Top 10 WEIRD Christmas Traditions From Around The World
Whether you hang stockings on the fireplace or have a nice juicy ham every year, each family that celebrates Christmas has its own traditions. In some places, those traditions may be viewed as slightly weird. This list will encompass ten of the weirdest traditions that can be witnessed around the world.
It’s every Catalan child’s favorite Christmas tradition, Caga Tio, or the defecating log. This hollow log would be propped up on two sticks and decorated with a painted smiling face. The tradition of Tio de Nadal, or the Christmas Log, is a pretty strange one. Starting with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, families start to feed Tio on a nightly basis, covering “him” with a blanket so he won’t be cold overnight. Either on Christmas Day or Eve, depending on the family’s specific traditions, Tio is then beaten with sticks by kids as they sing a verse demanding that he defecate. Of course, while the children are distracted by prayer prior to hitting Tio, adults hide candies and other small treats under the blanket. At the end of the six line song, a child reaches under the blanket to pull out a gift and the process repeats itself until every gift is gone.
The Family Sauna
In Finnish tradition, a family that celebrates Christmas together is likely to spend some time in the sauna together. One rather quirky Christmas tradition has Finnish families gathering at the sauna Christmas Eve prior to the nightly activities of attending church or lighting candles on the graves of deceased loved ones. It is believed that the sauna, of all places, is where the spirits of deceased ancestors would gather after sunset. The sauna was viewed as a holy place and would often be the site of births, deaths, and a place where people would go to heal.
Burning Dirt in Guatemala
Walk through the streets on December 7th and you may pick up the heavy smell of garbage. Not just normal garbage, though – burning dirt. Every year on this day, home owners sweep their floor and clean their homes, creating piles in the street. The pile of trash is then decorated with a statue of the Devil and set on fire. It is believed that the Devil hides in the rubbish of a home, making it necessary to clean the abode to rid it of the demon’s presence. Adding the statue and setting it on fire is meant to symbolize the Virgin’s triumph over the Devil. The odd tradition originally took place in October, but was eventually moved to December to mark the start of Christmas and coincide with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
A Very Merry Defecation?
Who knew Christmas and human excrement had a link? In the city of Catalan, Spain, the link has been made, and it has existed for quite some time. Accompanying the Virgin Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and baby Jesus to make the most unusual Odd Couple is El Caganer, translated to English as “The Defecator”. El Caganer is a symbol of fertility and good fortune and has been put in nativity scenes for the last 200 years. Legend has it that those who did not give El Caganer a home near baby Jesus would face a year of bad crops. Since a defecating man would potentially ruin the serenity of the scene, El Caganer is always hidden within the scene, typically in the back or behind a tree – thus creating a second tradition of “Find the Defecator”.
The Christmas Pickle
This little morsel of tradition may have made up origins, but it’s still tradition none-the-less. The story goes that the Christmas Pickle was an old German tradition, where the pickle was the last ornament hung on the tree. The child that found the pickle first received an extra present. The pickle was said to be derived from the story of St. Nicholas rescuing boys from a murderous butcher’s pickle barrel. The problem with these tales? The alleged barrels were actually told as holding meat for pies and, as it were, few German natives even know about the tradition of the Christmas Pickle. Though the ornament may have originally been a part of a slew of glass ornaments shipped from Germany in 1880, what we probably have here is some weird American tradition that nobody wants to fess up to.
The Burning of the Yule Goat
In Scandinavian lore, the Yule Goat has many suspected origins, one being a Germanic Pagan mythos involving Thor, who rode a chariot pulled by two goats. Regardless of the actually origin of the Yule Goat, in 1966 Scandinavian tradition took an odd turn with the goat. Thought up by advertising consultant, Stig Gavlen, a 13-metre goat is erected each year and placed in Slottstorget to memorialize the Yule Goat. On New Year’s Eve, a vandal set the goat aflame, starting an on-again off-again tradition. Of the 45 years that the goat had been erected, it was set on fire over 25 times, creating an odd and completely illegal tradition.
Decorating with Spider Webs
If you’re afraid of spiders, this tale may turn your disgust into admiration. In Ukraine, spiders and their webs represent good luck, and it all stems from a legend of an old poor woman. The story goes that the woman and her children, too poor to have a Christmas tree in their hut, were blessed one night when a pine cone fell and started growing inside the hut. The result was a grand Christmas tree, of which they were too poor to decorate. The children wept overnight, prompting spiders to act and decorate the tree with their fine threads. When the family awoke, they were treated to a beautiful sight of silver and gold webbing adorning their tree. Since then, it has been customary in Ukraine to decorate Christmas trees with fake spider webs.
Hiding Brooms on Christmas Eve
Witches may be heavily linked to some Halloween traditions and lore, in Norwegian tradition, Christmas is not safe from the spindly fingers of a cackling sorceress. According to Norwegian folklore, it is believed that on the eve of Christmas, witches and mischievous spirits would haunt houses, seeking brooms to ride around on. To keep these devilish souls from ruining Christmas, all brooms would be locked up and hidden from sight. Seeing as how no witches have been reported seen in Norway, it seems this tradition is doing its job.
Rollerblading to Church
Despite the comfort of modern transportation, people of Caracas, Venezuela turn to rollerblading as their mode of travel on Christmas morning. Tradition has it that, on the night of Christmas Eve, children tie one end of a string to their big toe. Where does the other end go? Right outside their window, hanging low enough to hit the street below. On Christmas Day, people going to the early morning mass will do so via rollerblade, pulling on the dangling strings as they pass. Strange, yes; but it is a most effective alarm clock for that early morning mass.
In most wedding traditions, the bride throws a perfectly good bouquet of flowers over her shoulder to a crowd of single women. Tradition states that whoever catches it will be the next to wed. Czech folklore puts a little spin on this tradition, trading in the bouquet for a shoe and changing the setting from a wedding to Christmas time. According to Czech customs, a girl will throw a shoe over her shoulder, much like the concept of the bouquet; but instead of being thrown to a crowd of single women, it’s tossed to an empty room. If the shoe points towards the door, the girl is said to be wed within the year. What says “Merry Christmas” like a future of love and happiness?