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Blog: The bizarre world of Christmas traditions

Christollen cake

From shoe-throwing to roller-skating, we round up the most weird and wonderful Christmas rituals from around the world.

Here in the UK we’re used to mince pies, roast turkey with all the trimmings, and perhaps some mulled wine over the festive period. 

But each country has its own Christmas traditions, from bizarre Spanish figurines to roller-skating Venezuelans.

Greece

In Greece, Christmas trees aren’t very common: instead basil is wrapped around a cross which is used to sprinkle water throughout the house over the 12 days running up to Christmas. 

This is supposed to ward off mischievous Christmas goblins and spirits known as Killantzaroi, who’ve been known to make houses messy and turn milk sour. 

Interestingly, the abbreviation Xmas is of Greek origin: it comes from the Greek word for Christ, Xristos.

Spain

The Spanish are very fond of their nativity scenes; however a rather unusual figure – a squatting, defecating man known as the Caganer – has made its way into the Christmas tradition in particular in Catalonia. 

The Caganer is seen as a sign of good luck that will supposedly ensure a good harvest for the coming year. 

Many areas of Spain eat turkey stuffed with truffles on the 25th, however in the north-western region of Galicia, the most popular choice is seafood.

Czech Republic

Czech market fishing for carp

On Christmas Eve, single women stand with their backs to their front door and throw one shoe over their shoulder. 

If the heel ends up facing the door, they will stay single for the year, but if the front of the shoe points towards the door they will meet someone.

Another peculiar festive trait is for single women to place a cheery twig in water on 4 December – if the twig blossoms before Christmas, the woman will marry someone in the coming year. 

On Christmas Day, carp from local markets is eaten rather than turkey.

Germany

Traditionally, the mother of the household decorates the tree on the 24th, with apples, biscuits and wooden soldiers. The final decoration to be hung is a blown-glass pickle.

Once decorated, the children enter the Christmassy room to sing carols, play games and open their presents.

The green pickle is hung in a hard-to-see spot and the first child to find it gets a special gift and the promise of good luck all year. 

On the 25th, Germans mainly eat roast goose followed by Christstollen, a loaf filled with sultanas, nuts and dried fruit.

Venezuela

An unusual tradition in Venezuela is for children to tie a piece of string to a big toes before they go to sleep, leaving the other end dangling out the window.

Other children can tug on the string in the morning to wake them up ready for a morning of roller skating. 

On Christmas morning, the roads in Venezuela are closed until 8am, so families can skate together before early morning mass.

Hallacas are the chosen food for Venezuelans on Christmas day. These are meat pies, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled for a couple of hours.

Faith Norris is a travel writer for Lowcostholidays.




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