From sauerkraut in Denmark to shrimps on the beach in Sydney, everyone celebrates the holidays in their own way.
Here are some slightly freaky (and funny) festive habits from different corners of the earth…
1. Iceland’s killer cat
Soft presents save lives in Iceland. According to folklore, kids who don’t receive new clothes by Christmas Eve will be eaten by the mythical, snow-dwelling ‘Yule Cat’ – a story sprung out of incentivising wool production by farmers, in the hope they can close up shop before Christmas.
2. Rolling to mass in Venezuela
Doing Christmas in Caracas, Venezuela? Better get your skates on. Here the entire city roller-skates to early morning mass, with major roads blocked from 8am for the occasion. Also, oddly, children tie a piece of string to their toe and hang the loose end out the window, so passing skaters can offer a neighbourly tug.
3. Christmas with the Kernel in Japan
Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan, but KFC on Dec 25th has become something of a tasty tradition – all thanks to a cunning ‘Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!’ (Kentucky for Christmas!) marketing campaign from 1974. Just think of it as a Christmas turkey’s smaller, fried cousin.
4. Ukrainian terror trees
No, it isn’t Halloween. It’s just the Ukraine’s curious little custom of turfing the tinsel and decorating their trees with spider webs instead. As the legend goes, a mythical spider wove a web around the barren tree of a poor family, the strands of which turned into silver and gold by morning. Jackpot!
5. Fried caterpillars and ghosts in South Africa
South African’s celebrate the holiday by dishing out a freshly fried batch of Emperor moth caterpillars (and you thought KFC was bad…), while children are also told the charming story of Danny, the young lad who ate all of Santa’s cookies – enraging his grandmother so much that she killed him, leaving his ghost to haunt homes at Christmas.
6. German pickles
Here’s a family-friendly version of ‘hide the sausage’. When trimming your tree in Germany, the last ornament hung is the ‘Christmas Pickle’ – usually a glass trinket handed down through generations. It’s tucked well out of sight, so the first kid to pluck out the pickle on Christmas morning gets a special gift and good luck for the year.
7. Mrs Claus does Italy
In Italy, Father Christmas is a she – a sweetly-mannered old witch, at that – named Befana. Preferring a broom to a blinged-out slay and reindeer, she flies around filling stockings, but also has the courtesy to do a spot of cleaning before she leaves. Which is why mum and dad leave her out a drop of something nice, in gratitude.
8. Austria’s anti-Santa
Meet Krampus, Santa’s Austrian evil twin. He likes nothing more than to beat ‘naughty’ children with branches. And he even gets his own holiday, with Krampus Night celebrated on December 5th (the eve of St Nicholas Day), where Austrians take to the streets dressed as Krampus and whack each other with sticks, while drinking.
9. Sh*ts and giggles in Spain
In Spain, ‘the pooping log’ is a thing. For real. Locals hollow out a log, add a face and legs and ‘feed’ him every day from December 8th. Come Christmas he’s thrown into the fireplace and beaten with sticks (running theme in Europe…?) until he ‘poops’ out candy for the kids, with a final dump of a salt herring, garlic bulb or onion. There’s even a song the family sings to get him going.
10. Hide your brooms in Norway
In contrast to Italy, Norway’s Christmas witches are decidedly naughtier. Norwegians stash away their brooms on December 24th, lest they be stolen by evil spirits and witches and ridden off into the night, so forget about cleaning on Christmas eve (no complaints here…).