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Ciara O

The bizarre world of Christmas traditions


From shoe throwing to roller-skating, we take a look at some weird and wonderful traditions from around the world.

Christmas presents

Here in the UK we are used to mince pies, mulled wine and presents on Christmas day, but each country has it's own traditions.

1. Fill your boots, Germany



Christmas festivities in Germany start on St Nikolaus day, which falls on the 6th of December every year. 

Kids leave out one of their boots for St Nikolaus and his helper Knecht Ruprecht to either fill with coal or sweets, depending if they have been “naughty” or “nice”.

However, you’re unlikely to see any coal these days unless a parent has a particularly wicked sense of humour. 

2. Basil, Greece


Christmas trees aren’t as common in Greece as other parts of the world. 

Instead, tradition dictates that each family wraps basil around a cross, which is then used to sprinkle water throughout their 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 interfere with food, including turning milk sour.

Burning your shoes is also a tradition in Greece, which is supposed to bring good luck in the New Year. 

3. Unusual statues, Spain


The Spanish love their nativity scenes, and they often feature an unusual figure known as Caganer.

This cheeky little fellow is a gnome-like statue, squatting with his pants down.

Most popular in Catalonia, he is seen as a sign of good luck and supposedly ensures a good harvest for the coming year.

4. Tying the knot in the Czech Republic


On Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic, 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, tradition says they will stay single for the year, but if the front of the shoe points towards the door they will marry within a year.

Another peculiar festive trait in the eastern-European country is for single women to place a cherry twig in water on the 4th of December. 

If the twig blossoms before Christmas, the woman will marry someone in the coming year. 

5. Christmas skating in Venezuela

Roller skates

On Christmas morning, it is customary to roller skate to early morning mass in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

The roads in this south-American country are closed until 8am, so families can skate together.

Kids also tie a piece of string around their toes, and hang the loose end out of their bedroom window so that other children can tug on the string to wake them up as they skate past. 

6. Spider webs in Ukraine 

christmas tree

Decorating the Christmas tree with webs and spiders? Sounds more like Halloween, but this is an old tradition in Ukraine.

This eastern-European country has an old superstition about spiders bringing good wealth and fortune.

Local folklore tells the story of a woman, who was too poor to decorate her Christmas tree that woke up on Christmas morning and found a spider’s web on the tree.

The web was made of gold and the family became rich.

Some say that’s where the tradition for tinsel came from.

7. Lighting the way, Ireland


Placing a lit candle in the window of your home is an age old tradition for Irish people on Christmas Eve.

There are many stories behind this, but primarily it is placed there as a symbol to welcome people who are far from home.

The Irish also celebrate little Christmas or women’s Christmas on the 6th of January.

It marks the end of the festive season, where traditionally women get to kick back and relax, while the men do all the housework. 


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