While many of us are preparing for another Christmas full of traditional festivities such as opening presents, eating roast dinners and singing carols; there are some strange goings on in other parts of the globe!
Ukraine: Spider Trees
It is a Ukrainian tradition to decorate the Christmas tree in, yep, you guessed it, spider webs. Gross, you say! Well, it might interest you to know this custom has quite a heartwarming past.
Ancient storytellers used to spread the tale of a lonely widow who had two children. Due to the poverty in Ukraine, she had no money to decorate the tree, so she left it bare on Christmas Eve. As the children were sent to bed, the house-spiders heard their cries and decided to spin webs all over the tree so that when they woke up, it would be fully decorated and glistening from the morning sunlight. To this very day, spiders are seen as a sign of good luck, and many Ukrainians are wary about killing them.
Austria: Father Krampus
You may have heard of new horror movie Krampus, but the character in question goes way back to Alpine folklore!
Krampus was a unsightly, phantom figure that tormented children who misbehaved during the holiday period. This myth gave parents a reason to scare their kids into ‘being good’ so that they’d receive presents. Now, every year the horned devil regularly makes appearances across various Austrian Christmas markets, especially in Salzburg. He is also well-known in regions of Slovenia, Germany and Hungary.
Japan: Fried Chicken
Kentucky fried chicken might be the last thing you’d think of eating on Christmas Day, but in Japan, you’d be considered crazy if you didn’t!
Since only 1% of the Japanese population are Christian, Christmas has never been recognized as a national holiday. They often celebrate Christmas Eve as they would Valentine’s Day, by giving gifts to their significant other. Christmas Day is spent with the family, and the majority of them trek to their local fried chicken restaurant such as KFC. This is because turkey isn’t a very popular meat in their country, so chicken is the next best thing!
Denmark: Naughty and ‘Nisse’
Scandinavians haven’t always seen Santa Claus the way that we see him. In Denmark, especially, it is more of a tradition to leave a bowl of porridge for a cheeky elf named Nisse, than it is to leave a cookie for old St. Nick!
Nisse is considered one of the Scandinavian versions of Santa Claus. He is three-foot-tall and commonly wears a red hat and blue jacket. While he is said to be a ‘gift-bearer’, he is mainly known for his mischievous ways, and is said to play jokes on the family like hiding keys, or tipping over milk. Instead of the North Pole, Nisse can live in lofts, sheds or farmhouses.
Italy: Christmas Witch
Don’t be alarmed! This isn’t your typical Satan-worshiping, child-napping witch. This is a good witch named la Befana, and she visits the streets of Italy once a year.
La Befana is very similar to Father Christmas in that she brings gifts to children. However instead of Christmas Eve, she delivers them on Epiphany Eve, another Christian holiday on the night of January 5th. Like Santa, she is said to also bring lumps of coal for all the times kids have been bad – really, it’s just very black candy. In Italy they, of course, celebrate Christmas Day like most of us, so technically some Italian families receive two lots of gifts!
Norway: Hide Your Brooms!
Meanwhile in Norway, it is a custom to hide every single broom in the house and lock them up in the cupboard. This is to stop evil witches and spirits from stealing them and flying away on Christmas Eve!
This practice goes back to the olden days, when witches were believed in and feared by many. Storytellers would tell tales of them sneaking into the house when families were sleeping and taking, not just brooms, but stools and staves too! The witches would then travel across the skies on Christmas Eve and spread bad omens, trying to rid the world of festive cheer.
Australia: Surfin’ All the Way!
This one is probably the least surprising on this list, but it is still crazy to think about Christmas without cold weather and sitting with the family around the fire.
Instead, those living on the Aussie coast are more likely to sit round a campfire at night, after a long day of surfing on the Pacific Ocean. Other holiday traditions include visiting holiday parks and hosting family barbecues. They also tend to use Australian-themed decorations, such as koala-bear baubles and figurines of Santa in a sleigh being pulled by six kangaroos!