If it lands pointing the toe towards the door, it means they will get married the next year. If, however, the shoe lands with the heel pointing to the door, they will remain single.