Christmas is a time full of long-standing traditions, whether they be indulging in festive feasts, decorating the tree or leaving some treats out for Father Christmas and his reindeer. However, with more than two billion people celebrating the holidays globally each year, there are certainly some interesting variations! Here’s a list of some weird and wonderful traditions that mark the occasion from all over the world, for you to discuss on your glamping holidays this winter!
Starting with our mates down under, warmer climates at Christmas time call for the substitution of reindeers for ‘six white boomers’, otherwise known as kangaroos. Here, it is common to enjoy a barbecue on the beach with family and friends on the big day.
There’s not one, not two, but thirteen Santa’s in Iceland. A little more troll-like than our traditional Saint Nick, these guys descend from the mountain one by one during the festive period to leave either presents or rotten potatoes depending on the child’s behaviour that year. They tend to don elegant names such as Door Sniffer and Meat Hook.
Here, presents are exchanged on the Sundays before Christmas. Two weeks before the big day, the children tie up their mum, who in turn must pay a ransom in the form of gifts in order to be freed. This process is repeated the following Sunday with dad. An interesting approach, but rest assured there’s no lumps of coal for the Serbian kids!
In Holland they like to do their own thing, renaming Santa Claus as Sinterklaas, who doesn’t live in the arctic climates of the North Pole, but sunny Spain. Sinterklaas arrives by steamboat with a helper called Black Peter as opposed to elves.
Sounds a bit ‘Halloweeny’, but Ukrainians decorate their Christmas trees with spider webs rather than baubles. Legend has it that a magical spider once visited a poor family and turned all the webs in their home to gold and silver. Worth a try I guess…
In the run up to Christmas, Mexicans host the Festival Of The Radishes, which sees farming communities carve the vegetable into the shape of human figures. Ever seen an all-radish nativity scene? Us neither.
As a part of celebrations in Germany, as well as Austria and certain parts of Switzerland, St Nikolaus is accompanied by a devil character to warn the children not to be bad. France has a similar figure called La Pee Fouettard, so swap your naughty and nice lists for a spooky alternative if you really want well-behaved children this year!
For Christians in India, fir trees are not all that easy to come by. Instead, they often decorate a mango tree and use the leaves to brighten up their homes throughout the festive season.
In the capital city Caracas, roads are closed so that locals can roller blade to their morning mass. Little pieces of string are dangled out the windows so that passers-by pull the string to wake them up. No lazy morning lie-ins for the people of Caracas!
A good witch called La Befana takes on the role of delivering presents in Italy on January 6th and using a broomstick rather than a sleigh. If you’ve been bad, expect no mercy from the witch, as a few lumps of coal are certainly heading your way.
The Greeks wrap basil around a cross and used to sprinkle holy water around the house to scare off any mischievous goblins that are lurking around, known as killantzaroi. Legend has it that if you burn old shoes on Christmas Day, you will have good luck in the upcoming year.
A gnome like character known as Tomte in Sweden and Nisse in Norway is believed to protect barns as well as bring presents to children across the region. These gnomes are treated to a bowl of porridge for their troubles.
In Catalonia, traditional Nativity scenes get somewhat of a cheeky twist with the inclusion of a character called ‘caganer’. To put it bluntly, the figure is squatting as if going to the toilet. Sometimes they can be shepherds, but can even take the form of footballers or politicians!
These guys don’t mess around when it comes to unusual dishes and indulge on quite the unconventional feast. Kiviak consists of a decomposed bird, that has been wrapped in sealskin and buried under a stone for a couple of months for good measure. For a special treat, they may tuck into some mattak, or otherwise known as slices of raw whale skin.
Poles have their main meal on Christmas Eve. They place a piece of iron under the Christmas dinner table to make sure attendants have strong legs. The table needs some strong legs too, as there are typically 12 courses, including two of which are carp.
These are just some of the different traditions people from all over the world take part in over the Christmas holidays. If you fancy something different this year, why not try any of these fun ways of getting festive? Although we’re sure there won’t be too many households celebrating Serbian Christmases this year!