Weird Christmas Traditions around the World
By Antonino Benitez
It goes without question that Christmas is one of the most highly celebrated holidays world-wide. Whether families are most elated by the thought of seeing relatives, cooking up a great feast, or even experiencing that indescribable festive ambience, Christmas is one of the rare annual occasions that somehow unites people internationally, in ways they might not have been before. Being part of the Filipino Community has made me even more mindful of the fact that different cultures will always have foreign customs, despite sharing a celebration of the same affair. Thus, in the pursuit of learning things you’d never usually come across, here are some of the most odd yet intriguing ways other nations choose to rejoice in the gift that is Christmas.
Enjoying good food with family is the most relevant and universal notion that is glorified throughout the celebration of Christmas. In Japan, people associate this merry season with more than just cakes – in fact, locals can’t say it’s Christmas, without having buckets of fried Chicken. Ever since KFC’s existence in Japan since the 80’s, citizens still remember their eminent marketing campaign that sparked the odd practice from generation to generation. Due to its valued reputation with practically every individual in Japan, more than 240,000 buckets of fried chicken are sold during this time of the year.
A home’s atmosphere suddenly changes when there’s a Christmas tree that’s been put up. Though a pagan convention, when we start decorating trees with lights and charming ornaments, we mark the start of festivities and finally get into the swing of things. In most households, you’d probably expect the conventional conifer tree as the centrepiece, but in India, the thought is what really counts. Considering that the Christian populace is rather small, some Indians like to decorate their humble banana and mango trees instead.
Weird Christmas Traditions around the World
Monito-monita, Simbang Gabi, Noche Buena. Though our country may be associated with countless customs, more than tradition itself, the oddest thing people may hear about concerns when we Filipinos prefer to celebrate. As countries only start putting up their Christmas trees by the end of November, we are notoriously known for having ours standing since the start of September. Not only that, but carols and other festivities carry on until the first Sunday of January.
Ukrainians like to adorn their Christmas trees with objects we wouldn’t normally go near; spiders and webs (fake, of course). Referencing a tale synonymous with local folklore, legend apparently reveals that a poor woman who wasn’t able to decorate her Christmas tree woke up the next morning, astonished at a tree fully covered in glistening web. As peculiar as this custom may seem, people take pleasure in doing so, considering that it is viewed as a way of warranting good luck.
In the eyes of a young one, having the opportunity to write to Santa, listing down all your childhood dreams and desires, is one of the most exciting things to look forward to at the end of every year. Luckily, the Canadian post helps to bridge this gap of communication, in recognizing the post code ‘Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, H0H0H0’. Over the last thirty years or so, volunteers of the Canadian Post have been aiding Santa in the response to children’s’ letters world-wide.
Christmas’ genuine essence is a topic that differs from one country to another. For Finland however, Christmas is a time dedicated to the remembrance of their dearly departed loved ones. On the night before the 25th, families traditionally make their way down to the cemetery and light a candle in commemoration of all those who have passed away – ultimately creating a rather picturesque sight for all who walk by.
Unfortunately for some countries like Norway, their people believe that Christmas-time overlaps with the incursion of evil beings like spirits and witches. Bearing in mind this superstition, families stay out of harm’s way every night by hiding all brooms in the house in a place that is out of reach.
You would think that people naturally clean their homes before Christmas, with the sole intention of ringing in the season with a fresh start. Well, this activity is most imperative for the people of Guatemala, over any other nation, since it is in reality a symbolic practice for them. A few days before Christmas, individuals in their local neighbourhood extensively sweep their houses, and contribute to pile of dust at the end of the street. Just before Christmas, the pile is burnt, to represent the warding off of bad luck.
Surrounded by all things joyous and cheery, we sometimes neglect our faith as people, and forget to recall that Christmas was the day in which Jesus was born. In the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, it is obligatory for local church-goers to honour His birthday by going to the early morning Christmas mass on roller skates, of course. The night before this eccentric commute, children tie a string to their big toe, making sure that the other end of the hangs outside their window, so skaters who pass by can give them an affable tug.
Love, above all, is the intangible factor that in the end unites all countries together during the time of Christmas. An occasion spent with the ones who make you laugh and smile, without love, Christmas wouldn’t be the same. In hopes of finding love on Christmas, single Czech women partake in a tradition that involves throwing shoes. These women stand with their backs facing the front of the door, tossing a shoe over their shoulders – and if the shoe lands with its toe facing towards the door, they will supposedly get married within the next year.
Putting aside how unfamiliar some of these traditions may seem to us, we have to acknowledge that from nation to nation, every individual recognizes Christmas differently – in that it is associated with certain customs specific to where they may be from. But that doesn’t necessarily insinuate they are ‘odd’. In reality, it demonstrates how there are different cultures and upbringings, and the term ‘odd’ is merely a way of expressing things we don’t understand. And more than anything, it is these diverse manners of honouring Christmas that makes this season truly enjoyable.
A straight-A student whose hair often gets him into trouble, Antonino is a quirky character, well-versed in both the academics and the arts. He never strays away from his individuality. As he (not so)secretly fulfills his dream of becoming an astronaut, Antonino continues to walk through life hungry for new knowledge and in search of all things epic.