Religion aside, perhaps the strangest Christmas traditions are happening right under our noses. The idea that a single, rotund man flies around the world, sliding down chimney after chimney to leave personalised presents for all surely takes the biscuit (or mince pie) for the weirdest of them all. It’s a normal sight to see fluorescent shrines in front windows of Irish homes, paying homage to Santa and his reindeer. So we are in no position to point and laugh at other traditions. But let’s do that anyway shall we? All in the name of fun.
Catalan Christmas Pooper
The Catalonians celebrate Christmas much in the same way as we do here in Ireland. Nativity scenes are popular. Baby Jesus is in the manger as usual but with a twist. Somewhere along the way in history the Caganer creeped into the (Nativity) scene. El Caganer means ‘the crapper’ and depicts a figurine in the act of defecation. This is not meant to be offensive and in fact there are varied opinions on why the Caganer is there, such as a bit of humour for the kids or a representation of fertility and equality. Weird or wonderful, it’s attained cult status and is here to stay.
Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii!
Kentucky for Christmas! Sounds like the worst marketing idea ever only that it worked. In Japan where only 1% of the population are Christian and Christmas isconsidered more of a commercial enterprise than a family holiday, an advertising campaign by KFC in the 70s tentatively suggested making KFC a staple meal at Christmas. Japan said: ‘okay then’. Since then every Christmas eve you can find hour-long queues outside KFC venues across the country.
Twig in a shoe, anyone?
The night before Christmas, some German children place a shoe or boot outside the front door in the hope Santa will fill it with sweets come the morning (we recommend an adult-sized wellie for maximum fillage). This is also a popular custom in Iceland, smelly sweets anyone? Sadly, for the children who have been bold that year, they will awake to find just a single dry twig nestled in their shoe. Bless.
Burning of the Goat
In a scene like something from the Wickerman meets Groundhog day, every year residents in the Swedish town of Gävle, erect a giant goat made out of straw then wait for vandals to burn it down. A tradition that has been in place since 1966, the vandals may very well be council officials in disguise but everyone plays along.
A time to remember
For any family that is grieving a lost one, Christmas can be an incredibly hard time of year. That’s why we think this next tradition is definitely a wonderful one. Come Christmas Eve, families across Finland travel to their local graveyards to mourn the departed. While most cultures will do this in their own way, it’s a moving sight to behold as hundreds of candles are lit at each loved one’s gravestone.