Eight bizarre Christmas traditions you might never have heard of before

Eight bizarre Christmas traditions you might never have heard of before

Think you know Christmas traditions? Here are some of the more unusual customs that take place around the world

 

Austria

People in Austria must be a bit confused between Christmas another favourite holiday, Halloween. Beware the demon-like Krampus that walks the streets and haunts Christmas markets. Luckily he carries a cowbell so you should be able to hear him coming. Here's the deal: in Austria, Santa has a helper and it's not a jolly elf. It's a demon. If children have been good, they get a present from Santa, if not … well, it's off to the terrifying underworld for them.

Oh yeah, and as a curtain-raiser to the demonic terror, before Christmas Day, there's Perchta, who is Krampus' helper. She won't drag you off to hell, no. If you've been bad and Perchta gets you, she'll cut your belly open.


Japan

If you're in Tokyo for Christmas, you might have to rethink the traditional turkey with all the trimmings. Their Christmas feast is provided by the good Colonel Sanders as families tuck in to KFC with delight.


Switzerland

It's not all Swiss Miss at Christmas in the Alps. In Switzerland, they have a tradition of "hunting Santa". Klausjagen happens on December 5, when villagers walk through the streets of town cracking whips - we guess to wake up Santa? Afterwards there's a procession where people wear really fancy hats that look like stained glass windows - and a good time is had by all, unless you're Santa and you were trying to get in a snooze before the big day.


Wales

While we have dragon dances in Hong Kong at New Year, in Wales around Christmas, they have horseless head dances. Mari Lwyd is the skull of a horse (naturally), decorated and carried on a pole. It's taken around town by men who knock on people's doors and get them to take part in a rhyming competition. If the household loses, the group is all invited in for a party. Sort of like trick or treating, but with a horse skull.

 


Iceland

Lots of Christmas traditions involve keeping children good throughout the year with the promise of a reward at the end of it - think Santa's naughty and nice list. In Iceland, the up-side of being a kid is that you get lots more presents spread out over a few days. The Yule Lads, sort of like a Christmas version of the Seven Dwarves, give out gifts for 13 days leading up to Christmas. Hooray! But wait, they also have a cat. And if you haven't been given a new set of clothes for Christmas, you're cat food.


United States

Where else would families want to pose with Santa and heavy weaponry? Yes sirree, you and the family can head on down to the Scottsdale Gun Club in Arizona, pick out which machine guns you like, and have your family Christmas photo adorned with Kalashnikovs. Ho Ho Bang Bang could be a new Christmas carol.


Spain

The Pooping log is possibly the weirdest tradition on our list. No, really, see, it's a log, and it poops. Around December 8, Spanish children are introduced to the pooping log or Tio de Nadal. It's a log, with a smiley face and a red floppy hat. Its legs are stilts that raise it off the floor. The children need to "feed" the log with treats and wrap it up in a blanket to keep it warm and happy. Then, on Christmas Eve, the children assault the log with sticks and it "poops" presents from, er, the end that's not its face.


Italy

Italian kids have to wait a little longer for their gifts, and it's not a jolly old man, but an occasionally grumpy old woman who delivers them. La Befana visits all the children in Italy on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany (i.e. on January 5) to fill their stockings with gifts and sweets - if they've been good. If they've been naughty, they get a lump of coal; and if they see her, they get a thump from her broomstick!

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Silver Bells, sleigh rides

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