As you’ll have undoubtably been reminded by the icy winds and repetition of Frank’s dulcet tones warbling ‘Winter Wonderland’ (yes, I’m talking to you, dealchecker office), apparently it’s Christmas. We thought we’d celebrate it being the 1st of December by exploring the quirkiest festive traditions the world has to offer…believe it or not, not everyone eats their own weight in turkey and leaves carrots on their fireplace for a fictional scarlet-nosed reindeer. I KNOW! Weirdo’s.
All parents have at one point or another used presents, or the threat of their denial to control their unwieldly offspring, but the Romanians do it with style. On December 6th, ‘St Nicholas’ comes and puts small gifts in childrens shoes that have been specially polished and placed next to the window. If they have been hideous that year they are given a small stick. And nothing else. The sacrifice of a pig is also an important part of Romanian tradition; in more rural areas, the pig is killed and cooked for Christmas on the 20th December. Also to the found in the countryside is the old tradition whereby people dress as bears and goats and sing traditional songs at each house in the village. Why? Why not?
On Christmas Eve in Finland, the family heads to the nearest cemetery to pay their respect to the dead with candles and singing. Chilly and a bit macabre, its nevertheless quite a sweet tradition that brings the family together and pays tribute to those who aren’t there to celebrate. The Finnish also have their own Santa (Joulupukki) who is supposed to live in the northern part of Finland. Rather comically, it is generally accepted that said Santa does not limit himself to the archaic reindeer and sleigh combo to get around (so passe), but rather “uses whatever means of transportation is best suited to the weather conditions.” An Aston Martin? A Monster truck? What does this even mean?! If we have any Finnish readers please shed some light on this brilliant logic.
Estonia maintains that their Christmas (known as Joulad) has no tangible connection with the Christian religion. Christmas Eve and Night are considered sacred, and Estonians use the two-day holiday for fortune telling, predicting next year’s weather and harvest. Ancestors’ spirits are said to visit families’ houses during this time. Christmas Eve also sees Estonia welcome another slightly odd tradition; that is, the Christmas Eve Sauna. The whole family has a sauna together, for what reason we are as yet unsure.
I personally have a lot of love for this one. For many years in Norway people have hidden their brooms on Christmas Eve; in cellars, behind doors, under floorboards – it doesn’t seem to matter, as long as the dastardly thing is out of sight! The tradition stems from their ancient belief that Christmas Eve was like crack for evil spirits and witches – basically irresistable – and as a result these shady characters would take their opportunity on this night to steal your broom in order to carry out their various unspeakable activities. Delightfully, the tradition continues, and sometimes the man of the house will even fire a shotgun into the night sky, just to really show those spirits who’s boss.
In Caracas, Venezuela many people attend an early morning mass on Christmas Eve. So far, so normal. But there is one difference – they get there, and once there remain – on rollerskates. Whilst I’m not particularly religious, I think I could be persuaded to attend some sort of mass if it employed the use of such a splendid transport system. The tradition is indeed so popular that the roads in the city are closed to cars so that people can roller skate to church freely. Here kids, is a city with its priorities right!
Here are couple of other traditions we’ve come across:
It’s fingerlickin’ good! In Japan, there is an increasing tradition for thousands of people to flock to KFC to enjoy a decidedly less gourmet kind of chicken. Some branches even take table bookings to deal with the huge Christmas rush.
Single women stand outside their house and toss their shoe over their shoulder. If the heel points to the door she will stay single for another year, if the point faces the door her marriage is imminent.
Do you know any more wonderful or weird traditions? Let us know!