Happy curious Christmas: The strangest traditions from around the world

Wherever there’s Christmas, there are Christmas traditions.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. If you celebrate Christmas, then I’ll bet you can think of plenty of things that are seasonal traditions in your country, town, and family.

It might be the specific date that people start to dig their decorations out of the garage. Or the special meal that gets served on the big day. Or the stories you tell kids about Christmas and all its jolly characters.

I’ve donned my Santa hat and fired up my reindeer-powered supercomputer to gather this collection of some of the finest and most curious Christmas traditions from around the (snow)globe.

Philippines: The Giant Lantern Festival

The city of San Fernando considers itself the “Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” Every year, on the Saturday before Christmas Eve, the city and its surrounding villages stake their claim to festive fame by holding a giant lantern festival.

They started as simple paper creations about a half a metre in diameter. But they have now expanded to incorporate lanterns made from all manner of materials and spanning 6 metres, each illuminated by a kaleidoscope of electric bulbs.

Norway: Hide the broom!

Norway has the rather odd Christmas Eve tradition of hiding your brooms in the safest place in the house.

This tradition dates back centuries. It comes from the belief that witches and other evil spirits come out the night before Christmas looking for brooms to fly on.

Sweden: The Gävle Goat

Every year since 1966, the people of Gävle, Sweden have erected a 13 metre tall straw yule goat in the town’s Castle Square for Advent.

This tradition comes with its own special bonus tradition: trying to burn down the goat.

Despite increasing security measures and the presence of a nearby fire station, the goal has been successfully attacked 37 times.

Iceland: The Yule Lads

Nope, this isn’t the result of Simon Cowell’s latest search for a Christmas number one single.

The Yule Lads are are 13 troll-like characters from Iceland with names like Spoon-Licker, Sausage-Swiper, and Doorway-Sniffer. The lads spend the 13 nights before Christmas visiting kids across the island.

Each night, kids leave their best shoes by the window, and one of the lads will leave gifts for good children. Naughty children get rotten potatoes.

Venezuela: Christmas on skates

Let’s put Christmas Eve on wheels now.

The morning of Christmas Eve in Caracas, Venezuela sees roads closed to cars across the city as people head to church. But this isn’t the sedate morning stroll that you might be picturing.

Swap your Sunday best for kneepads and shades. People here make the journey to mass – for reasons known only to them – on roller skates.

Catalonia: And finally, a pooping log…

The “caga tío” is a traditional Catalan Christmas character that takes the form of a grinning log in hat that… well, poops.

For the two weeks leading up to Christmas, the log lives on the dining room table and is fed each day with fruits, nuts, and sweets. On Christmas Eve, kids sing to the log and hit it with sticks to encourage it to poop out sugary goodies.

There’s definitely a theme going with Catalan Christmas traditions. Their nativity scenes also feature a “caganer” – a small pooping figure.

And there you have it, a stocking’s worth of weird and wonderful Christmas traditions from all over the place.

What are your favourite Christmas traditions from your family or hometown?


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