I watched a doco not long ago about how they celebrate Christmas in the Philippines. Christmas officially starts there on September 1st. Christmas carols can be heard in shops, decorations go up and Christmas parties rage on for months, culminating in an all-nighter Christmas Eve. Then Christmas finishes, right? No, actually, Christmas celebrations continue well into January. Now that is a holiday season!
It made me wonder how other countries around the world celebrate Christmas. In my wanderings, I found some very unique and quirky traditions.
In Venezuela, for example, in the week leading up to Christmas many Venezuelans attend mass every day, and in the capital, Caracas, it is customary to do this on roller skates—they even close many of the roads to accommodate the rocking-rolling masses going to mass!
In Catalonia, a big log of poo forms the Christmas table centrepiece. This log is part of a tradition called caga tió or ‘defecating log’ where they create a log character and ‘feed’ it with fruit, nuts and sweet things all through December, until on Christmas day, they beat it mercilessly with rods, all the while singing traditional song that translates to ‘if you don’t crap well, I’ll beat you with a stick’. They do this until the log excretes its sweet innards, along with small gifts for the children. But don’t feel too sorry for this overstuffed guest—they do keep it warm with a cosy blanket.
Spider webs feature in Ukrainian tree decorating rituals. This ritual has its origins in an old story of a poor woman who didn’t have the means to buy Christmas decorations and left her tree outside overnight. When she woke in the morning, it had been beautifully decorated by spider webs and dew. Often you will find a fake spider or two alongside the bells and bows. Who knew that arachnids could be so festive!
If you are invited to Christmas lunch in Portugal, you might notice a few extra settings at the table. That is because they are a particularly hospitable and inclusive people, making sure everyone is welcome, the dead included. Relatives who have passed away are invited to share the feast.
You better hope you haven’t been naughty in Austria or you might get chased by Krampus, a hairy, scary, and nary very forgiving beast, half-goat demon, who snatches up not-nice children in his basket. He is Saint Nik’s side kick, by all accounts. Talk about calling in the yuletide debt collectors!
When I think of Australia Christmases, there aren’t any particularly strange traditions. Except for the fact that Santa wears shorts and thongs (the footwear, not the undies!). We eat salads, berries and ice-cream, chuck snags and prawns on the barbie, play a bit of backyard cricket … all that good stuff.
Ok, I don’t actually know any Aussies who celebrate Christmas that way but I have heard that many do. Which made me think…maybe Krampus isn’t so hairy and the Ukrainian Christmas trees aren’t really spidery. In fact, maybe I have entirely the wrong end of the poo-log-beating stick?
Do you have any strange and lovely Christmas traditions?