Funky And Freaky Festive Season Traditions From Around the World
We’ve explored global Christmas markets, how to celebrate if you’re away from home, and top notch DIY dorm decoration skills… but have you ever wondered how the rest of the world celebrates the holidays? Turns out there are some down right WACKY traditions out there. Here are 10 weird (yet awesome) global season traditions that are a little different from Santa Clause.
This one is definitely more on the freaky side. Like a God-Satan dynamic, Austria has Krampus to their St Nicholas. If you’re a good kid, St Nick brings you gifts, but if you’re bad, Krampus kidnaps you. At the start of December, older teenagers dress up like Krampus to terrify little children. Some of them are horrendous!
You might have heard of this one: each December Swedes build a giant goat in the centre of Galve made of straw which stands at just over 13m tall. This has spurred on another tradition of people trying to burn it down. It’s been built for 49 years and burnt down 26 of those; now they even have a live webcam where you can watch the goat (and maybe see it get burnt).
In some US cities the lighting of a Hanukkah Menorah has become a fantastic tradition, particularly in Washington DC, where a ten meter high Menorah is raised on the White House grounds for the duration of Hanukkah.
In San Fernando, the Saturday before Christmas Eve marks the Giant Lantern Festival. It will reach its 84th year this year, and the lanterns just keep getting bigger and bigger, reaching over SIX METERS in size.
Here they have a tradition just for single women on Christmas day. They stand facing away from the front door of the house and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the shoe lands with the front facing the door, she will be married in the coming year and should make preparations for moving out (the shoe is about to ‘walk out the door’). If the heel is facing the door, she will remain single for another year. My friend and I were in Prague over last Christmas and were told to do this a few times because now that we were 20 we ‘should really be getting married’. Maybe our shoes weren’t any good because we’re both heading into this Christmas single!
Celebrations here are traditionally on December sixth, when SinterKlaas is expected to arrive by steam train to leave treats for kids – but only for those who leave him something. Instead of milk and cookies, the tradition is a shoe full of sugar and hay for his horses.
More specifically, Catalonia. In this region of Spain, there is a festive tradition that involves a hollow log, often decorated with a blanket and face. Children beat it with sticks before leaving to wish for it to bring presents. At this point it’s tradition for adults to put presents under the blanket so that the wishes have come true.
An old legend says that all the witches come out on Christmas Eve to steal broomsticks and fly, so households hide all their brooms and mops. Some communities fire shots into the air to scare off any witches who might be planning to fly.
Here the colour of Christmas is white! Everyone wears white clothes for the season and the men play a game called Ganna which is a vigorous game of sticks and balls.
Talk about the power of marketing; Christmas was never a traditional holiday for Japan, though after a KFC campaign in 1974 it became something of a tradition to have a KFC on the day, so much so that in some places you have to book well in advance for Christmas day.
Do you celebrate any wacky holiday traditions?